Laura’s CBAP Journey: Finishing the Dreaded Work History Section (Week 2)

First I want to start out by saying a big thank you to everyone who left a comment on last week’s post about starting my journey to becoming a CBAP. Your support and encouragement is over the top. I honestly had no idea that people would actually care about this journey and it feels amazing to have all of you watching over me  (err, supporting me) as I tackle this challenge. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

This week my major milestone was to finish the work experience section of my CBAP application. This is a milestone indeed and is the part that deters many BAs from applying for the CBAP.

I had done an initial round of counting up hours and documenting projects last week. After attending Linda’s CBAP application seminar and getting the concepts straight in my head, I knew I had some adjustments to make. I had unwittingly fallen into a few of the traps that those CBAP application reviewers set for us in how I documented my experience and hadn’t quite added up enough hours yet. On Tuesday, I sat down with Linda’s worksheet and recompiled my work experience in her template.

At first I was peeved…I had to estimate hours by task in order to fill in the worksheet. All the CBAP application asks you to do is document percentages by knowledge area and check off tasks. Why go to all this seemingly extra trouble? However, I really wanted to use Linda’s spreadsheet to ensure I met the requirement of 900 hours in 4 different knowledge areas and I realized that no matter what path I took to figuring this out there would be some grunt work. So I settled myself down and got to work.

And then an amazing thing happened. As I sat there calculating hours and really thinking about what I had done within each task area while also being sure I hadn’t duplicated date ranges or over-counted hours or done anything that might seem even just a little bit shady, I started to feel really good about my BA work. I kind of got addicted to the process.

Where before, I had decided to leave some gaps in my work history since I had some extra hours to play with, I now decided to go for it all. I documented the 5% of my time I spent building a QA process in 2001 and 2002. I documented the enterprise analysis and other BA work I did to create My Business Analysis Career late last year and much of this year. I documented everything except for a few minor contracts, the BA mentoring I’ve done for the last year and a half, and the last year I spent as a manager. From each of these I could have probably eked out a few hundred more hours, but I finally decided that enough was enough.

When all was said and done, I had over 900 hours in all of the knowledge areas and my total came in at over 10,000 hours. I quickly sent my worksheet to Linda for validation and Tweeted out this cool news. Besides being a round number, the “10,000” hours mark is one that is sometimes associated with “mastery.” So right now, I’m feeling pretty good about myself. I’ll also admit, even though I wasn’t excited about the forms part of the CBAP process, discovering that you’ve done something you’re passionate about for 10,000 hours of your adult life is pretty cool. Side bonus #1 of becoming a CBAP.

And then I discovered side bonus #2. Yesterday I sat down and emailed 6 project contacts that I listed in the work history section, just to let them know I listed them and that if my application is audited they will be contacted to confirm my BA contributions. Some of these are people I’ve been in touch with recently. Others I haven’t talked to in years or more…I’m not even sure if they know I’m running my own business now. Reaching out to all these people was a fun process. It also lets them know I’m engaged professionally, gives me a chance to update them on what I’m up to, and could potentially turn up new collaboration opportunities in the future. If you are a consultant or in a job search process, this step could be a real benefit, especially if you take care with how you craft these messages and use them strategically.

Also on my agenda this week was tackling the first BABOK chapter – the Business Analysis Planning one that I had lost some pages of. As of Thursday, this task had been on my agenda every day and every day it got pushed out as other duties captured my attention. I’m realizing that dedicating the effort to studying is going to take some focus on my part. Last week the newness of it all gave me momentum. Already, that positive anticipation is waning. Still, I know I can finish what I need to do this week. I’ll also be acquiring a CBAP Exam Simulator that allows me to practice questions by knowledge area and test how well I’m absorbing the information I need to absorb from self-study. More on that next week.

Thanks again for your support. By the end of next week, I intend to have submitted my application (just waiting for one reference to come in) and completed an initial absorption of 3 knowledge areas, and have some real feedback on my self-study success by taking a practice exam.

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Comments

  1. Melanie Shatilla says:

    Bravo Laura! Your journey has really motivated me to sit down and start compiling my hours. Thankfully, I do have timesheets for 2006-present which can trigger my memory (the timesheets are not detailed by task), but organizing all that information plus remembering what I did pre-2006 is pretty daunting. Following your tweets and blog, I’ve noticed that you’ve managed to complete documenting your work experience in only a few weeks. I find that encouraging, and it serves to show that we don’t have to spend countless nights and weekends to fill out that part of the application. We just have to stop procrastinating and go for it.

    • Thank you Melanie and best of luck to you documenting your hours. I feel like I had a bit of a head start because I have written so much about my work experience here for the last two years — honestly I’ve been thinking and rethinking over my career for every post, presentation, and course lesson and have already read the BABOK and used it to trigger my memory. So coming into last week I pretty much knew how my experience matched up, it was just a matter of documenting it correctly and making that understanding more precise in terms of hours. And honestly, all of that work for the last couple of years was very, very rewarding.

      If you get stuck, I’d recommend doing what I did. Start reading the BABOK and annotating it with your experiences. You may have called those experiences different names, but they are still relevant. It’s more about what you did than what you called it.

      Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!

  2. Kudos again, to you on tackling this goal! 🙂

    My long term goal is to obtain a CCBA. Since the company I currently work for is about to close soon, I decided to document my hours thus far. I finished this yesterday then read this blog posting today. When I read you included creating a QA process in your hours, it spurred me to include the processes I created that I did account for in my hours list. I do not know yet if this qualifies under CCBA requirements, but it’s better to document now than forget later. 😉

    So, thank you! 🙂

  3. Christy Nicholson says:

    Thanks Laura! So glad you’re blogging all of this… I’m exactly where you are in the process at the moment, and I echo all of your experiences and sentiments so far pretty closely. I’m just going to retweet this and say “ditto”. 🙂

    Happy studying…

    • How wonderful Christy. Glad to have someone to mirror these experiences off of. Good luck with your application and your prep work. Let me know if I can help or if you want to share pieces of your story.

  4. Ivy Nichols says:

    Laura,
    I reeeaaallly appreciate your blogging about this and especially this entry. You have a gift for expressing yourself in such an approachable and easy manner! I am one of those BAs who has abstained from the CBAP due to the laborious application process and because of this blog entry, I can see myself in your shoes – counting up the hours and compiling and documenting, feeling frustrated and overcoming it, and seeing the value of my career accomplishments. You know what… I think I can do it! And now I have a good idea what to expect. Thank you!
    Ivy

    • Ivy, You are welcome. I know you can do it! Since you are participating as an instructor for Launching Your BA Career, that might be an easier way to ease into this too. You are so good at calling up your past experiences that you might find yourself much closer than you expect by the time you are done going through the course and answering the questions from our students.

  5. Katie Metcalfe says:

    Enjoying reading your CBAP journey Laura.

    There are some good study materials available on Amazon, thought I’d share.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0578028409/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1935062603/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

    Katie

  6. Laura,

    I smiled when I read about the addictive feeling that you got from seeing how much of what you had accomplished mirrors the BABOK. 🙂
    Going through the process of becoming a CBAP is like preparing for a marathon. We first dread it, the beginning can be rough, but once you get into it, it becomes intoxicating. You will find yourself wanting more of it (even the things you consider torture today)!
    The confidence boost that comes from going through the application process alone, is a definite benefit of this process. Unlike many other certifications, this application process is tough. It’s like anything in life, if you obtain something easily, you may not appreciate it; but if you work even a little bit for it, you will cherish it more!

    • Hmm…I had already started seeing some parallels between this journey and running a marathon 5 years ago – mostly that once I finished the marathon it sort of became the benchmark against which I measured just about anything of difficultly. Maybe I should be looking forward to the CBAP-equivalent of a runner’s high too? Do we have a name for that yet? 😉

      • No name for it yet! but will start thinking of one 🙂

      • Jenny Nunemacher says:

        We need a generic name for that high we get. When I was in high school my friends and I talked about our “physics high” after we’d worked through a complicated physics homework problem.

  7. Hilda Steyn says:

    Laura, your journey is truly amazing and so motivating to me.

    I was just thinking – I might save myself a lot of hassle preparing for a CBAP application one day if I start keeping track of my time spent now already. I am sure there are other BAs out there who would agree. Could you possible give us a template to use now already?

    • Thanks, Hilda and you definitely will! Linda provides a link to download a simple spreadsheet free of charge in her blog post that she linked to above. Here’s the link: http://thebamentor.com/business-analysis-articles-blogs/item/208-can-a-junior-ba-benefit-from-pursuing-the-cbap?.html

      • Hilda Steyn says:

        Thanks for that Laura! What kind of evidence is required for the hours we list in such a spreadsheet. Surely they won’t just accept the information without any proof?

      • Hilda,
        You might want to get in touch with Linda Erzah (author of the post I linked to) for your CBAP application questions. I can only speak to my own experience and my application has not yet been submitted or approved yet. But the only “proof” I was asked for was a project contact and my understanding is that you only need proof if you are audited, and it’s mostly via contacting those project contacts.

      • Hilda,

        Currently IIBA application does not have a way for you to submit proof of experiences other than listing your project information as well as contact information for person who can speak about your experience on the project. This person can be a manager, colleague… anyone who can speak about the tasks you performed during the projects. The spreadsheet I provided as well as our CBAP Application worksheet, only helps with organizing your time and identifying the areas where you need more hours, before submitting your application. It doesn’t take place of the application or your due diligence to ensure that the hours you put down are correct and can be verified.

  8. Michelle Swoboda says:

    Laura, congratulations on this milestone – good for you!
    I have a question, what if the people that are your references are no longer contactable? What do you do then?

    • Thanks, Michelle. Well, it can be anyone on the project. So sometimes I didn’t select the main project contact (such as the PM) but someone I could more easily get in touch with. Many of the projects I documented were at companies where the company has changed names or reconfigured itself entirely, so most of my contacts are not at the same company as I was when I did the work. All the more reason to continue building those LinkedIn connections and finding past co-workers as that’s a great way to get in touch with people you’ve lost touch with.

    • Here is a reference from IIBA.org site about this question:

      Contacts for many of the projects I have worked on over the past 7 or 10 years are no longer available. How do I document this in such a way that I can still get credit for the hours performed?

      Please indicate the situation in the description field for the specific project in question (i.e., that you are not able to provide contact information for the person you reported to) and minimally, provide the name and contact information of a person who can verify your employment with that organization. However, this cannot be the case with all projects submitted as we need some projects for which we can validate the tasks, hours and dates with the appropriate contact for audit purposes.