Building Her BA Skill Set and Paid Contract Work During COVID-19: Becky Goll

It’s my honor today to introduce you to Becky Goll. We recorded this interview when Becky was about halfway through The Business Analyst Blueprint® training program. When I heard about what she was doing, I didn’t want to wait until she had finished the program to get the full scoop.

Becky Goll

As you’ll see, she’d already leveraged the program to secure paying, part-time contract work with a local CPA, in the middle of shelter-at-home orders due to COVID-19.

In this interview, you’ll discover:

  • Why Becky chose to invest in her skill set during a period of unemployment, and how she chose what to invest in.
  • The opportunity to apply your business analysis skills to help a small business provide virtual services.
  • How Becky turned volunteer work into paying contract work.
  • The differences in Becky’s experience with project management roles and business analysis techniques, and how that’s informing her next steps.
  • How Becky is creating a work portfolio that can be leveraged in her business analyst job search.

For those who prefer to read, here’s the full-text transcript of the interview:

Laura Brandenburg: Hello, and welcome. Laura Brandenburg here with Bridging the Gap here today with Becky Goll. So excited to meet with you. She is actively in The Business Analyst Blueprint® training program right now and has had some great successes. I’m so excited that she agreed to talk with me today. Welcome, Becky.

Becky Goll: Thank you for having me.

Laura Brandenburg: I just love your smile. You’re so excited. I love it. Could you just tell me a little bit about where you were? We’re in end of April 2020 right now. People might be hearing this in a couple of years, but in the middle of COVID 2020, but where you were back in January because this has been kind of a strange Blueprint in that a lot of people joined the program without knowing this was happening. Where were you in January in your career? What were you hoping for?

Becky Goll: I’ve had a lot of discovery process since then. Back in December, I lost my job. This was even after all the COVID craziness and I was just really looking into how to incorporate more of my skill set. What I found was that a lot of the jobs that I have had in the past, project management focused and project management roles, but I noticed that I really liked the projects where I was kind of digging further into why things weren’t working properly.

I kept getting hit over and over again with bumps in the road in the project management that I was doing and I really wanted to discover and ask questions of other people around me about what was going on, were they having the same issues as I was? I just wanted to dig underneath what was happening. And so I kept on kind of going in that direction.

As I discovered, this is Business Analysis 101, the first steps, of trying to figure out what the issues were. Then I found myself mapping out some process flows, not even knowing that that was what it was called.

At the time, I don’t think that the work that I was doing allowed me to enter into that role, so there wasn’t really much opportunity  for me to move in that direction; just like kind of financial difficulties over and over again with the companies I had been with. That’s kind of led me to the best spot of being like, okay, I need to settle into the skills that I naturally tend towards and grab a hold as a project manager and see how it goes. And today, I’m here.

Laura Brandenburg: That’s a big leap to jump into a program like The Business Analyst Blueprint® after – I didn’t realize you had lost your job in December. What was your thought process there?

Becky Goll: I had definitely been thinking about, okay, I need to build my skill set in another area beyond just project management and, specifically, it was print marketing, which is a dying industry or it’s morphing a lot. I needed to get out of that industry is what I wanted to do.

But then my dad, also, we think very similarly and he is a consultant. I had checked in with him, kind of had a brain session with my dad to see what is this called that I’m leaning more towards? Sure enough, it was like business analysis.

I looked online for different programs that were offered and was doing some YouTube research as well with that term and you came up, and a lot of the videos that you’ve put out. But when I also compared your program with, let’s see, it was, I think I did UC-Irvine, and then I did Berkeley as well just to see what their programs looked like, and they were two times the cost of what you were putting out there. But their structure was different. Like you had explained, too, they were kind of more academic and less hands-on. And so, kind of the price point was right for me and I was really appreciative of how much information you had provided already with being a BA, the process of that. You did a great job in providing me with information to make that decision.

Laura Brandenburg: Yeah, that’s awesome. We’re 2/3 of the way through the program now, but do you want to just talk us through – I know you’ve analyzed the business process and you’ve created some project work for yourself, right, essentially.

Becky Goll: Yeah. Like you had shared, the hands-on process with your program allows you to incorporate what you’re learning in The Blueprint into real-life projects. Luckily, I have a roommate that owns a tax business. And so I reached out to her and she’s in between the stage of being a startup and trying to create processes and hiring on new people. She needed to data dump from her head what the processes were and kind of mapping it.

I helped her map out that process initially. The skills that I’m learning are definitely a part of that. It’s been very helpful and a part of the big selling point for me in The Blueprint was also just knowing that I could have a portfolio of my work that I had done because I don’t have much experience yet in business analysis; just the project management side. I wanted to be able to speak to that. And, I guess, a culmination of confidence in what I had done already but, then, also just being able to show it.

Laura Brandenburg: What are some of the processes that you mapped for her? There’s been this trend, potentially opening, of small businesses needing us to. We think of business analysis as being something that’s usually in a larger corporation but, like, I’m a small business and we definitely do…we probably don’t do enough of our own business analysis. I’ve seen this in the entrepreneurial world of people really needing that. So I’d be curious to hear how that went.

Becky Goll: So, her business is virtual already, so a lot of tax businesses had now locations where they would have clients come in and talk to a tax representative and work through their taxes. She has bookkeeping and taxes. She wanted me, specifically, to look at the tax client, pretty much from start to finish. We’d do their return and send it to the IRS. That process from start to finish is what she wanted me to look at.

At the time, she was already becoming virtual because she is a traveler and needed to have this mobility and still receive clients while she was traveling. She removed her physical location probably a year ago now. She was kind of ahead of the curve. I was looking at that process and it’s morphed and changed a lot.

I think what was difficult initially because she is a visionary leader is that I had a hard time getting the as-is process because she so badly wanted to tell me what she wanted it to be. There was a lot of back and forth with that. I was able to help her with that. She already had a lot of ideas for improving that process. I was just now I had been helping her implement that.

Laura Brandenburg: Did this end up being paying project work, or were you volunteering for her?

Becky Goll: I think initially, I guess maybe I’m doing a bit of both. Initially, it was just a volunteer thing. But then I noticed that the course was aimed at doing the skill set and teaching the skills and the techniques and not the actual implementation steps; kind of by-project billing for that implementation.

Laura Brandenburg: Perfect. Of the process?

Becky Goll: Yeah. And so it’s nothing…I’m definitely not identifying myself quite yet as a freelancer or anything, but it’s definitely in the right direction as far as testing those waters out, if you will, of seeing if this is where I want to move next.

Laura Brandenburg: I imagine there could be other processes, too, right? So you can volunteer for within the course to complete the course, and then it leads to other things. That’s kind of interesting and simple.

Becky Goll: I think specifically here, I mean, she is a good friend of mine, but she definitely sees that these techniques and these different ways of looking at her business can be used in different areas of the business. So you’re exactly right. I do have two or three other projects that she wants me to do as well after this one. It is interesting that once you kind of gain that trust and show that initial benefit of what you’re doing and showing them a lot of transparency in all this, that she sees it as a value and wants to continue to move forward, especially since you’ve gained so much information up front.

Laura Brandenburg: Yeah, once you understand their business for sure.

Becky Goll: Yeah, there’s a lot of initial understanding and then it kind of just ramps up from there.

Laura Brandenburg: Are you also doing a use case using the same kind of scenario or did you move on to something else?

Becky Goll: I did morph a little. I did change a little bit. Not, I think, because it’s heavy tax season right now. I wanted to just be mindful of her time and not get too deep into what she was doing. What was interesting is I was doing a lot of wireframes and all and someone…I didn’t map the use case out, but I did start doing some wireframing before I even was taking the course or knew what it was.

Laura Brandenburg: I had another question but it escaped me. It was about this scenario. I think it’s so amazing how one; we’re in the middle of a really challenging time and you’ve found work for your roommate, which is a great way to build both that in-person experience. I would have never thought of that and also be building your portfolio because the job market is probably a little slower than normal right now. I do see people getting opportunities. That’s what I wanted to ask you about was like the portfolio and the value that you’re putting on that because you do come out with all of these different samples. How does that make you feel as you’re starting to look at applying for other positions or thinking about your next step?

Becky Goll: It’s something I’m still exploring. If I want to have a PDF of all of those things, or if I want to move it into a website sort of thing, still trying to figure that part out, and still trying to format that also and understanding which pieces I need to parse out vs. combining and bundling into one. I’m still working on that part, I would say. Still have to do a bit of research on what that looks like or just kind of put a draft out there and then throw it around a little bit and edit it down. I hope that answered your question.

Laura Brandenburg: It just sounds like you’re preparing to put it out there for employers to either find or that you might share in an interview or something like that.

Becky Goll: Definitely have been taking some screenshots and making a few recorded videos of old way vs. the new way and collecting all of those different pieces to put them into a final ta-da!

Laura Brandenburg: Look at me. I’m a business analyst!

Becky Goll: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Laura Brandenburg: Any advice for people looking to follow in your footsteps?

Becky Goll: Like you’ve probably watched one or two of Laura’s videos or you’ve kind of realized that this is something that’s resonating with you. Just to keep on pursuing that and trying to find space for it because if it is something that you know that’s in your skill set, especially in this time when there’s a lot of uncertainty of what’s going to happen next, it’s just a great time to invest in yourself and your skills.

I think that I was not really putting…I was kind of putting the option off, I think, and not pursuing the things that I continue to see patterns in myself that I was doing.

The unemployment helped kick me in the right direction. If you find yourself in that position, to keep on pressing on in seeing the positive side, I guess. I’m really enjoying it. I notice, too, that it’s work that I want to be doing even despite if it’s not super high paying initially. It’s just nice to be able to help a business in this area and just to see the work headed in the right direction. It seems to finally find something that I would do no matter what the cost, in some ways.

Laura Brandenburg: You’re finding, then, a big difference between the project manager work you did before and business analysis from a personal fulfillment. There are a lot of people that almost want to go the other way or are considering back and forth between those careers. Could you talk a little bit about how the differences have been for you in terms of what you enjoy more about the business analysis stuff?

Becky Goll: Yeah, I think the business analysis side allows me to kind of look more big picture. The project management is definitely more day to day and doing tasks, and those things which actually have kind of allowed me to be on the ground level of the work. I’m able to see the things that aren’t working because I’m at the ground level and not like at a super high leadership level. So that’s been helpful in understanding some of the…just understanding the landscape. From there, I would kind of understand the bigger picture from being lower on the totem pole, if you will.

Laura Brandenburg: Well, from understanding the operations of how business flows. When you’re sitting down to analyze a process, you’ve done processes; you’ve been that person doing it. I think it’s much more challenging. This is why we help mid-career professionals because it’s really hard to teach what it’s like to work in an office or how workflows; that part. That experience gives you a certain empathy with other people who are doing that kind of work, including your roommate and her tax business.

Becky Goll: Definitely. I mean I think the one thing that I notice the most is the project management from business analysis is as a project manager, you have your day job, and that’s enough. That’s a lot of work already. I really wanted to enter into the business analysis realm, but I didn’t have enough time and I didn’t to put all of that work into it. It really is its own role because there’s a lot of work to look at.

The business analysis role definitely allows the people to do their own work in the roles they currently have while that business analysis can kind of tap into what you’re doing already and make little improvements as you go down the line so that you can really actually work in a good way.

I think I will kind of use project management, continue to use project management as my solid position and then kind of use business analysis as kind of a side project that I’m continuing to pursue because I am detail-oriented and I do have some project management skills, but I really do like more of the bigger picture and trying to implement improvements. That’s definitely where I find the most excitement. I’ve always been process improvement. “Oh, I’m so excited.”

Laura Brandenburg: Yeah, I can see it. Look at that smile. That’s awesome.

This has been awesome. I thank you so much for sharing this. Is there anything else that you wanted to share before we close things out?

Becky Goll: No, I think that’s it.

Laura Brandenburg: Alright. Thank you so much, Becky. I can’t wait to see where things go in your business analysis/project management career.

Becky Goll: Thank you, Laura.

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