Today we meet Beverly Sudbury, an ACBA Recipient and Business Process Analyst from Prince Edward Island, who recently took control of her career and went from a Software Tester and instead worked to become a business analyst.
What we love about Beverly’s story is she observed the work environment around her, recorded in detail the work she had been doing, and used those findings to build the case for her first promotion with her skills from Software Tester to Business Process Analyst.
In this interview, you’ll discover:
- The value of investing in yourself and your career.
- How to examine your transferable skills and use them to position yourself for your next career move.
- The importance of viewing feedback objectively with no resistance to change and how to use it for growth.
- How Beverly prepared herself to become a Bridging the Gap instructor by mentoring others in her organization.
Laura Brandenburg: Hi. I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap here today with Beverly Sudbury from Prince Edward Island, one of our most recent ACBA Recipients. I’m so excited to have you here, Beverly, to talk about your experience of becoming a business analyst.
Beverly Sudbury: Thank you Laura. I’m excited to be here.
Laura Brandenburg: If you could just take us back to where you were in your career development before you started with us in the The Business Analyst Blueprint®.
Beverly Sudbury: I was really one of those exploratory, “not sure I want to be a BA but kind of interested with it.” It started out that I took a couple of live webinars with you and I got to know the products and got a good understanding of what the offerings were from yourself and the Bridging the Gap instruction, and I thought, you know what, I might as well invest in myself because I’m curious about this.
I started saying, “I need to do this.” It took a little while, but I did finally get up the nerve to say, “Yeah, I really do want to do this. I really need this course.” It was just a matter of keying in some core concepts so that I understood what a BA was more and what a BA offered in their position so that I could help the company for which I was working.
Laura Brandenburg: You were doing some business analysis, but I feel like didn’t have the full recognition of being a BA.
Beverly Sudbury: Correct. I was slated in as, actually, a test analyst or a systems tester, but I was actually filling in kind of an understudy with the senior BA and he and another person said, you know what, “You do really good at this,” and that’s what keyed it on to the first “What is out there for BA work?”
That’s what keyed me in to the first webinars that I did with you was these people saying, “You really do well at this. You really should look at this.”
Laura Brandenburg: And then you went from that and took the plunge to invest in the business analyst Blueprint program. That’s a pretty big step.
Beverly Sudbury: It was a big step. It was scary because I wasn’t quite sure what the material was because I hadn’t done a full breadth of BA work for specific business analyst skills. Mostly what I did was systems analyst job as a BA, like systems analysis and system design which was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t quite sure what the whole program was. It was a little scary, but I said you’re not going to change and you’re not going to evolve yourself if you don’t take a little bit of that fear and push it aside and charge forward.
Laura Brandenburg: And true. You’ve got to take some action, otherwise you stay in a stuck phase.
Beverly Sudbury: Exactly.
Laura Brandenburg: What encouraged you to choose this program, specifically?
Beverly Sudbury: To choose this one specifically? I hate to say it, I talked to some people and they said, “Oh, Laura Brandenburg is giving a course. You need to go take a course with her. She is really good.” And it was your reputation of being such a good BA and so involved with IIBA and things like that. The speeches you have given before that really showed the people’s respect for you, and I said if my colleagues and my peers are actually saying they respect this woman this much, I need to follow up and get instruction from this woman, and that’s what I did.
Laura Brandenburg: Well, that’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that.
Beverly Sudbury: You’re welcome.
Laura Brandenburg: Let’s talk a little bit about your experience in The Business Analyst Blueprint® program. Is there any module that stands out – business process, use cases, data modeling, the BA Essentials course? Anyone that you would most like to talk about your experience with?
Beverly Sudbury: There are two that really hit on. The first one was the process modeling course, the very first one. It was the very first one I had done instruction on. It was the very first one I had done any type of work that was actually not graded but evaluated. I have to say it was the scariest thing I had ever done. I was not impressed with the feedback when I first got it because I thought I’ve been doing BA work, and everyone’s saying I’m such a great person, I really should go after this, and I got a lot of feedback.
It wasn’t that it was negative feedback, it was just a lot of feedback. I took it badly at first. I had to say, you know what, wait a minute. You took this course for a reason and you really need to push forward. I went and actually read the evaluation and then I’m like going, “This is not as bad as I thought it was.” It was that one that, that first initial one, to get over that fear of being not criticized, but given constructive feedback, and that difference of mindset to be accepting of that constructive feedback. That was a big step for me.
The other one was actually the data modeling module because I just loved it. I come from a technical background and the data modeling was just right in my will house of specialty and technical skills and I just loved doing it and I was really excited about it. That was the first thing because at that time, I did work a lot in the technical side. Those were the first concepts I implemented in my actual job.
Laura Brandenburg: Yes, I want to come back to that, but let’s talk about this feedback a bit. It gets a lot of people.
Beverly Sudbury: It does.
Laura Brandenburg: In a way it’s easier to sit behind an exam and know that there’s a computer vs. charting your actual work into an instructor. I just want to acknowledge you for having that reaction, human reaction, but then also giving yourself space to work through it and come back to it. How do you feel that ability to embrace feedback has carried with you as you’ve grown as a BA?
Beverly Sudbury: It’s actually helped me a lot. It’s something that was a first big feedback that I got on a career component, aside from, of course, your university courses and things like that. But, again, it was very different because this is something I wanted to achieve and something I wanted to do well in, and something that I thought would be a really good move forward for me.
It was one of those things that I had to sit down and say this is here to improve you. That mindset of “This is here to improve you” has followed me along. I’d have to say that the instructors in the course were the ones that really pushed me to say this is not bad feedback, this is not horrible. This is here to help you improve your career and help improve yourself. That encouragement and that support is what really helped me follow through with going and keeping that mindset.
Laura Brandenburg: Yes, that’s so important. Tell us a little bit about, you said you were able to apply data modeling. Obviously, you did the work in the course, but then you were able to use the techniques again in your work.
Beverly Sudbury: Yes.
Laura Brandenburg: Can you share a little bit more about that?
Beverly Sudbury: It was one of the things. Like I said, I was doing a lot of systems analysis and technical analysis and we did do a data dictionary, but it was a very lean version of a data dictionary. I was able to expand that out and make it more robust and more informative not only to stakeholders, but also to our technical team that was actually developed.
We made enhancements on the system. There was less pressure on the testing team because they were finding less defects and there was more confidence with the stakeholders that we were producing a quality product.
In addition, I introduced the glossary component of the data modeling, which was not existing before. It helped for the stakeholders to understand what the screened items were. What were the terms that were actually being used? We found out that in three different places, the term, “campaign” was used in different ways because people had different ways of defining what a “campaign” was. We were able to get some more clarity on that and, again, increase the stakeholder’s confidence in what was being produced for them.
Laura Brandenburg: That’s huge. I think people either love data modeling, or they cringe about data modeling. It’s really about getting people to use the same language; use the same words to talk about the same things. I can imagine if there were three different definitions of “campaign,” your requirements always maybe seem clear, but everybody had a different understanding.
Beverly Sudbury: Correct.
Laura Brandenburg: It was affecting your test team, too, it sounds like.
Beverly Sudbury: It was affecting the test team, the quality of the work because, again, if you implemented something with definition one of campaign, it may not fulfill the needs of definition two of campaign. And so people were having to do manual workarounds, which meant the system was not of a quality where people were actually efficient.
Laura Brandenburg: Tell us a little bit about where you are today?
Beverly Sudbury: Where I am today is quite exciting. I transitioned in my full-time job as a full-time business process analyst. I really enjoy it. I wasn’t quite sure because it’s not as technical, because I’m doing strictly business process now. But I’m really enjoying. I’m learning a lot and I’m getting great feedback. A lot of it comes from the information that I’ve learned through the courses and implementing that.
In addition, there’s been a lot of great things going on. I’m now, actually, proud to say I’m an instructor with Bridging the Gap, and I’m actually, now, teaching the courses that I took many, many, many years ago, or it feels like many years ago.
Laura Brandenburg: It’s really not that long. It was like a few years ago.
Beverly Sudbury: No, it’s not.
Laura Brandenburg: What do you like about – there’s so much that I want to hear about – but let’s just talk the instructor role a little bit. How is it to come full circle and now be on the other side of giving the feedback that you remember was so challenging to receive; to be on the receiving end?
Beverly Sudbury: It’s one of those things that I’m sitting there going every time I go to give feedback, I try to remember how I felt, and so I try to make sure that there’s – one of the things I try to do, always, when trying to help other people is make sure I give them something positive rather than just the constructive feedback.
I try to make sure the constructive feedback is rewarded in a very positive way to ensure that they get the positive notes out of it rather than just saying, “Oh my gosh, this person doesn’t like what I’ve done and I’ve got to re-do it all.” I do take that into context every time I try to do some feedback to the participants in the course. And, also, I try to encourage them to keep going.
Sometimes when you get the feedback, especially from the first module, that you say, “I don’t want to go forward anymore.” I encourage people to sit down, take a couple of breaths, have a cup of coffee or a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, whatever they would like to have, their beverage of choice, and just relax for a few moments and then come back and re-read it. That’s what I had to do. I try to give them that advice to carry through and encourage them to keep going.
Laura Brandenburg: Yeah, and I love that you can come to that from a place of real empathy. Not all of our instructors have been through the program, but I feel like they all come from that very similar place wanting the best for the participant and wanting you to make it through.
Beverly Sudbury: Yes.
Laura Brandenburg: How about your role? You mentioned that continuing to apply the concepts helped you move into this other role. Were there other ways that either of the ACBA certification or the techniques that you learned in The Business Analyst Blueprint® support that transition for you?
Beverly Sudbury: Yes, a lot of it was from the courses that I took and understanding, learning, and talking, even, to the other people in the courses and making sure that I had effective use of the instructor when I was in the course. That gave me a lot of information. You could sit there and you could take your notes. Even afterwards, you could go back and review things and make sure that you got the concepts, and then you could apply them.
Even today I go back in my notes and say, “Wait, how did I do that again before in the course?” or “How was that taught in the course?” I even look at the templates that were provided and say, “Oh, yeah, this recent one was a user story and we didn’t have a template.” I’m going, “Oh, I’ve got a template.” And I went back to my course material and picked that up and started using it and kept applying the techniques from the user story that was taught in the course. A lot of what I learned is really supporting how I’m moving my career forward.
Laura Brandenburg: I’m just curious, for somebody who might be in your shoes in a role where they’re doing business analysis but don’t have that formal recognition in wanting to move into a more senior full-fledged business analyst role, what would you recommend to somebody following in your footsteps?
Beverly Sudbury: Aside from getting a good course, what I did was I actually took the concepts of business analysis and I looked at what I was doing on a day to day, and I started recording. For example, I may not have been a business analyst, but I was still maybe in the testing role that I was doing analyzing requirements in order to create test cases. I would say, okay, that’s what I’m doing. I would look at things and say, “Oh, this is not clear. We need more requirements.”
And I would come up with the questions that would have to be taken back to a senior person to go back to the stakeholders to get the information. I was recording all of that type of work. As I was moving along, I was going to my managers and saying, “Look, I have done this work. It’s very similar to BA work. BA does this, and this is how I’m doing this,” and made a comparison. It made it seem more like people could understand that my job was just not pushing buttons to test a system, that I was actually doing some analysis and thinking working there.
That will help a lot in order for me to start moving into different roles. It was my first promotion to a Junior BA was because I proved that through the work I was doing to say this applies as a BA. They said, “Yeah, that really does apply and you really do think these things through. Let’s try you out as a Junior.”
Laura Brandenburg: That is, I think, so important for anybody thinking about what’s possible for them right now in their career. It is about, often, a skill development piece, but it is also about an ownership of “I have done these things” and these are BA skills, regardless of what my title is.
Beverly Sudbury: Correct.
Laura Brandenburg: Like I deserve this. I am already filling this role. There’s a putting yourself forward that I think is an important part of getting to that next step as well.
Beverly Sudbury: It’s a little bit of tooting your own horn and showing off a little bit, but not in a bad way.
Laura Brandenburg: Not in a bad way. It feels, I think, analytical people feel that 100% harder than a lot of other people. We feel like we’re tooting our horn and shouting it to the universe when it’s really just “I’m kind of doing this.” You have to force yourself, in a way.
Beverly Sudbury: Correct. And I think that’s the biggest thing a person who wants to move forward can do is just basically start recording everything that they’re capable of doing and saying to someone, “I’m capable of doing this.”
Laura Brandenburg: Similarly, how about for somebody who’s thinking about becoming a Bridging the Gap instructor or a course instructor anywhere? Obviously, we found a great win/win here, but from your side, what do you feel like it was that you did in between participating in the program and becoming an instructor that prepared you for it?
Beverly Sudbury: First of all, the biggest thing was when I first took the course and I saw how supportive the instructors were, I said one day I want to be someone like that. I started modeling what I saw in the course. I started trying to mentor people and work with people and try to encourage people and not just necessarily as a BA, but just in general life items and started working like that to be a mentor and help people work through their problems or their career goals and just that encouragement.
And to try to foster that within me so that when the day came that I would get an opportunity, I would be prepared for it. I think that’s the type of preparation anyone who wants to be an instructor could actually look at doing. Again, it’s self-work. It’s not something you have to pay for. It’s not something you have to do. You just, basically, say to your friends, “Let me help you through this. Let’s work through this.” And look at that.
Laura Brandenburg: Because when we’re looking for instructors, we’re obviously looking for competency with the skill areas and that ability to assess work and give feedback, but we’re also looking for the personality of somebody who can be caring and supportive and encouraging, and there are lots of ways to build that skillset and experience.
Last question, unless there’s anything else you’d like to share, but if you hadn’t chosen, a few years back or how ever many years ago that was, to invest in The Business Analyst Blueprint®, where do you think you would be today?
Beverly Sudbury: Still testing. Not that I was overly unhappy in testing, I knew that I was at the top. There was no place for me to move forward or advance. I knew I was at the top of my career for that position. So, I think I’d still be testing. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to test, but I think I’m much happier, I feel more fulfilled in the position I’m in now. I feel like I’m giving more value to the stakeholders and the clients that I work with.
Laura Brandenburg: I’m sure there’s, you don’t have to share specifics, but I’m sure that’s also meant more salary and more recognition and other things that have come along with that.
Beverly Sudbury: Exactly. That all comes in. I’m not saying that you’re instantly going to be a millionaire, because we’d all love to be an instant millionaire, but it is nice to see that you are getting recognized not just in achievements of people giving you accolades, but also in the financial areas as well.
Laura Brandenburg: And not to overshadow what you said about feeling fulfilled in your work, too, because I have also gone from being a tester to a business analyst. Testers are so needed and it’s wonderful, but sometimes you’re just done. It becomes routine. Business analysis allows you a little more freedom and creativity with your work.
Beverly Sudbury: Yes.
Laura Brandenburg: Thank you. This has been amazing. Is there anything else that you would like to share with people before we wrap things up?
Beverly Sudbury: The only other thing I want to say is the biggest thing to tell people is just take the time to ensure that you invest in yourself, whether it’s financial investment or whether it’s just time to sit down and make a catalog of all the things that you can achieve and believe that what you are achieving is of value and that you can even give more value if you just apply yourself.
Laura Brandenburg: Thank you so much for that, Beverly, and thank you for being here today.
Beverly Sudbury: Thank you so much, Laura.
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