My First Year as a Tobian – Bert Selleslagh


Welcoming new Tobians is definitely the most fun, but hearing their first stories is even more exciting! Since we are always keen to know how our Tobians are doing during their take-off months, we have a little chat with them to pinpoint some of their first experiences. Featured in this “My First Year as a Tobian” column: Bert Selleslagh, Business Analyst.

Can you briefly introduce yourself, Bert?

Well, my name is Bert Selleslagh and I am 25 years old. I studied TEW (Business Economics) at Ghent University before starting my career at Colruyt Group as a Junior Solution Analyst. I fulfilled that role for just over a year before joining Tobania in January as a Functional Analyst.


Can you tell a bit more about your current role within Tobania?

I am working as a Functional Analyst for Attentia. Attentia is an HR and welfare company that provides payroll and workplace safety assistance to its customers, among other things. To be more specific, I am assisting Attentia in building an Employee Management application aimed at HR users. I primarily perform analyses that gather functional requirements for the application. These requirements range from specific data validations to what the application will look like once it is developed. Once I have collected the necessary requirements, I compile them into a user story and pass them on to the development team. They write the application based on the requirements defined in the user story.


How did you experience your onboarding?

It was a streamlined process. I arrived at Tobania, got the essential information and started working at the customer a day later. Sabien Platteau was assigned as my mentor and helped me sort out the basics.


Have you managed to outline a particular work routine throughout this first year?

Being active in an agile scrum team, my work routine is pretty much mapped out for me. Each day starts with a brief 15-minute daily stand-up. My work is reviewed and refined by the team at weekly refinement meetings, in which we discuss what we think is best for the application based on the requirements. At the end of each sprint, we all attend a sprint retrospective where we list the good and the bad to improve iteratively during the next sprint. We also have Sprint planning and review meetings. These are pretty standard agile ceremonies.


What have you learned regarding the ins and outs of the business you are active in?

Since I have been active in the payroll side of Attentia, I have learned that Belgian payroll can be quite complex and challenging. Since companies can vary enormously from sector to sector, payroll data can vary significantly as well. Trying to build an application that matches those companies’ data as much as possible can be quite a challenge. It can also be difficult to improve previous software when people have become attached to it over the years.


What is your favourite tool/technology that you currently work with?

Figma. It is an industry standard for UX design. It allows me to fully visualise the desired end result of new functionalities that we will develop with the team. When you perform functional analysis, you risk being blinded by the amount of business and validation rules. You can very easily get caught up in details. When that happens, it is usually the end user who suffers. Sometimes decisions are made that benefit development time, but seriously hamper the usability of the application. If you can design the theoretical user experience before passing it on to the developers, you and your team can step back from the whole process and assess which parts of the user experience process are most essential. Sometimes it is better to build the application with the user first and the data second. Sure, you can design the best-performing back-end solution, but if the end user gets frustrated by the way the front-end has to interact with it, have you really added the right value? It’s about finding the right balance.

In what hard skills have you already grown and would you like to grow?

Being an Analyst is all about structuring data to make decisions. Fortunately, I have had the pleasure of working with very experienced colleagues at Attentia. They provided me with the feedback I needed to grow in my role as an Analyst. Compared to January, I can say that I have grown significantly in my ability to write user stories and gather feedback.


How is the collaboration between you and your team going so far?

In the beginning, being part of a team that was much more experienced than me was a bit daunting. After a few months, I became more attuned to the team. Currently, I experience this collaboration as very smooth. Our agile team is highly independent, and each member takes his own responsibilities. We all put the end result of the product above everything else, and it is fun to work in such a dedicated team.


What small or big project would you like to have accomplished in the next 100 days?

We are currently working on the requirements to let users enter contracts into our application. I’m sure it will be quite a challenge to handle all the different contracts Belgian law has to offer, but I have no doubt we can get it done well.


What are your main lessons learned so far?

  • A good application is the result of several iterations. Perfectionism can get in the way of good iterative progress.
  • Good UX design does not mean oversimplifying things, but choosing to trust the end user where it makes sense.
  • Sometimes a good solution does not speak for itself. Some solutions need to be fought for.


How do you experience the follow-up from Tobania?

The help I regularly get from my mentor is priceless for me. Sabien helps me set goals for myself and offers experienced feedback when I need it. Tobania puts me in the driver’s seat and offers me directions when I ask for them. I like that.

““As in any industry, if you have the right collaborative environment and are given a reasonable degree of independence, you can chart a path for yourself that adds value and is truly unique.””

What advice would you give to others about to embark on a new consultancy challenge?

As much as the world of consulting and business/functional analysis seems set in stone and made up of rigid rules, between the lines there is plenty of room for creativity and originality. As in any industry, if you have the right collaborative environment and are given a reasonable degree of independence, you can chart a path for yourself that adds value and is truly unique.