Portrait of an Employee: Jean-François Ménard
October 30, 2020
Function at Kezber: Business Analyst
Who is Jean-François Ménard?
My name is Jean-François
Ménard, and as far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to work in
computer programming. As early as in elementary school, I was writing small
programs with friends on a Commodore 64. I continued to study computer science
in high school, and got a degree in computer science technology at Cégep de
Sherbrooke, and finally, a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Université
de Sherbrooke. I have been working for Kezber for 16 years. Outside of work, my
little family keeps me busy. I have three young children (7, 5 and 3 years old)
and in my spare time, I play ball hockey, work out, and watch TV series.
Tell us about your professional background before arriving at Kezber
After Cegep, I was hired as an intern, then as an employee of an engineering company to do internal IT development. At university I was in the work-study program, which enabled me to do three internships in the Montreal and Laval areas. I finished my studies in 2002, which coincided with the bursting of the technology bubble in the early 2000s. Consequently, I found myself in a market full of experienced graduates with no "real" experience on our CVs.
My search for a job as a programmer came to nothing, so I started doing technical support from home, and finally got a temporary contract as a computer technician at a call centre. I used my lunch and coffee breaks to learn web programming (PHP) by myself.
My contract at the call centre was not renewed and I had to go back to doing tech support from home while looking for a job. During my search, I came across two young Sherbrooke entrepreneurs who were looking for a programming partner. I joined them and we created a classifieds website to compete with Lespac.com, the market leader.
What steps did you take to find a job at Kezber?
The adventure of creating the classifieds website enabled me to gain experience in web programming, but was not enough to support me, so, after about a year, I went back to looking for a job as an employee. That’s when I saw the posting from Kezber. A few days later, I was interviewed by the development director and the owner, Alan Kezber.
I had never worked with .NET before, which was Kezber’s preferred programming technology. When I got home I started to learn about .NET and to do tutorials. When I got a call the next day, I thought it was for a second interview, but it turned out that I had gotten the job. I left that meeting with a book on .NET to continue my training! Despite my not fully mastering the language used at Kezber, they believed in my potential. They provided guidance and support as well as all the tools I needed to perfect my knowledge and become the analyst I am today. That’s when I realized to what extent Kezber is a company built by people for people.
There are two main things that attracted me to Kezber at the time. The first was being able to work in my field in Sherbrooke. At the time, there weren’t a lot of companies hiring programmers in the suburbs. Being “a country guy,” when I lived in Montreal during my internships, I realized that life in a big city like Montreal was not for me.
The second reason was (and still is) Kezber’s technological orientation. At a time when most companies were still into Desktop applications and solutions in Access, we were already developing web technologies!
What attracts me to Kezber even today is the corporate culture. Despite its growth, Kezber strives to maintain a family business atmosphere. There are also opportunities for advancement, of which I am a good example, and policies that exemplify work-life balance, such as our teleworking policy.
What are the professional and cultural differences between Kezber and your previous jobs?
My three main jobs had completely different cultures. I experienced a very “unionized worker” atmosphere, with regimented working hours and breaks, not to mention the unwillingness to change existing things (at least at the “help desk” where I was).
Then I experienced the other extreme with my
associates when we founded the classifieds website. There were only three of us
in our little room rented in downtown Sherbrooke, all of us recently out of
school. It was a fairly “student” atmosphere, with my associates who did not
hesitate to go golfing during working hours.
At Kezber I found the balance of a professional and family atmosphere, where we strive to stay informed of the latest technological advances and where everyone can make suggestions to contribute to the company’s progress.
Since your arrival, how has the company evolved?
When I arrived in 2004, Kezber was located in a small room in the semi-basement of a building on King Street in Sherbrooke (1650 King Street West). At the time there only 15 employees, despite which the space was quite limited! There was only one technician for the entire Montreal region and his office was, in fact, with one of our clients.
In 2006, we moved to a residential area of Sherbrooke. From the outside it may have looked like a house, but inside it was well fitted out as an office, with the development and administration departments on the ground floor and the technical department in the basement. The size of the company remained relatively stable for a few years, until a first growth “boom” in 2013. Two new offices were subsequently opened to cover the Greater Montreal and Drummondville areas, and the Sherbrooke office was redesigned several times to try to expand the interior. Hiring continued and we had to move into our magnificent office in Magog in August 2017.
Now, in 2020 due to COVID-19, we have adapted the workplace by implementing workspace safety and prevention measures in addition to offering all of our employees the option of working remotely full time. With three children and the school closures in March, I must admit that working remotely has facilitated a better work-life balance.
And how have you evelved at Kezber
I grew up enormously at Kezber, both professionally and personally. Kezber trusts its employees and helps them advance in their careers. For example, when I arrived, Kezber did not hesitate to provide me with the tools and training necessary to progress at my own pace. I quickly carved out a place for myself as a programmer analyst and when I announced that I wanted to perfect my knowledge to become a business analyst, the company supported me and helped me by developing a career plan to achieve this.
What were you doing as a programmer-analyst?
In my years as a programmer analyst, I played various roles, the main one being developing applications and websites. I also participated in project evaluation and acted as sales support and provided development support.
What are the specific challenges for this type of job and what advice can you give?
I would say that the main challenge for a programmer analyst is to be able to properly estimate the work to be carried out. For my part, I was often too optimistic when the time came to evaluate a task. So, I always advise that people ask colleagues for a second, even a third opinion for assessing more complex tasks. Sometimes, our colleagues will have in mind details we hadn’t thought of at the outset.
What pushed you to want to change jobs?
When I started at Kezber, the team was small, and everyone had several responsibilities. A programmer simultaneously acted as analyst, developer and project manager. With a growing team and increasingly specialized roles, I realized that I am more interested in a role as a business analyst.
What were the steps to advance to the new position of business analyst?
I first met my manager to tell him about my interest in the position of analyst. Together, we created a development plan to optimize my chances of success. Everything was done on an online training platform reserved for employees. It is via this platform that I followed my training on business analysis.
Subsequently, and throughout my path, I was mentored by colleagues who have experience as business analysts. They supported me and helped me improve to speed up the process.
After I finished my training, the director of the department gave me my first analysis mandates to validate my acquired knowledge, before my title officially passed from being a programmer-analyst to a business analyst.
Now what do you do as a business analyst?
My main tasks are to meet clients to determine and understand their needs and then design effective IT solutions to meet these needs. In addition, there is the whole aspect of writing functional requirement documents (commonly called specifications) and their implementation. Finally, there is also a part of my work which is devoted to support to answer questions during project realization.
What are the specific challenges for this type of job and what advice can you give?
The main challenge is to understand what the client wants and “translate” it into an effective and affordable technical solution. To do so, you have to “speak the client’s language,” whether they are specialized in IT or not. We must therefore be open-minded and very understanding of our clients’ realities and day-to-day challenges.
What are your greatest achievements at Kezber and what are you most proud of?
In fact, what I am most proud of is not a particular project, but how my relationship with clients has evolved. When I started out, I was a very shy programmer, who hid behind his screen and his headphones and who dreaded talking to strangers. This has changed so much, especially since the time I took care of developmental support. Although at first I hated picking up the phone to call a client, now I have no problem calling or meeting with prospective clients to ask questions, even if I have no idea what to expect.
A word from the human resources team
Jean-François’ professional path is a great example of advancement at Kezber. We are all very proud of his accomplishments! We intend to support employees who show this desire to advance by providing them with the tools and support necessary for their success. Together, we can help you to achieve your goals. After all, it’s in our DNA at Kezber to go above and beyond.
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