If you are doing something specifically for a reward at the end of the path, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. You have to do what you are passionate about and will be proud of regardless of what comes of it.
Doug Goldberg has been a business analyst for about 15 years in a variety of positions. He is currently a Senior Business Analyst at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and sets the standard for being active in the BA community.
I consider myself lucky to be able to collaborate with Doug on a weekly basis through various activities. Today I have the opportunity to share with you parts of a recent conversation about advancing your business analyst career.
Professional development as a business analyst
Laura: What activities do you engage in to advance your business analyst career?
Doug: I read a lot of online articles, journals; I take classes when I can afford them or find free online resources; I mentor junior analysts both in the workplace and outside of it; I collaborate with peers in the industry; I volunteer time and effort to CBAPMentor.com to assist in building this business, I volunteer my time to the IIBA Intl efforts; I facilitate a CBAP Study group, and I was just elected as VP Professional Development for the Dallas chapter of IIBA.
Laura: As I’ve started interviewing business analysts, a pattern is emerging in terms of the relationship between training and learning. I know you do a lot of training of BAs, can you speak to your experience here?
Doug: Through beginning to mentor junior analysts, I’ve realized how much I’ve learned over the course of my career. It’s easy to take for granted what you now know. But as you mentor others, you begin to see that things you take for granted as simple are complex and not easily understood. I often restructure meetings on-the-fly when I can tell the mentees aren’t picking up on a concept. It can be a challenge to get myself to back up more but as a result I’m improving my facilitation skills too.
Laura: What’s your best career habit?
Doug: I put myself in the position of my business customer – any IT organization has a certain degree of arrogance and superiority. You need to understand value from your customer’s perspective and take what you perceive and share it with developers. It’s important for me to protect my customer’s interests.
Laura: What informal learning opportunities have you seen provide benefits to your organization?
Doug: We’ve done some lunch and learns. We used them to help testers and analysts work better together and establish some common ground about what we needed from each other to be successful.
Taking on non-BA responsibilities to become a better BA
Laura: Tell me about a time you took on a new set of responsibilities to advance your career.
Doug: Earlier in my career, I was at an organization that needed a developer but couldn’t afford one. At the time, I felt like I was hitting a wall as an analyst and to get ahead I needed to transition my career into development. But the learning curve was so steep, I never did it. Because I had a history of never saying no to a new task or opportunity, my manager presented me with an opportunity to learn Java/J2EE development on this project.
Laura: How did this task help your career?
Doug: I gained a lot of technical knowledge from being a developer and now I know when a development team isn’t telling me the full story. I also showed that I could take on a variety of new challenges and be successful. I was willing to dig in and learn something new to help my organization.
Laura: What other tasks outside business analysis have you taken on?
Doug: In my current organization, we are regulated (which means there is a fairly formal process and lots of documentation) and we have also experienced a lot of staffing cuts. Over time, more and more responsibilities have been laden onto the business analysts. We are sometimes responsible for test case development and on smaller projects we fill the role of project manager. While this can be frustrating as it creates a lot of work, it is also providing us analysts opportunities to learn these other roles. In the long run, we’ll be better analysts because we have experience outside our direct responsibilities.