From Technical Recruiter to Business Analyst: Jack S. Michel Jr. Shares His Clear Path to Success

I met Jack Michel while speaking at the Charlotte IIBA meeting. He introduced himself and let me know how Bridging the Gap had helped him go from his role as a technical recruiter to get his start in business analysis. We didn’t have much time to talk, as he needed to get home to his two young children, but I wanted to hear the rest of his story and also share it with you! Gratefully, Jack agreed to share his path to business analysis success with us.

One pattern I see in Jack is maximizing every opportunity, treating his life and career as a long-term game, always improving and going for more. He has gone above and beyond in sharing his story here with immense clarity about what actions actually led to his success, leaving you with copious amounts of career advice. So grab a coffee or a tea, and give yourself the gift of time to absorb what he has to share.

Without further ado, let’s hear from Jack.

Laura: Can you tell us about yourself?

Jack: I live in Charlotte, North Carolina and I currently work for CapTech Consulting as an IT Consultant focusing on business systems analysis. I previously worked for ettain group as a Business Systems Analyst (2 years) and Technical Recruiter (~4 years).

I have primary strengths in:

  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and ALM (AGILE Lifecycle Management) tool application administration, configuration, and implementation (relevant tools I specialize in include Salesforce, JIRA, Confluence, and ServiceNow)
  • Process mapping and improvement
  • AGILE methodology

I grew up in Mooresville, NC and I have spent considerable time in several cities across NC including Oak Island (near Wilmington), Chapel Hill, and Raleigh.

I am an active member of the Charlotte IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis), Charlotte Salesforce User Group, and Charlotte Atlassian User Group.

I enjoy spending time with my wife, two daughters, and two dogs. I also enjoy being at the lake/ocean, traveling, playing sports including golf & pick-up basketball/volleyball, gardening, and PC Strategy Games. Football is my favorite sport to watch and I am an avid fan of the Carolina Panthers and the UNC Tar Heels.

Laura: Why did you decide to pursue a business analysis career? 

Jack: Right out of college, the job market was in a severe downturn and I was unsure which direction to take, although I had an inclination I wanted to do something in “business.” With no clear options, I took a recommendation and a referral from a friend to start a technical recruiting position at ettain group in Raleigh, NC.

Very early into the job, I quickly focused on trying to identify how I could be the best recruiter possible. In the Raleigh (satellite) office, I saw each one of my peers doing many different things. There were no standard best practices in place for how to be successful in the role outside of the general recruiter industry recommendations. These recommendations included making a certain number of daily outbound calls, always proactively build a candidate network, make sure to actively listen to whoever you call, and ask great open-ended questions. Most of my peers wrote candidate notes by hand and tended to see the company’s ATS (applicant tracking system) at the time, Bullhorn, as a necessary evil rather than a tool that could help them excel in their job.

Learning and using the Bullhorn tool came easy to me – I felt the user interface was simple to use and made sense for my current job. I strived to do things as efficiently as possible, so I began typing my notes during my conversations with candidates and I would immediately save them in the system. Subsequently, my colleagues (especially those in other offices) began to express appreciation for the level of detail I was providing on my candidate conversations.

We had a very collaborative recruiting method, so oftentimes several of us would be working with the same candidate and these instantaneously available notes were helpful to our team efforts. I also began creating and saving personalized templates as much as possible within the system, which saved me an incredible amount of time. I researched the tool more to find out all it could do, and I started employing the techniques I learned. Everything I was doing was making the job much easier and I was more effective at producing results.  

I proactively started documenting my new strategies and kept my notes up-to-date as I gained more experience. I quickly became a very successful recruiter and ettain group took notice. I was asked to help spread my techniques to other offices and I was soon involved in new-hire trainings as well as behavior-based trainings and videos. For completing these requests, it was extremely helpful to have created and maintained the relevant documentation.

I also found I excelled in the conversations between our account managers and the client hiring manager. I realized to maximize my chances to successfully fill positions, I needed to know exactly why the position was open, what specific candidate skills/attributes were needed (and why they were needed), and how the manager saw the role fitting into the future organization. It did not make sense for me to ever recruit on a position I did not understand myself, mainly because I knew I would be unable to accurately portray it to potential candidates. The best candidates were in jobs and they were not going to leave their current position for a generic sales pitch, nor did I want to put the wonderful people I found in a potentially bad situation.

Recruiters were not usually part of the account manager/client manager conversations, but at my urging, I began coming to almost every relevant call. I also made sure all our sales team had a checklist of key questions to ask in every client position requirements conversation. These efforts led to major success in our office and it was something we subsequently scaled out as well. These conversations with the hiring managers were the beginning of my realization of the importance of requirements elicitation and management. This is something I will never forget, and I feel fortunate to have seen this early in my career.

One awesome part of being a recruiter is you quickly gain a great perspective on the various available jobs and career paths. I learned about many companies, as well as which ones were the best places to work (and why they were the best places to work). I also learned the various pay grades for positions and the actual job duties of titles such as project managers, business analysts, and developers. Having seen the results of my internal actions and learning as much as I could about the external job market, I found myself gravitating towards business analysis, and then the winds of change brought a great opportunity my way.  

Laura: How did you end up in your first BA position? What was it like? 

Jack: In 2011, my wife and I were engaged to marry. She was about to graduate with her master’s degree and her offers were in Charlotte. We had always agreed we would like to relocate closer to home. I spoke with ettain group management and they were very gracious to allow my transfer to the Charlotte company headquarters, even though I was a key part of the Raleigh office.

Upon arriving in Charlotte, I started attending local IIBA meetings to recruit business analysts as well as broaden my relevant perspective. I also made a presentation to the chapter regarding how analysts can improve their resume and more easily navigate the job market. At the IIBA meetings, I first came across Bridging the Gap and I began personally referring to it as well as sharing this resource with any of my candidates who were trying to become a business analyst.

In 2012-2013, ettain group decided to change its applicant tracking system from Bullhorn to a newly developed ATS called erecruit. As one of the top users of Bullhorn, I was asked by the ettain group implementation team to be a key participant in erecruit UAT (user acceptance testing) in the test environment as well as through the production implementation process. This was amazing experience to learn the testing process for a new application and I had the opportunity to work first-hand in JIRA, which we used for defect tracking.

The initial implementation had its challenges and ettain group leadership decided we needed a dedicated erecruit Business Systems Analyst/Product Owner. Due to my contributions and value as a user acceptance tester, I felt I was an excellent candidate for the role. I used Bridging the Gap extensively in preparing for the job interview process. During the interviews, I quickly saw the role was going to be a challenge and it was going to require hard work. It was also going to be a significant pay cut. However, I knew I had to do it as it would be a great crash course on many key elements of the Business Analysis and IT world.

Once into the role, I loved it! It was all the good aspects of the recruiter job along with many of the other tasks I had been hoping to do such as using JIRA (for so many more things than defect tracking) & Microsoft Visio (for business process mapping) as well as using AGILE methodology.  I was extremely lucky to have a great manager, Dan Royle, who truly cared about my professional growth and wanted the best for me. He never hesitated to give me the support I needed, and he was always there to help me work through unexpected items.

Although I was the only one focusing on erecruit, we had a great team of marketing and IT professionals sitting in close proximity, so I received exposure to many aspects of how the business was run. Over time, I began adding duties such as JIRA administration, as well as forays into project and portfolio management.

I was in the role two years when the needs for the job shifted from a new implementation and enhancement business analysis focused position to a general troubleshooting and support role. At that time, I knew I needed a change in scenery as I felt the need to see how other companies performed business analysis. However, I had not yet started applying for anything on my own.

Laura: What was the job transition like? What challenges did you face along the way and how did you overcome them?

Jack: I was lucky that I have a great friend, Tam Ayers, who referred me into my next job. As I was thinking about experiencing how other companies performed business analysis, Tam approached me out of the blue about a position where he worked, CapTech Consulting. As a relatively junior business analyst on paper, I would have never made it into such a great company at the “consultant” level without his backing (at the time, most junior analysts started in CapTech’s boot-camp and internship positions). It was hard to leave ettain group, where I had worked with many wonderful people, but I knew it had to be done to progress into business analysis as I desired.

Upon joining CapTech, I acclimated myself during my first year when my early projects were mostly oriented around general business analysis. Six months in, I was given to opportunity to become the CapTech Charlotte Office Business Analysis Lead and it has been an amazing experience. I have enjoyed having the opportunity to have a positive impact on others and am grateful for the opportunity to approach organizational management and strategy within the smaller environment of a single office within a larger company.  

In general, I have found consulting is an outstanding way to learn many new skills and perspectives in a short amount of time and I am grateful for all the projects and opportunities I have encountered thus far. Moving from project to project, you learn how business and IT systems really work and you see what is required to complete a successful project at all levels. If you ever encounter the opportunity to join a consulting firm, you should seriously consider it, however daunting it may seem.  

In my personal time as well as downtime at CapTech, I have focused on getting certifications in interesting technology/methodology areas. So far in 2.5 years at CapTech, I have earned six certifications: Salesforce Certified Administrator, Salesforce Certified Sales Cloud Consultant, Atlassian Certified Professional JIRA Administrator, Atlassian Certified Professional Confluence Administrator, ServiceNow Certified Administrator, and SAFe 4.5 Scrum Master. I have found the effort and preparation to obtain each of these certifications has proven valuable to my confidence in using and presenting about these tools and methodologies.

Since earning these certifications, my projects have become more focused around these tools. Now that I am working more with Salesforce, JIRA, and ServiceNow, much of my earlier recruiting and CRM/ATS experiences/skills are relevant and add additional value to my general business analysis skills.

Laura: What do you consider as the keys to your success? 

Jack:

  • Listening.
    • This initial advice I received as a recruiter is the key to everything I do, whether it is my professional career, or in building personal relationships.
    • Everyone’s time is valuable and excellent listening is the key to maximizing this constrained resource as well as promoting general comprehension.
  • Working smart.
    • Figure out how to best use the tools available to you in your current environment. Do not discount something because others view it negatively or they are not using it.
  • Never be afraid to ask questions, although do make sure you think prior to asking them.
  • Like listening, process mapping is another valuable skill that has provided so much value.
    • This skill has come up in every consulting project I have been a part of, even if it is not asked for formally/initially. I also make sure I have a strong comprehension of the current state before I move forward with consulting on the future state.
    • There have been many past times where gathering stakeholders in a room or on a call together and whiteboarding or drawing out a process is the key to making the right decision.

Laura: What recommendations would you make to others looking to follow a path like yours? 

Jack:

  • Have a long-term plan or goal in mind and use your analysis skills in relation to your relevant progress.
    • With every career decision you make, evaluate it against your long-term plan/goal.
    • Do not be afraid to change your goal/plan, especially as you gain more perspective and awareness of the job environment and outlook in front of you.
  • Learn as much as you can.
    • Be a sponge and make sure you are always learning.
      • Always make sure to learn about yourself. Identify your likes and dislikes. Be self-aware of your strengths as well as what you feel needs improvement. Make sure these personal learnings factor into your long-term plan/goal.
      • If you stop learning, it may be time for a change, although that does not mean you have to leave your company to accomplish this. Change can also be:
        • Doing something differently in your day/project.
        • Talking to your current manager/company and seeing what can be modified.
        • Doing a training/certification to signal you are interested/ready for different/bigger challenges. I have done this several times already through my career to help me gain an opportunity to start working with a tool/project that I would not have had the opportunity to do so otherwise.
    • Find a mentor already in business analysis or that is more senior than you in business analysis (or whatever it is you want to get into).
      • Remember when you get further into your career to repay this favor with someone else who may be looking for this guidance.
      • Your local IIBA chapter is a great way to find potential mentors.
  • Do not get down or challenged just because your current job may not be a perfect fit.
    • Just because you do not currently see the right open door in front of you, it does not mean it will not open later. My recruiter perspective showed me that careers are a long, long game and every decision you make can have a drastic impact on your career outlook. This reiterates why having the long-term goal/plan is so important and I will get to this in my next point as well.
  • Do not feel like you must take every promotion offered to you.
    • This probably goes against the grain of most advice you will ever receive, but I think this statement has been a key for my career growth/happiness thus far and I think it is also an explanation of why many “business managers” and “people managers” are not successful in their roles.
      • Going back to my time as a recruiter, I really want to understand the whys of every position that is open.
      • I am in an ideal spot right now in terms of my job duties and future growth outlook towards my long-term goal. If I had taken any of those promotions, my path would likely have been very, very different. 
      • I have seen many people end up in a management job due to taking a hastily opened position and then something bad happens, and the person is forever spurned from management (either by their choice or others), or the person never learns how to be a good manager and he/she is stuck in that position level without the opportunity to develop a good path forward. Instead, if that person had been more prepared and received more necessary support, he/she could have been a perfect manager. I feel cross-training, cross-functional awareness, and a wide overview of all the relevant business processes are keys to becoming a successful manager.

Thank you for reading. I hope my experience and advice can help and inspire anyone reading. If you ever have questions or just want to talk further, please reach out to me on LinkedIn (make sure to mention this article when you reach out with a connection request).

Laura: Thank you so much, Jack. I know your story and advice will inspire many others looking to follow in your footsteps!

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