Toni V. Martin started her career in marketing and started developing a specialty in Salesforce.com, a business application that automates and streamlines sales business processes.
After taking the BA Essentials Master Class, Toni quickly moved into a BA leadership role. She now runs her own company helping Salesforce.com BAs and is a Bridging the Gap instructor.
Learn how Toni:
- Was able to apply the business analysis process framework right away to the work she was doing on Salesforce.com applications.
- Became seen as a leader within her BA teams, because she could bring best practices.
- Built a portfolio of work samples to bring to an interview and demonstrate her capabilities.
- Was able to easily answer a common job interview question – what’s your business analysis approach?
- And why she is now choosing to be a leader and champion for business analysts outside her organization as well.
For those who prefer to read, here’s the full-text transcript of the interview:
Laura Brandenburg: Hello and welcome. I’m here today with Toni V. Martin. I’m so excited to be meeting with you today and hearing a bit about your business analysis career story. Thank you for being here, Toni.
Toni Martin: Thank you as always for having me.
Laura Brandenburg: And I jumped right in. I forgot, I’m Laura Brandenburg with Bridging the Gap. Toni has participated in our BA Essentials Master Class back in 2016. Today she’s doing amazing things in her career and with her business. We probably should have done this years ago, but we finally got to sit down and talk a little bit more about her story.
Toni, if you could kind of just take us back to 2016, 2017, kind of where you were in your career and what you were looking for.
Toni Martin: Sure. A little bit of background before that is that I was coming from a PR / Marketing background where I had worked for an agency and done some sales enablement things. I had a variety of experiences in marketing and sales operations, that type of thing and I was looking to make a career shift. I wanted more money and more satisfaction in my career. I got reacquainted with Salesforce.com.
For those who are not familiar, it’s a commercial off the shelf software and service platform that helps businesses optimize and automize their processes. It’s something that I had used in a past role that I did that kind of inventory where you start to think, “What have I done that I really liked?” Salesforce came to the forefront. I discovered that there was a whole community and resources and a path to start to kind of make that my career.
In the Salesforce world, there a few popular tracks. One of them is to be administrator. That’s the person who maybe works with the end users. And then there’s the developer track, which is more technical and deals with the coding portion of it. Neither of those felt right for me.
I got involved in my local community here in Atlanta and someone said to me, “Well, you know, you probably should be a business analyst.” And my immediate reaction was, “Oh no. I couldn’t do that. I’m not qualified,” not knowing what it meant to be a business analyst. That led me to research and I stumbled upon your information, your resources, the Bridging the Gap website and just go head first into all of your articles, your book – How to Start a Business Analyst Career, your freebies and really got a full grasp of what the profession was and understood that I actually was a business analyst already.
The work I had been performing were BA tasks and I didn’t know that. That helped me.
Laura Brandenburg: That’s huge. I feel like so often people find Bridging the Gap and they think that they’re starting a business analyst career. There’s this sense of awareness that happens and it’s like, no; I actually have been doing business analysis.
What were some of the specifics that you identified; experiences or the skills that you had that you were able to move forward?
Toni Martin: Well, for me, just the process of analyzing and assessing what the pain points were for the businesses that I worked with or the clients that I worked with, outlining a solution, in the Salesforce world, as a Salesforce BA, I may take the extra step of configuring the solution, but one thing that I see that’s missing is that people love the tool; they get enamored. It’s a low code/no code tool. People get enamored with the ease of it and they dive head first into the fun parts, the nuts and bolts, the configuration.
What I realized was that by doing some of the BA work that I later learned that’s what that was; I was preventing myself from having a lot of missteps and building the wrong thing, not doing thorough discovery. I didn’t realize the things that I thought were just inherent to how I worked were part of a codified profession of business analysis and it just made me more confident and more sure that that was the right track for me to be on.
Laura Brandenburg: What were you looking for when you did join the BA Essentials course?
Toni Martin: I was able to kind of get a start, but still to this day, there’s not much formal training. Almost no one I talked to receives formal BA training in college or at their job. Everyone is pretty much cobbling together best practices and what they can. But you typically don’t get that training on the job.
I didn’t feel like I was equipped to go for more advanced roles or just to be confident in interviewing and being ready to take on the actual title of Salesforce Business Analyst without having some type of training. The BA Essentials made it affordable and easy and accessible for me to be able to get training on my own time while I was working and actually put myself with that formal training piece that I was looking for.
Laura Brandenburg: Right. So just you had the experience, but there’s that sense of a credential or just even being aware of best practices and what happens outside of your company. I know, for me, so much happened when I started to move around between companies. You start to see how the role is the same. But before you make that move, it can benefit you to kind of get that broader perspective as well.
Toni Martin: Another thing I loved is going through the Essentials, the vernacular vocabulary, the jargon, the deliverables. I didn’t have that vocabulary. I just knew that, “Make a list of questions.” I wouldn’t have that called out as part of a formalized process that I went through. Working through that in Essentials gave me that framework. I love the word “framework.” Just being able to say, “This is my framework for how I approach project. That just sounds so confident.
Laura Brandenburg: So official. Right? What were some of your – you were able to apply it right away or figure out that you had been applying it, but now have a framework to reference. What were some of your other takeaways?
Toni Martin: One of the biggest things for me is I used to plan, the template that we put together in Essentials. I used that to start doing my work in accordance with this process. And also, using that to create deliverables for a portfolio. That’s one of my biggest tips. I’m giving this to everybody free. Watch this. You’re free to steal it.
“Having a portfolio when you interview has just been a game-changer for me because a lot of people show up empty-handed and they talk about what they can do and they talk about what’s on their resume. But when you apply the principles and the process to your current role as you advocate that we do, and then you create deliverables out of that. That I have something that’s tangible that I would take and discuss on interviews.
I would lead with it and I would say, “Hey, I’ve done a process flow for this or this is my approach.” If they say, “How would you approach your project?” I can say, “Hey, this is how I would do it. Here is my deliverable. Let me walk you through that.” Just having that takeaway is part of what I would say kind of helped me fast track and get to more senior positions and start getting the title of Senior Salesforce Business Analyst instead of just Business Analyst or Junior.
Laura Brandenburg: And you have moved on since then, right? You’ve changed companies, changed…actually, I’m not quite all of what has been done in the last four years. I know where you are now, but I don’t know all the past.
Toni Martin: I started off kind of as a temporary contractor, like on a short term contract, and from there I was able to move into consulting. I did a stint in consulting. I was able to move into corporate. So I was a corporate employee for a Fortune 500. Now I’m back in contracting at a Fortune 100 consulting company.
One of the things that I think it enabled me to do, the confidence in having my framework and my processes, one; it’s allowed me to, as I mentioned, have that confidence and have that tangible items to show when I interview. But two; when I go into these places, I’m always shocked to find that they don’t have systems in place and they don’t have processes. And so I become a leader because I do work off of the framework, and I do work off of a project plan, and I do bring these best practices that I’ve gotten from your materials to my role, and that’s always helped me in being a leader and rise up the ranks, and I pick up which way that I want to go in my career.
Laura Brandenburg: Right and what roles, really.
Beyond that, one of the things I’m so excited to share with everyone, too, is you’re also training other Salesforce Business Analysts. So you are a champion and a leader within the organizations that you contract with help for, but you’re also spreading this to BAs outside of your organization. Do you want to talk a little bit more about your business and what you’re doing with that?
Toni Martin: Well you definitely have been one of my inspirations to be able to take what I know as a Salesforce Business Analyst and to be able to help others with that. I always say I could never be as prolific as all the articles and the resources and the courses that you have, so I usually refer people over to your materials for this excellent foundation. I call it college caliber education that you provide. And then there’s a kind of specialized piece that we have at Salesforce Business Analysts of how do we merge these best practices with the software-specific skills.
I’ve been able to coach and mentor people as well as have my own online event, which is a Salesforce Business Analyst Virtual Summit. It’s in its third iteration for the second year. People have thanked me because a lot like I was, when I was starting out, there wasn’t a lot of information that was specific to them. The same way that I was able to find you and move forward on this path and use that to enhance my career, I’m helping to do that for other people.
Laura Brandenburg: Yeah, and we always get great feedback on your summits and everything that you put together. You’re doing some awesome stuff.
You’re also, now, I mean I feel like there is so full circle because you also just joined our team as an instructor for Bridging the Gap. What was your interest in that or your passion for that?
Toni Martin: You know, like I said, just what you and the team have been able to do in terms of the training. Bridging the Gap, to me, is the foremost resource to become a better business analyst on the internet no matter where you are and be quality of the information with something that I wanted to be a part of, one; because I feel like I never stop learning. There were things that I knew as an instructor that I would get trained on and help to help other people understand that would reinforce what I do on a day-to-day basis.
And then, also, just giving back to the profession. Like I said, having people who do this work and who can give you feedback and who can work with you is priceless because a lot of times you don’t have that in your workplace. But even if you do, people don’t necessarily have time to take you under their wing and critique some of the things that you do. I wanted to be a person who helps you train up other BAs and to help them to master the profession so that they can experience some of the things that I’ve been able to. It totally is full circle from me going from reading your book and just being like, “Oh my goodness, Laura Brandenburg, she’s amazing. I tell everybody about her,” to being a teammate of yours has been truly full circle.
Laura Brandenburg: Yeah, and we’re here now in 2020. We were reflecting like it was only four years ago. Part of the reason I think that timeline was relatively condensed from not just being a Senior BA but also being now a champion and a leader on your own right and within our company is because you really did have so much of that behind you. You had so much that you brought forward from before then. It’s the awareness and so there’s that piece that clicks in that can shift everything is what I’m seeing. That allows you to then move much more quickly than you probably would have otherwise.
Toni Martin: I think that but also, again, the resources that you provide both paid and free, those really short cut a lot of what you would try to figure out on your own. And I believe in availing myself of other people’s expertise. And so I was able, like I said, to purchase some of your templates and use that to create deliverables for interviews. I don’t know how long that would have taken me had I not done that. Because I had that shortened curve, I think it really supported my trajectory.
Laura Brandenburg: Any other advice for somebody looking to follow in your footsteps who thinks they might be a BA or is just exploring this path and wondering what their next step is? What would be your advice to them?
Toni Martin: There’s a great article that you have on your site about transferable skills. You talk about things that people do in their present role and their past positions that are part of what you do as a business analyst. I think if people take a look at that, if they are unsure this is the right path, I think, like me, they’ll find out that they’re doing a lot of the work already, and that they probably just need to merge their transferable skills with the actual best practices and a framework. The best way to do that, I think, and the quickest way to do that would be to sign up for at least the BA Essentials Master Class.
Laura Brandenburg: Awesome. Anything else you want to share before we close things up?
Toni Martin: Just I would say to also, I think, try to connect with other people. I know that you’re really encouraging around people connecting and understanding that they’re not by themselves. I think it’s kind of hard when you’re embarking on this path, or again, maybe the people in your workplace are not as ambitious as you may be and not having people to talk to to encourage you. So, definitely making sure that you plug into the BA community as much as you can. I think it also is something that makes things a lot easier.
Laura Brandenburg: Yeah, I would agree about connecting both locally, online, virtually, wherever you can find other like-minded BAs. BAs within your company. That’s great advice.
Well, I am just so honored that you shared everything you did today and that we were able to connect. I really appreciate you sharing your story, Toni. I’m grateful that this isn’t the end for us because we partner together and you’re on the team and we’ll continue to work together and it’s been an honor and a pleasure to have you as part of what we do at Bridging the Gap. Thank you so much.
Toni Martin: Thank you, again, for kind of leading and stepping out to provide this for people because I know kind of being in the same footsteps you’re in, it’s not easy to produce and to kind of put all this together. So I just thank you for heeding that calling that you had to give back because it’s helped so many people. So thank you.
Laura Brandenburg: Thank you so much.