From Entertainment Industry Consultant to IIBA Chapter President

Jennifer Banzon Business Analystou would never know it unless you asked, but Jennifer Banzon only discovered the business analyst profession a couple years ago. The reality is that Jennifer has been incorporating aspects of the business analyst role into her career for several years. As a result she brings deep experience in a host of related professions (including training, education, development, database design). Jennifer was kind enough to spend an hour with me on the phone before the holidays and today I’m sharing her story about how she found business analysis and the steps she’s taken to quickly solidify her senior role within the profession.

Finding Business Analysis

Laura: Tell me a bit about how you’ve come to be a business analyst.

Jennifer: I started my career as a high school teacher of computers. I soon moved into adult education and teaching computers and then into managing that group. I left that group because of a conflict in expectations with my senior director that were resulting in quality issues across our department. I’ve never been afraid to leave something that conflicted with my values even if I didn’t have my next opportunity lined up.

I began doing independent technology consulting in the entertainment industry. I worked with a variety of firms at first and then found a firm to work with on a full-time basis. Mergers and buyouts had a tremendous impact on the entertainment industry and over the course of a few years, my professional network began to disappear. The projects became less attractive as organizations focused on cost cutting. I needed a change of direction so I started taking classes while I was working.

When I started to look for new jobs to apply my new skills, I discovered business analysis. For the last two years, I’ve been working on a long-term contract for an enterprise CRM project for a Los Angeles graduate school.

Challenges as a solo BA

Laura: That’s a great story. Tell me a bit about your business analyst role.

Jennifer: I was hired by a PM/BA after the organization decided to accelerate the implementation of the project across multiple departments. I am working for an organization that doesn’t typically do projects of this scale. During the first year, there were no clear expectations. I was learning how the enterprise operates and creating a methodology to support the project.

I am doing process mapping for the business and requirements elicitation. We are constantly figuring out what we need to do to make the project successful. I am doing the full range of BA activities, but not applying a lot of the techniques. Since we are implementing an off-the-shelf software solution, many of the techniques are irrelevant. But on the flip side, I am also doing a lot of education with stakeholders about what the project is going to accomplish so they can help me by providing relevant input.

As a solo business analyst, I felt like I was on a bit of an island. I sought out the IIBA chapter in Los Angeles to meet other analysts and learn about best practices.

Leaving Technical Responsibilities Behind

Laura: I definitely want to hear about how IIBA helped you. Before we get into that, can you share what it was like to let go of some of the technical responsibilities to take on a business analyst role?

Jennifer: This has definitely been a challenge. In this position, the business and IT sides are split and I’m on the business side. During the interview, the project manager asked me if I would be willing to give up the technical aspects of the role. I said “I don’t know, but I am willing to try it out.” It has been a continued frustration for me that I can’t get access to the systems to see the code and evaluate the data. But I’ve been able to take on responsibilities to craft the direction of the project and lead the vision of the project. This has opened an opportunity for me to do the business architecture and decide what projects need to be done in what order.

I also know that I’m not a true programmer. I did programming full-time for 2 years and I didn’t like it all that much. I can do it but I don’t love it. Sometimes you have to take on a role to figure out you don’t like it.

Building a BA Network Through IIBA and BABOK Study Groups

Laura: I couldn’t agree more about taking on a role to really see if it fits. There is only so much you can anticipate going in. Now, I’d like to switch gears and come back to your role with IIBA. From what I understand you are very active with the Los Angeles chapter. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

Jennifer: Sure. As I mentioned I sought out IIBA because I felt like I was on an island in my current position. By the time I decided to get involved, the chapter had died out.  I decided that if I was going to build connections with business analysts in Los Angeles, I was going to need to build the network. So I took on the role of President and started rebuilding the chapter.

One of the first activities we focused on was study groups for the BABOK. We weren’t necessarily focused on the CBAP exam at first, we just wanted to go through the BOK and understand what was there. I had attended study groups with Doug Goldberg and with my background in education had an idea of where to go with the group. We borrowed materials from the Orange County chapter so participants could focus on presenting and discussing the content.

Participants brought diverse experience. A few were quite mature in the BA profession and a variety of roles were represented.  Overall, participants found the conversations and interaction to be the most valuable part of the group. They shared stories and offered advice. Through the study group they came to understand the body of knowledge and see their experiences in the context of the BOK.

Study groups were also a great way for the individuals to build relationships. By sharing the challenges and socializing they all really connected with each other. At the closing of the group, I recommended that they formalize that connection through LinkedIn. None of them should have any problem now reaching out to another one of the participants for help.

Laura: Your study groups sounds like a great experience. I was under the impression that study groups focused more on memorization and specific CBAP preparation.

Jennifer: There are different types of groups. We are actually running a second group this coming spring that will be more formal and focus specifically on preparing for the exam. Going forward we plan to rotate the two types of groups. In general, I’d recommend a more informal study group to learn the body of knowledge first.

Laura: Thank you for your time today Jennifer. I sure have learned a lot and I know that others will as well when they read your story.

Jennifer: Any time. I am always happy to give back how I can.

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