For the past 14 years, Sean Christopher has worked in the business analysis field. With a passion for data models, strategy and business architecture, Sean has produced quite a number of solutions for the Standards Council of Canada in the capacity as business analyst in the information technology / information management division. Another passion of his is teaching. It was a matter of time before teaching and his desire for BA work came together to create his small business, Smoothcube™ Business Analytics Corporation.
We spent time with Sean at his home in Ottawa, Ontario.
How did you come to be a business analyst?
“The story goes back a little ways. I wanted to be a sports journalist out of high school. So I went to Carleton University to pursue that dream. Well, along the way I ended up getting an Honours degree in Economics from Carleton. And when I started my career at the City of Ottawa and the Standards Council, I delved in web development, HTML and content creation for the SCC web site. We moved to the US in 1998 where I honed my skills as an IT consultant at Duke University, working with Keane Incorporated. When we came back home in 2003, I got into consulting where I developed a security policy for the Council and I really like the business analysis aspect of strategy, tactics, business frameworks and the like. The rest is history.”
What has been your best accomplishment as a business analyst?
“Well, there are many small victories that when added up make a big one. But if there was one significant accomplishment, it has to be the development of an e-procurement solution for the Finance team. Another is the deployment of the national standards of Canada application for the Standards team. Both have been in production for over ten years.”
How was the name “Smoothcube” derived? It’s catchy, but what does it mean?
“Funny you ask. It’s rooted partially in the data model domain and in the culture domain actually. In business intelligence and data reporting, there is a concept called the information cube, which is a term I like to use a lot. And one day my friend at work showed me this picture of a monkey who took a selfie of itself and I laughed. It came to be a well-known, well documented controversial picture, but I thought, how smooth is that for a monkey to take a camera, smile like a human being, and create something special. So the term “smooth” and “cube” were married. Brought together, it means to innovate, implement and inspire, much like that monkey did in the picture. That’s the branding I want to evoke for the company.”
Are you calling yourself a monkey?
“I have called myself worse. I am humble. No, but it reminds me that life offers up a ton of opportunities and events where all we need to do is take a look at it once in a while and we can get some good stuff from it.”
What is Smoothcube’s core business?
“Education. But not just educating for the sake of educating. I am tired of the old school model of education, where students sit, listen, memorize and regurgitate just to pass a course. I mean, come on. Jeez. Our core business is education of business analysts, or professionals in similar types of positions. Through our motto “Innovate, Implement, Inspire” I want to not just teach but create better business analysts through innovative teaching methods, implementation of highly interactive, collaborative and adaptive courses and inspire business analysts to do great things with the knowledge they acquire from us. It’s about them, not us. We want to hear about our students’ business challenges, and we want to work with them, not just insult their intelligence by reading stuff from a Powerpoint presentation only for them to try to remember details later on. No, it is about true teaching High value courses and low-cost is our model. And we support the students even after they are done.”
“We stay in touch with them to make sure they still understand things. If there are areas in which they have problems still, we will work with them to resolve things long after they left the classroom. It is about Smoothcube’s student knowledge life cycle support. Think of it like enhancing smooth skills.”
Did you just make up that acronym up, “skills”, because that is almost what “student knowledge life cycle support” stands for?
“Maybe. I think fast on my toes.”
You should trademark it.
“I don’t know.”
Why should students take your courses?
“When you sign up for a Smoothcube course, I want students to understand that what they think they will get is not what they will get in its entirety. Let me use an example. When you review and select a course, there is a perception from the student of what the content will be, yes, but also they already have formed in their mind how the course will go, what they will learn, how they will learn and where the course content will go. That’s a bit defeatist for the provider. At Smoothcube, we want to turn that philosophy around and be the educator of choice because we innovate in the way we partner with students, we implement different tactics and we inspire. We want students to remember not just the content, but the course and the 2 or 3 days they invested with us for a long time.”
So you are kind of like the Southwest Airlines of the BA world?
“You could say it like that. Southwest provided value with low-cost to their paying customers, the passengers who needed to get from A to B. They did not have to pay an arm and a leg to fly in an airplane. We model the same concept for our business. High value business analysis education at low cost. Our different is that we might throw in a few perks during the journey.”
For more information about Smoothcube’s courses, please visit the Business Analysis Learning page.