Dipping My Toes in Ice Water: a Story of Perseverance

I wanted to share a personal story with each of you. Some of you already know it; some of you will be told anew. The reason I’m sharing it is that I am aware that many of you struggle to figure out what to do to get ahead in your careers as aspiring or experienced business analysts. This is my story, or at least a portion of it. I might have mentioned some of this before in a previous post, but this one has a different context. So please forgive any repetition.

I was disenfranchised in 2008 after several years of not really getting anywhere career-wise…and I was angry about that. Really angry. Get up and walk out the door angry. Anger is a wonderful motivator, in case you didn’t know. After coming home day after day with this anger, I finally decided at the end of 2008 that I was simply going to seek the things that I needed from outside my day job.

So, I stepped out into the world of the internet and began corresponding, blogging, communicating with peers and people I admired for their smarts, enhancing my digital footprint, etc. After about six months, strange things started to occur. Analysts from all over the planet began to contact me out of the blue to obtain advice and such from me on analysis topics. Early on, I wondered what the heck that they were asking me for, as I was no analyst guru. However, I realized that while not a guru, I was also not a newcomer and thus might have something to offer someone less junior. So I did. Simple as that. Little by little I helped those who sought help while I, in turn, continued to learn and ask for help myself.

At about this same time, someone in my local chapter of IIBA asked me to mentor him in business analysis. What a humbling suggestion this was for me, and this began a chapter in my life in which I found a new and unexpected passion as a mentor. Over the last two plus years, I have continued to get more involved in mentoring business analysts in different ways. Each new activity solidifies the desire to do it even more. In fact, I recently made a decision that I wanted to mentor full time within ten years. When I made that decision, I realized that I needed some knowledge under my belt in order to be a better mentor for anyone who might be under my guidance now or in the future. I also realized that I would not be able to get that experience in my current organization, so I began looking for something new. Recently, I got a new job and am thrilled about the potential challenge that awaits me now and in the future. AND THIS is why I’m writing this post today.

I wanted to convey to each of you struggling with direction or success that I firmly believe that the decision in 2008 and the subsequent efforts to expand my horizons and knowledge have led to the job that I just mentioned. I think that constant attention to expanding my online presence in LinkedIn, Twitter and asking tons of stupid questions, guest blogging in a few places, as well as active efforts like joining the IIBA and mentoring, has built a digital footprint in which anyone wanting to know something about me can acquire that knowledge easily. Perhaps more importantly, I unknowingly built a history of volunteerism, active participation, knowledge sharing, and community involvement, all the while I was enjoying trying out new things, like writing articles. This has painted a picture for anyone wanting to know something about me and has created a pattern of behavior that hopefully says something positive.

I really have tried hard on this post to steer away from a “see what I did?” feeling, so I hope that comes across while I use some of my accomplishments as context. My goal is to let you know that you should continue to focus your energies on your future and step out of your comfort zone to attempt things you never thought you could do. Don’t expect anyone to sell you any better than you can sell yourself; get an image of who you are out into the ether for all to see what you are capable of. It might take some time to craft this image in the way you wish to portray yourself, so get started as soon as you can. It’s essential that you not only get your message out there as soon as possible, but that you are in control of who you are and how you are displayed to the world. I want you to know that even in a tough economy, there is still hope that you can acquire the things that you want and need to move your career forward.

Start today and spend some time on who you are and marketing that message continuously. Back it up with action and consistency in delivery. Identify a goal or goals for yourself and go out and achieve. Then look back and see what you’ve done for yourself; it’s a great feeling and you will deserve it.

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  1. Thanks Doug, this is a very motivational reading and encouraging me to step into the ice, not just dipping. Been dipping for too long, I need to dive in and let it take me there. I have to take the time and take advantage of what comes in myway and use it to my advantage. Thanks for sharing will keep in touch to be inspired:)!

  2. Hey Doug! It is amazing to see how one small decision out of frustration can lead to something that can be transformational. If you hadn’t taken that decision in 2008, I don’t think the BA community would have had the opportunity to see your contributions (Including the wonderful podcast interview you did with me). Your story of stretching your comfort zone resonates with mine, when I decided to publish my (and my guest’s) voice to the world; there was a little flinch in the beginning, but time and some post-production eased it a bit.

    If only a small percentage of experienced BAs decide to do what you’ve done, it can make a huge impact to our profession. We are still growing as a community and every contribution matters.

    Thanks for your contributions!

  3. Debbie Kaplan says

    Doug – Thanks for this wonderful post! Right now I am where you were, where so many writers are or were – recently laid off, at mid-life, a champion of great business processes and great user experiences, craving an outlet, a way to contribute and make a difference.

    I’m coming from 11 years selling UX software and services, helping clients deliver great app UI/UX and am looking to leverage this background in BA. So I’m sure I’ll be back in the coming days and weeks with questions. Thanks to all!

    Debbie Kaplan

  4. Doug Goldberg says


    I love you name by the way….just thought I should get that out there…..now where was I…

    Oh yeah. An answer. Part one of your post deals with fear, it appears. When I see fear, apprehension, hesitation, etc., I deal with it head on through relationship building. My personal opinion is that people are afraid for a reason that is usually close to home, or they wouldn’t be afraid to begin with. So, harm to life or limb, impact to monies or relations, a hit on a reputation, etc. At the root, fear for me is a trust issue. I don’t trust that the rottweiler running toward me with the spiky collar thingee and 18 inch glob of drool will allow me to live. I don’t trust that if I as an analyst uncover a large flaw or error in something someone has done or built will not be met with derision and anger. In iether situation, the more I know, the better chance I have to uncover a way to solve the problem. If I knew more about that damned dog, I’d realize that I had nothing to worry about because she has mistaken me for her owner is the what I perceive as a death run is a happy gallop to welcome me home. If I knew more about my customer, I’d know that unraveling the problem in public would lead to embarassment for her. I ramble, but my advice is to find the greatest source of tension, then begin relationship building to find the pain points. Understand the problem. Express empathy and understanding. Provide some options….and then move forward with an offer to help.

    Part two involves as I see it some fear as well. This is a matter of people moving out their comfort zones. But the scenario that you are describing is really only a matter of scale. The techniques are often very similar in working with groups and so are the results. One thing I’ve mentioned before is my lvoe for role playing in group workshops. The technique is a little corny, but having each person play a role, for instance as a stakeholder in a process, and work with others to illustrate how things work is an excellent way to break the ice, get people engaged, reduce formality and build team collaboration.

    If you want to talk more, just contact me. douggoldberg@gmail.com.
    Laura….you and I have kind of talked about this before if I remember. Any thoughts?

  5. Fiona Hammond says

    Thanks Doug! I think some of my colleagues suffer from lack of direction and encouragement where some managers in high-risk areas find it hard to move forward. I appreciate the ‘bull in the china shop’ approach is not highly advisable, but they are ‘standing still’ unable to do any work. I was trying to use my coaching to get them to think about questions they can ask their manager. Do you have any advice?

    There is also a situation where we need to hold quite large workshops (10-15 people) and BAs who have been used to more effective numbers such as 5-7 are not finding it easy to facilitate these. There is also a cultural shock when BAs move from small businesses to large corporates and the approach is quite different where several teams hold the knowledge rather than a handful of individuals. Any advice on this scenario? Coaching is an obvious help but when timescales are extremely tight, it can be difficult.

  6. Doug Goldberg says

    Wow Fiona:

    Hats off to you on your endeavors! I wish you the best and thank you for this really poignant feedback. If there is anything I can do to help you help others, please just ask.

  7. Fiona Hammond says

    Congrats Doug, it sounds like you have landed well! Similar to you, I enjoy seeing that people demonstrate their potential. I am a Lead BA and also qualifying as a Personal and Performance and Business Coach (qualifying in Personal Coaching hopefully end of July). I definitely understand the difference between comfort zone and not-so-comfortable zone! The skill has enabled me to connect with different parts of the business I work in perhaps more quicker than without the coaching experience. It has also helped with my soft skills and techniques at a more strategic and business level to make sense of the ‘fluffy’ stuff and understand what executives really need to drive the business forward.

    As BAs we have a tough job, we need to develop so many different types of skills and climb so many mountains, pulling many people up with us. In these times it is a shame when mentoring or support or coaching is not so readily available. The need is so under-estimated and can make the difference between a high achieving and mediocre performer. Some Senior Business Analysts are definitely great at their job but are put in a position of managing others which is perhaps a different ball game entirely and not necessarily their natural strength. Mentors are therefore very important to be there for those who are sadly not encouraged by their seniors and developed according to their own thinking or learning styles. The latter reason made me take up coaching as a discipline because I believe everyone is individual and needs to be treated as such. I educate as much as I can about coaching and am now creating a focus group for coaching in my company to make people aware of how it can help people perform to their best. I have had so much fun, I am also looking to set up my own business in the future as I have realised how rewarding it can be! Thanks for your inspiring words.

  8. Doug goldberg says

    Thanks ravi

    I am glad you enjoyed the read and would love to hear your stories as well. Share away!

  9. Ravi Ramesh says


    Your experience is fantastic. I am also an experienced successful person in Administration started from renowned organization and still continuing. I feel you are open minded in helping other problems, struggling problems with hard working, used your dedicated life as BA.

    If you feel good with my comments, please contact me for better understanding.

    With best regards,


  10. Arthur Casale says

    Doug – This is the very first post in the very first BA blog I have bumped into. I’ve been an IT developer all my life and twisting in the wind, career-wise, at the moment. My passion has ALWAYS been BA-type work and I have been an unwelcome evangelist for it in many a company and many a project. But it’s still in my heart. I decided to pursue CBAP and join my local chapter recently to try and turn things around. Scared silly, though. Thanks for your honesty and encouragement.

  11. Kimber Miller says

    Thank you, Doug G.
    The same sorts of frustrations have begun to foment inside my own cube, and I also came to the conclusion that I need bigger footprints out in the world. Don’t think that I can say I have my toes all the way in that ice water yet. I’m close enough to start taking deep breaths about where/how to begin and how in the world I’m going to make the time.

    Your experience embodies the idea that Covey put out in his _8th Habit_ book: a focus on sharing and developing others with a spirit of generosity and humility will only enhance your own value in the world, personally and professionally.

    Be well.

  12. Doug Goldberg says

    Thanks Dee! Good to hear from you and wish you all the best as well!

    It’s great to see succeeful rewards after having set some things in motion. Congrats to you on that and I hope your success is long lived. Keep us posted on how your career continues to develop as a result of your own actions.


  13. Christopher Herrmann says

    Thanks Doug for sharing your story. I stepped out of my comfort zone (the IT Service Desk) nearly 2 years ago into a BA secondment for a financial project. This time was daunting and often stressful, but rewarding in terms of project experience. In addition, I gained good exposure to other parts of the business. All of this occurred because I piped up about my career aspirations, and thanks to a manager who remembered this, I was able to move into a permanent BA role in the IT department.

  14. Good one to read & very happy for u. Keep rolling & wishing u the best of life.

  15. Doug Goldberg says

    Thanks JB! I really appreciate your kind words!

  16. Thanks for this, Doug. I knew you were undergoing a career change, and it’s great to see the story of how the dots connect. Great to see a rewarding payoff for a generous “giver” in the BA community such as yourself.

    I think we can all use an occasional reminder that when things get a little stale, improving the situation depends largely on our willingness to step out of the comfort zone as you mention and take ownership.

    Again, thanks, and good luck!


  17. Doug Goldberg says

    Thanks David….and it doesn’t matter what the passionis as long as you are living it, right? Best of luck in your endevors.

  18. Doug,

    That is a great story. The part about deciding to find ways outside of the day job by increasing the digital presence resonates well with me, it is a very similar story (though my blog is more finance as opposed to BA). Thanks!

  19. Doug Goldberg says

    Thanks Michelle! Speaking of selling yourself, don’t sell yourself short. You have plenty of really good accomplishments that I find appealing and admirable and seek myself. Laura wouldn’t have you here working with her if you didn’t! New job is great and I love the really positive atmosphere I have found. I will be doing consulting and analyst career management internally. Really excited about it all too.

  20. Michelle Swoboda says

    Doug, thank you for sharing this part of your life with us. I feel honored to read it. I also feel encouraged and excited about my future from your experience. It is cool the way things that are such critical turning points in our lives propel us to new heights and new opportunities 🙂
    I love your direction to stay away from see what I did – I could do less of that and more of what you do. As a consultant I feel that I am always trying to sell myself.
    I too want to hear more about this new job!!

  21. Doug Goldberg says

    @Tony: I dont think there is “a” specific place to hang out online. I’ve found that getting a good mix of content and opinion has been best for me. So, I mix BA sites with thought sites with leadership sites and other things that interest me. The key in my head was to continually read on things that I’m clueless about in order to understand, gain a foothold and be able to have an intelligent conversation in the elevator. Here’s a few places of note….
    http://www.bridging-the-gap.com (you might have heard of this one)

    Thanks so much Laura! Just know that you are a major factor in my success right now. You’ve provided me great opportunities and I thnak you tons for everything.

  22. Doug,
    Congrats on the new job. I can’t wait to hear more about it. I feel so in the dark reading about this for the first time after your article is published! (Ah, the strangeness of being on leave.)

    You really are a great example for other folks looking to get out of whatever is holding them back and take positive action steps towards what they want out of their careers or otherwise. No need to be modest about your accomplishments. You deserve all the recognition you get.

    And thank you so so much for sharing your story. I will refer many back to this post who doubt their own abilities to shape their future.

    Thank you.

  23. So Doug, where would you say are the best places to hang out online as a BA?

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