James Bayly, Head of Business Development at SubQuery
From dreaming of becoming a pilot to working in one of the fastest-growing technology sectors, James Bayly, Head of Business Development at SubQuery, has found a space that is both high pace and dynamic.
We caught up with James to learn more about his role, what SubQuery does as a business, and why he thinks the career path he has chosen might be exciting for others to follow. Thanks for sharing your story, James.
Getting to know James
Favourite book of all time?
Sapiens, a Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari.
Top hobby outside of work?
Paragliding in summer, Skiing in winter.
Your number one daily habit that keeps you productive?
I have a notebook that never leaves my side, every task I do and every thought I want to keep gets written down right away.
Favourite piece of tech you use in your workday and why?
Noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones, an oasis of silence and thought in a busy workplace.
“I originally wanted to be a pilot! Since my teenage years, I knew that I would be in tech, and I studied Software Engineering to put me there.”
Firstly, how would you explain to a five-year-old what it is you do?
My job as Head of Business Development is to talk to customers, partners, and anyone else to make sure that the products that we create are being used by people around the world.
And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day at SubQuery? If you can give specific examples that would be ideal.
In reality, SubQuery is a scale-up and I wear many hats at once. I’m generally part of discussions for anything not related to engineering, but also like to get stuck in with product management discussions as often as I can.
For example, I recently helped write a press release of a new feature of ours, gave a demo of our solution to a prospective customer, negotiated an extended contract rate with a high-value customer in Japan, helped write the content for a brand new website, and approved recent translations of our developer documentation written by our large community.
Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
I originally wanted to be a pilot! Since my teenage years, I knew that I would be in tech, and I studied Software Engineering to put me there. However, my current role as Business Developer is a bit tangential, it’s an interesting change!
What are some of the most interesting challenges that you face in your role currently?
We are creating tools that are being used by extremely technical customers building advanced blockchain applications. As a result, we’re constantly talking with some of the most intelligent and busy developers around the world.
Software developers don’t like being “sold to” in the traditional sense, they can sense it and they reject it. It’s a challenge to quickly and efficiently communicate our value proposition and then get out of their way.
It’s also an interesting problem on how to communicate and demo such a technical product, my software development and product management background is invaluable in this.
It’s a good example where a mix of backgrounds can be invaluable in blockchain, things are moving so fast and there’s nobody out there with “experience” - we’re all just forging the best path forward - being able to draw on previous experience in other industries helps.
“In startups, you learn how to do a little of everything and how to move fastest when the time is right. ”
Tell us a little bit more about your career pathway and ultimately how you got into your current role at SubQuery?
I graduated from University as a Software Engineer, from there I knew that writing code wasn’t for me so I jumped over to product management as a business analyst as soon as possible.
I’ve worked at a couple of large corporates and also in small startups in product management. Working for corporates you learn how effective communication is key to help persuade others of a course of action. In startups, you learn how to do a little of everything and how to move fastest when the time is right.
This mix of experience has set me up perfectly for my role at SubQuery. Business Development is all about selling and establishing partnerships, and that’s done best by clearly communicating value propositions and empathising with customers.
I was lucky to meet Sam (SubQuery’s CEO) while I worked in a startup in the same building and agreed to work part-time to help out. Quickly I discovered how things were accelerating and it wasn’t long before I jumped over to work full time.
What do you love about your role and why should others consider the career path?
I love the variation, I know that every day I can do something different! Part of that comes from a company the size of SubQuery, where we are moving as fast as possible, but also that comes from the generalism of my role.
We run a very light business development presence at SubQuery so all of us are focusing on different aspects, but we are free to spend time working on different initiatives that we believe will bring value.
Business Development is really interesting too, I love talking to people and in the blockchain industry that means I’m constantly talking to others from around the world. It’s extremely satisfying to hop on a call with a prospective customer to hear that our solution is going to solve their exact problems and save them countless hours of developer time.
“I believe we all should have the opportunity to learn something new and extend ourselves to give something a go.”
For people interested in following a similar path, what are the key skills or attributes that you think are important and where can people get started?
Never stop learning and trying new things. I believe we all should have the opportunity to learn something new and extend ourselves to give something a go.
Joining a small startup or scale-up company is a perfect way to do this, you’re not locked into a specific role and you are generally freer to help up where it makes the most sense. The T-shaped skillset approach is so true in our industry.
Lastly, are there any key traits or characteristics of people that do well in the SubQuery environment?
Fast learners who are able to quickly identify a problem, research potential solutions, apply similar principles, communicate their decisions, and act upon it all in a day. We move fast and the problems we face are not documented in textbooks, so those that can handle these kinds of scenarios will do well.