Unsung Heroes - the solutions architect: Fay Koo, Dataxu

Koo laments that most people, including her parents still have no idea what her job entails, in spite of her explanations.

The Drum's 'Unsung Heroes' series is a celebration of the people in the industry who slog hard behind the limelight for their companies, brands and clients.

As they are seldom in the spotlight for their contribution to the success of campaigns, and this is their time to shine.

If you think of someone who deserves this recognition, please get in touch with Shawn Lim and nominate them. You can read the most recent feature, which looks at the role of the receptionist, here.

As a solutions architect, Fay Koo support and collaborates with the sales team at Dataxu in Sydney, Australia. Koo laments that most people, including her parents still have no idea what her job entails, in spite of her explanations. She would love them to know that her job requires her to have a unique blend of technical, commercial and sales skills.

Why is your job important?

Solution architects play an instrumental role in ensuring that technology and products fit the needs of customers. We support and collaborate with salespeople to close the deal, by uncovering customers’ business problems and technical requirements, linking technology to those problems, and presenting tailored solutions to these customers.

To that end, we often lead the technical part of the conversation, which is why the role of a solutions architect requires a blend of technical, commercial and sales skills to help salespeople do their job better.

For custom projects, the approach is different because solutions need to address specific business challenges. Every custom project is different, so I find myself designing and creating custom prototypes, demos, and proof-of-concepts. Then there are times I act as a project manager to ensure successful project delivery.

What is the hardest and stressful part of your job?

I absolutely love what I do, but all jobs come with its set of challenges. The hardest part is prioritising which tasks to tackle, particularly for projects with a lot of moving parts. Sometimes it feels like everything requires urgent attention, so I have to make a choice and balance what’s critical and what’s important.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part is the time spent with customers and learning new things from people whom I’ve met. I enjoy spending time talking to people, building relationships, understanding what customers need and finding solutions to their challenges. Especially so if others have said, “It can’t be done.”

First thing that comes to people’s minds when you tell them your job?

If I introduce myself formally as a solutions architect, there is almost always a follow up question, which I have come to realised can be a good thing. “What does that mean?” or “What is a solutions architect? It sounds interesting, tell me more” are the most common responses I get.

It makes for great conversation starters.

How would you correct/explain to them what you do then?

I would tell them: “Well, I help customers solve their business and technical challenges in relation to media, marketing and advertising.” Doing so allows me to give an example of a client I’ve worked with, or tell a story.

Then again, it really depends on who I am talking to and how much time we have. If time permits, I would share a story or what a day in my job looks like. I would tell them that I am essentially a technical salesperson who wears many hats.

Funny thing is my parents still do not fully understand what I do for a living, despite having explained to them, and having worked in the adtech industry for over eight years. I should probably work on it so they don’t think my job is surfing the web all day.

Is there anything you want to change in your job?

I am always looking for ways to make improvements, to change things for the better. Or finding ways to do things more efficiently. As a result, I’ve been the go-to person within the firm for all things tech, for quite some time now!

There’s nothing major I would like to change, but I have emphasised the need for knowledge sharing at the workplace. I recently introduced learning and knowledge sharing sessions with my colleagues so people became subject matter experts in their chosen field.

This small initiative improved internal communications and the team has started doing things more efficiently.

Which was the campaign that you worked on, that you are most proud of?

I recently managed and implemented a custom tagging project for a Dataxu customer. The customer needed an effective solution to help manage and track page visits and user activity, as well as eliminate manual efforts. I uncovered their business challenges, designed the solution and scope of work (SOW), and implemented the tags.

Who is someone you want to emulate in your industry?

My boss. He inspires me to think outside of the box. I also credit and look up to my former bosses - each of them taught me invaluable lessons that will serve me well throughout my career.

If you weren’t a solutions architect, what would you be?

A fashion designer.

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