MSP Product Management

Requirements for the Back End: What Curling Has Taught Stephen Dropkin about Business Analysis

Stephen Dropkin

Stephen Dropkin may have moved to Minneapolis in hopes of making it as an Olympic curler, but he’s happy to have found a home at Daugherty where he uses many of the same skills he perfected on the ice as a successful business analyst.

Curling is a passion that Stephen has developed since the age of five. It’s shared by his entire family — father, mother and younger brother — all of whom play competitively. During his time as a curler, he’s been to eleven national tournaments and three world tournaments.

To anyone who’s ever watched the sport on TV, it may appear simplistic and easy at first glance, but it’s far more involved than people realize. Often referred to as “Chess on Ice,” curling is a game of balance, precision and strategy. It’s definitely a mental game.

“You have to stay positive, keep the faith and believe you can make the shots,” Stephen said. “At this level, it’s 90 percent mental because you have all made the shots before.”

Consulting as a business analyst is also a mental game, Stephen said. As difficult as a client problem might be and as far away as the solution might seem, there is a framework out there that will help accomplish it — it just might need to be adjusted to fit the client’s needs.

Stephen’s role in curling has primarily been on the team’s back end, as the skip, similar to a team captain. He stands on the other end of the curling sheet, or rink, by the house (i.e. four concentric circles where points are scored) and holds a broom in the target area where a teammate should aim. His role as the skip is to call the shots for the team, running the team’s strategy.

Perhaps the greatest trait that curling has taught Stephen is how to effectively work in a team environment. Curling has taught Stephen to read both his audience and team to build camaraderie, collaborate better, understand how everyone is doing and help those who need a pick-me-up.

By working together and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each player, teammates learn to communicate effectively, and in the manner the other person prefers.

After a while, the team knows exactly what shots the skip will call. Because hundreds of situations can come up on the ice, there’s almost always more than one correct shot to make. The best shot is often dependent on your team’s strengths or the opponents’ weaknesses, along with the current score of the game. When working at Daugherty, Stephen has also learned to adjust his strategy to best suit the environment and his team.

And a high-performing team will practice these routines so much that they’ll often know what to do without even having to say anything. Those traits have proven instrumental in his time with Daugherty.

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