At Pega, we hire the smartest people around and put them to work solving challenges for some of the world’s biggest brands. We also encourage and enable our team members to set their own personal goals and help them achieve those goals through multiple professional growth opportunities. The ability for each person to define their own path at Pega is a benefit Brendan took advantage of and one of the reasons why he’s been with the company for more than a decade. Currently the Technical Director for Global Client Support (GCS), Brendan’s story of professional development is inspiring.
You started at Pega in 2004. Can you describe your career journey and what has kept you at Pega for 15 years?
I was hired as a Technical Writer for Chordiant (who was subsequently acquired by Pega). I had moved to the Boston-area from Ohio with the hopes of getting into publishing, and I took the job to get writing and copy-editing experience on my resume. With a B.A. in English Literature and no technical expertise beyond how to use the internet and double-space in MS Word, I did not have any aspirations for a long-term career in the software industry.
Shortly after I was hired, I was put on a project requiring in-depth research and information gathering to write a Technical Architecture document for the company’s biggest client at the time. Over the course of the project, I found I was quite interested in the thought process needed to design and architect complex software solutions; and by nature of having collected information from scores of disparate resources and weaving it all together, I was suddenly thrust into the position where I knew more about the top-to-bottom solution than anyone else in the company.
This opened many doors, and I chose to seize the opportunity by becoming a Business Analyst. I worked in this role for a couple years and enjoyed it, but my interests kept gravitating to the specific end-user interactions. So, after logging a couple successful projects under my belt, I once again seized a new opportunity offered to me and moved into the role of Human Factors Designer; which is what I was doing when Chordiant officially became Pega.
I was in a very unique position at the time of acquisition: I had no formal technical background but had experience as a writer, business-user, and designer. When the proposition of Pega’s low-code development model became our new reality, I felt I was the perfect user persona to put it to the test. I was the first employee from Chordiant to become a Certified System Architect, and I leveraged this to get assigned to interesting projects, such as the top-to-bottom redesign and implementation of the process modeler that is still used today. And, once again, I took advantage of available opportunities: moved into the Engineering organization, became a Software Developer, and became one of the first employees to apply for and complete Pega’s Engineering Acceleration Program (EAP).
Throughout my 2 years in the EAP I:
- Did a 3-month rotation in IT and developed our internal Help Desk Ticketing system.
- Became a Certified Scrum Master.
- Did a 3-month rotation in Sales Support where I designed and developed working demos for potential sales opportunities.
- Attended Harvard Business School courses on Business Economics.
- Received public speaking training.
- Worked a full month embedded in a Scrum Team based out of Hyderabad, India in order to experience the myriad cultural differences and get a true sense of what it is like to be on the other side of the world for a daily stand-up.
- Earned Pega’s highest level of certification: Lead System Architect.
When the program completed, I had fully immersed myself in Pega and its culture; not just as it applied to the organization I worked for or the office I worked out of, but the company as a holistic and global operation. I was also promoted to Principal Software Developer. But there was something from my experience that kept nagging at me: Throughout all the rotations and development opportunities, I found it hard to get context for what it was I was trying to develop. We had great documentation, some developer-based online forums, and Pega Academy training, but what Pega was missing was a real developer community.
Which brings me to where I am today. I made my next move into our Support organization as GCS Technical Director, not with the intent of working on or improving our support request (SR) process but eliminating the need for them in the first place. I believed this could be achieved by building a robust support community where clients could go and collaborate with each other on all the different how-to and basic troubleshooting issues they encounter instead of submitting everything as an SR.
We built a pilot community starting with one client. One became two, two became four, etc. until we felt comfortable enough to open it to the public. Since then, we’ve hired a full-time team of professional community moderators (a role that did not previously exist at Pega), fielded over 40,000 questions and discussions with a 99% response rate, and now have millions of views each year in the support community area alone; making it Pega’s most active and engaged digital collaboration space.
It’s fair to say my career has been a long and winding path; certainly not a traditional one. Some of it was the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time. Most of it was having the awareness and assertiveness to take risks and tackle new challenges. But none of it would have been possible without the support of a company willing to invest in their employees with the full-fledged trust that the investment is worth it.
That is a long and winding path, but really interesting! What do you like most about your current role in client support? What drives your interest in this position?
I think I can sum up my passion for GCS as follows: Any organization that’s willing to take a leap of faith on a guy with absolutely no experience in customer support and then put him in a role that did not previously exist, to work in an area no one had previously worked on, by hiring a team to fill a newly created position that had never been attempted, all with the hopes that he and his team would have the passion and persistence to drive home success … that’s an organization I’m proud to be a part of and enjoy coming in every day to work for.
What else do you enjoy about Pega’s culture?
Its willingness to take chances, openness to trying out new ideas, and level of investment in its employees.
What advice do you have for people who want to start or expand their career at Pega?
Easy: If you see an opportunity that you want to try, if you see a problem you think you can fix, do not hesitate to ask the chance to do so. Don’t worry if you have enough experience. Don’t worry how it may impact your team in the short-term. Don’t even worry about what might happen if things don’t go the way you hoped. Those are all things that will work themselves out, assuming you have the passion and drive to jump into the deep end and tackle new challenges.
My sense is the majority of our employees are unaware of the myriad growth opportunities that are merely a discussion or two with their manager away from being theirs, should they want it.
And that is my message: Whatever your “it” is; if you want “it,” then go ask for “it.”
Finally, since we’re a tech company, we like to ask: In your lifetime, what do you think has been the most impactful piece of technology? Why?
The introduction of the smart phone coupled with the phenomena of social media … I could go for pages on this topic. So let’s just say, while I believe these devices are without doubt the most impactful, I don’t necessarily believe the impact is entirely good. As with any thing in its infancy, it hasn’t worked out all of the kinks as it comes to how it affects us as a society. So if you were to ask me what is the most impactful thing we can do in the next decade, it would be to calibrate the technology that currently exists, as well as our use of it, to bring about some balance and moderation where we can continue to benefit from all the amazing things technology provides us without allowing it to consume us.
Because if there is one thing all of my experiences above have taught me, it’s this: There is way too much opportunity and wonder in the world right in front of us to spend our lives looking down at a 5-inch slab of glass and obsessing about what everyone else is doing.
Want to work with Brendan? We’re on a mission to connect, engage, and empower people. Visit Careers at Pega for a full listing of available opportunities around the globe, and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor to learn more about #LifeAtPega.