Today we meet John Sim, an Applied Certification in Business Analysis™ (ACBA) recipient and Financial Business Analyst from San Francisco, who recently landed a job as a Salesforce Business Analyst after much determination.
What we love about John’s story is that as he searched and interviewed for business analyst opportunities, he was confident that despite how the process was going, The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program gave him the confidence he needed to keep applying.
John never wondered whether or not he was qualified for a position, but rather would often find himself in scenarios where he was overqualified because of all that he had learned.
In this interview, you’ll discover:
- How The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program helped John understand how to simplify processes for stakeholders.
- How John was able to decipher what was and was not business analysis work.
- How John’s experience with various instructors provided him with a well-rounded understanding of how to implement what he was learning into his future work.
- John’s journey of applying for and interviewing for business analyst roles.
Introducing John Sim
Paula Bell: Hello. I am Paula Bell, the Program Manager for Bridging the Gap. And I am here with my special guest and friend John Sim of the Bay area in San Francisco. He is currently a finance business analyst and he is going to talk to us about his career success and journey and how he was a participant in The Blueprint program and how The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program helped him along with that success.
So, first off, thank you, John, for being a part of this interview that we’re going to do on your success journey and being willing to share your success journey with others. How are you doing today?
John Sim: Doing great. Thanks for the invitation. It’s a pleasure to talk to you.
Paula Bell: Thank you for accepting. I am really excited to discover more about your story and about you today.
We should just go ahead and dive right in and we can just start opening it up to hearing about this wonderful success journey you’ve been on.
All right. First thing I want you to think about or tell us about, can you take us back to the spring of 2020 before you joined us for The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program? Where were you at in your career and what were you looking to achieve at that time back in the spring of 2020?
John Sim: It was actually someone, I have a counseling session with another advisor and he has a close association with Bridging the Gap. He actually introduced me to sign up for this program and then I get some special bonus on his counseling site. Then I looked up Laura Brandenburg, and then I read she’s an established BA and she’s also a QA Tester, which is very similar to me.
I used to be a QA Engineer but doing some function analyst work. And I thought, oh, those are the main BA tools that I need to learn because nowadays, even though I’m doing business analysis, I don’t have formal business analyst training. So I thought, oh, that’s an established program and well-known so, I was struggling to say the cost is not cheap. But then I think it will be a worthwhile investment down the road, and I think I can afford it through the installment. Then I take a leap of faith and let’s try. What harm can I do? I gained the skills. That’s what lead me into the program to try to learn about business analysis.
Paula Bell: You said you made the investment. You looked at the cost, you made the investment, you took a leap of faith. You went in there and you’ve gained the skill. How would you say those skills helped you or transformed you into where you are today from back when you started in the spring of 2020?
John Sim: Oh yeah. Those are the skills that I wish I have learned, had proper training so I can do a better job in the BA world. And then when I’m actually into the program doing the exercise, I was finding some, I haven’t worked on real projects. The projects that I did, this past project that I’ve been in my software development book that I apply it to the training program. It actually helps me switch my mind because I was doing like three different roles.
I’m a BA, but I was also thinking in terms of developers, how to fix it and then also thinking about end user, how to do it. I tried to put everything in the workshop, but then I was correct to say, no. When you’re doing BA, you should be narrowly focused as a BA. Don’t cross the boundary to how to design the software, which is not BA work.
I really have to switch my mind to be a BA focus and understanding what the requirement is using the process map, the flow diagram, and then which it’s eye-opening and the user story and which is strict guideline. I need to be open-minded to learn about everything because before that I just have a fixed mindset. Okay. Let’s see what the program can do for me.
I did kind of a few times, I was so frustrated I want to give up, but I kept telling, I think even though the instruction there were some correction comments that I need to fix my workbook. And I was like, why? Yeah. I’m just really frustrated. I wanted to give up.
But then I didn’t say no. I think it beats the purpose. That’s learning. Right? People tell you, you need to improve on this area and that area. Just having an open mind to examine and learn it and then correct it, and then grow yourself better. That’s how pursued it myself. Just accept the feedback that people give you, and then I just worked on the feedback. Be patient and be resilient to understand the requirement and meet the requirement and the deadline. And I’m glad I stuck to it. So I learned a lot of things, even though during the instructors session. I might be asking a lot of questions questioning, “Why can’t I do this way? Why can’t I do it this way?”
But I just want to understand the viewpoint of the instructor. So now I understood it, so, oh, okay. There’s a certain set of standards to follow and you shouldn’t go out of it. My comfort zone of doing things is one way, but then the standard is another way. So I say, oh, I need to get out of my comfort zone and then follow instruction or standards that people have established.
So I say, okay, it’s not John. It’s learning time. So just open my mind, open my heart to accept learning and feedback. So that was a great change of mindset and attitude.
Paula Bell: Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. Well, let’s go a little bit deeper in that, because you mentioned some aspects of the program and I heard you mentioned use cases. I heard you mentioned process. Let’s take the business process analysis module. What would you say some of your key takeaways were from that particular module?
John Sim: Yeah, it was trying to visualize it so that people can understand. And I thought, oh, I’ve seen people use it this way. Then I try to incorporate and then got a feedback saying no, it’s not a good idea because people will be confused. And then I try another way and another instructor case and different feedback saying, “Hmm. Okay.” And then also read up on more instruction and then see example of how people do it and say, “Oh, okay, let me simplify it and not get too complicated.”
If it’s a document it shows the document icon. If it’s a process, there is a physician. Then if a physician, then it’s different levels of same lane or whatever. Just make sure the process is simplified and not over complicated. Because every time, I think, “Oh, maybe I should get this.” And then it’s like, “No. I don’t know.”
You go through multiple iterations until…and then I think I jump in on almost all the instruction hour to get the feedback of, “Is this better now? Is this not good? I get feedback and to improve on it. And then finally I got the okay. “Oh, okay. Now I’m learning.” It’s actually a thought-provoking process because it was like, “Oh, I want to add this, this, this, this,” but then it’s like the PowerPoint is only that pitch because I can show the whole screen. So I do it.
Small everything, smaller icon, smaller arrows. Then the words inside the diagram, you can’t elaborate. You have to use shorter document flow, physicians like, oh, to explain the things. Let me simplify. But I tend to run on, put too much detail. Does that answer your question?
Paula Bell: It did. That was some great feedback. You visualize. You don’t over-complicate. You make it simple. You are very clear on how the arrows work on how you have to be very concise and using those verbs and the activity shapes and all of that. So, yeah. Those were some great points that you brought out that you learned during the session. So thank you for sharing that and sharing what some of those concepts were. I also liked that you advise that you leveraged all the instructor hours, too.
You got that instructor support and that feedback along the way because you saw people do it a certain way. Then you got some feedback, a different perspective, you incorporated that and you were open to that. That’s great. Great pieces of information and nuggets there for anyone that will be listening to your success story. Can you tell us a little bit of where you are in your career now? How are things progressing for you so far?
John Sim: A skill. I think it’s a good skill to have because everywhere they want the BA skill of gathering requirements and then engage with stakeholders and I have those experiences in a different world, like in the financial ERP world. But in the Salesforce arena, I’m pretty new to it. Even though they might be using agile and a different process, I don’t have actual real-life situation on the Salesforce area, but I think it should be similar with this. They are using agile. They have the same ceremony, right?
Do the spring planning and then you have a stand up meeting and then do a review and retrospective in the spring cycle. I think I can adapt to those, technology pretty easily. And then working with developers, those types of things, I’ve already done it in my financial ERP world where we collaborate with the product manager on the feature discussing document, what needs to be included and then work with the developer. It turned my functional knowledge on the subject and then worked on a test script to test the unit, test that the developer have, and then if it needs rework, then I’ll work with the developer to rework.
Most of the time I’m very familiar with the waterfall method because that’s how I was trained when I was doing all those development work where the agile BA technology is more recent. So I have limited knowledge. But with this that I have, you will be greatly enhance in whatever. I believe I can work on any team that I’m assigned. Whether it’s consulting a big company, a small company, I should be able to handle any kind of challenge.
In one of my career development groups where I was asked to work with a team to customize projects, I took it upon to learn Salesforce on what I know, and then do a lot of Google research on how things are done. Then another time I had an issue, I Google search engine, and then I get the answer and then apply to BA work or Salesforce work to solve my solution. And when I have an issue, I just ask questions around, especially in Salesforce. That’s a huge community to get my answer.
So, I guess a successful career is just to be patient, to be persevering a zillion and keep learning, and then ask questions. Because I am an introvert. I usually like to ask questions privately, like in a smaller group one-on-one. In a larger meeting, I usually listen to people asking question and I say, “Oh, that’s the question I would like to ask,” when someone is already asking on my behalf. In the bigger setting, I tend to listen more. On the smaller setting, one-on-one, then I’m more comfortable sharing and speak up. That’s the area that I’m learning to be more open up to share my ideas of what I think about certain things.
Paula Bell: Okay, perfect. What I want you to share and talk about is I remember when you got the new position you’re in now and it was a journey getting to the position that you’re in now. Can you share a little bit about what happened prior to you getting that position and how you ended up in the position you are currently in? I think that would resonate with a lot of people who might be going through some of the similar scenarios that you went through.
John Sim: Yeah. My situation is I’m not that new person looking for job. I’m more like a mid-career person that have some IT background. So getting the transition to another position, it’s a challenge. It takes longer because I probably have already established some experience and some IT, and some, salary expectations already. Even when I’m new to Salesforce, I tried to apply for the entry-level job and never got any traction.
I don’t know if the employer will look at me and say, “Oh, you have a lot of experience and you want to apply for entry-level position.” I don’t know what to think about. Hire an experienced person to do an entry-level job versus someone who is brand new, also learning Salesforce. I don’t know. It’s harder to crack into the entry-level for my level of experience because I’m competing with new people.
And then the thing that I improved is my LinkedIn profile, which I got help from the talent stack of community group. They helped a lot on my LinkedIn profile, my resume, my mock interview. That helps a lot because once I updated my LinkedIn profile, I got more requests. “Can I interview you for this job Salesforce job, Salesforce consulting and other areas?” I got to talk to more recruiters and hiring managers. That was a start. But then it wasn’t easy too, because when I started talking to recruiters, they have a requirement that they need to hire someone who has Salesforce experience.
I tell them about my transferable skills in Oracle and my business analyst certification and scrum master certification and Salesforce. And then some ask, “How much experience do you have?” When I first started, I’d say less than one. A lot of the recruiters would say, “We have a requirement. We need to get someone that has three or four years of Salesforce experience. That’s the roadblock where I have 10 years of experience in ERP. And then they say, “Oh, you have experience.” And then they just assume I have Salesforce experience. So when they talk to me they say, “Oh, you don’t have Salesforce experience. No, we are not looking at you. I don’t think you will be successful. We want someone to have experience.”
So that’s the roadblock that I faced with a lot of recruiters will strictly just look at the requirement. We need Salesforce expertise, this area, or sometime, specifically, “Oh, we want CPQ.” “I don’t have CPQ, but I can learn because everything I acquire history, learning and through sharing. That’s the journey. The most opportunities I got was through consulting.
Consulting, I went through the interview with the hiring manager and then they say, “Oh, we’re not continuing the next step.” When I asked for feedback, they don’t give feedback. They are afraid of liability. I don’t know. I think it can use to help. What can I improve the next time? Is it my delivery or is it I didn’t give detailed answer or whatever. I’m just guessing what the answer could be.
This year there was a large consulting company where they first advertised it through the Salesforce Terran Alliance Job Fair. I signed up for it and then they invited me and a bunch of people to their three to six week training program on Salesforce, how to prepare an official elevator speech and then how to have a good impression and how they are interviewing people, and then how to do a case study. And then if you complete the Trailhead superset, which are three separate super batches, then you get invited to talk to the management networking. Then after networking, they give you a job posting to apply for it.
I applied for that and then went for a phone interview and two other final interviews with a senior manager and a specialist. Throughout the interview, I learned a lot more about the company. They asked me this question, because on the first position when I applied, there was a consultant and senior consultant. Later when I looked back at my application, I think the first application I actually applied for the senior consultant.
So when I went into the interview, the interviewer was asking all the deep functional knowledge on nonprofit, which I haven’t worked on it. So I stumbled on it. I tried to give him the answer, but he tried to go even deeper. I said, “Oh, that’s I haven’t used it, but we use a third party or whatever.”
The first experience was a learning experience because after the interview, I said, “Thank you for the interview.” And they replied, “Oh yeah, it’s nice talking to you, but we won’t be continuing your journey.” So, I said, “Oh, okay.”
Four months later they had a similar program again. Someone else that I know connected with me, actually, in the company. We had the second row of the same program where you can become a consultant. So I signed up a second time for the program again, and then went to the interview again. This time they used a different video platform for the interview.
I went through the interview and I think I did okay. I think better than the first time because I researched the answer that they asked me the first time, and then more about revise my “Tell me about myself story” and other things that I need to know about the company and the questions that I want to ask.
After the second recruitment, I didn’t get a rejection email. I got a voicemail saying thank you for your pre-hire application. After looking at it, we decided you are not selected for this go-round, but we’ll keep your resume for the next go-round in November. And we’ll call you back for the next round of interviews
So fast forward to round three when they had a similar program. This time they actually said they’re going to contact me in November, again, to talk about the similar position. They called me back and then someone that I know in the company actually referred me for that position. I got an email saying, “We want to talk to you. Let’s set up a time for a phone screening.”
So I went through the phone screening again and they said, “Oh, okay.” It was pretty quick. The phone interview was on a Friday and on Monday I got an email saying the managers said everything went fine. We want to schedule the next final interview with another three consultants. They gave me two dates, Monday and Friday. So I chose two weeks later on the Friday. And then it was all in the same day.
I had to go to three interviews – one for the focus interview and one for the behavior interview, and then the last one was the case study. I went through all three through the video platform. I had a good conversation with the first two. The last one, actually from a case study actually testing my Salesforce knowledge from beginning to end. They asked me about sales cloud. They have this case scenario they are using this system. “What would you recommend?”
So I tell them upfront what is the issue and the problem. And then they have a case, we have the sales cloud. How would you do? And then I’ll tell them what I know, what I recommend. And then they say, “How about service cloud? How do you rock the case? We have a new region, so I tell them you can route it based on the queue or whatever, and then assign someone to accept the queue.” And then they asked me about reporting and then the security structure. In the conclusion, what is your recommendation? I say replace the Legacy system with Salesforce.
When this is over, the following Monday, I got the email saying, “Congratulations, you are being offered the job.”
Paula Bell: Awesome.
John Sim: It was quick. It was quick. They gave me a week to think over. They gave me the offer just before Thanksgiving. You have a week to think over. And then I said, “Oh, okay.” And then they follow up and say, “Oh yeah, we give you an offer, but we have to do audit of you.” I say that sounds scary. You want to do an audit on me on my previous job and current job. And I was like panicking. What can they find on me? But then I said oh, don’t worry about it. I tend to over-worry myself.
Paula Bell: Exactly.
John Sim: Let’s just go through. If they asked me a difficult question, then I’ll figure out how to answer them.
Paula Bell: You got a job on the third try. The first one didn’t go through you did it again. You did your research, you did it again. The second one, that didn’t go through either, but you didn’t give up because they said they were going to contact you in November. You got the offer in November. You’re working in that role as a financial business analyst, you’re doing this work. I have to ask, if you hadn’t invested in The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program, where do you think you would be today if you had not invested in it?
John Sim: I think that Applied Certification in Business Analysis™ (ACBA) certification probably has some weight because I only have one Salesforce certification, but I have BA certification and then the scrum master certification. They even asked me, “How can I verify your ACBA certification?” I showed them the Bridging the Gap link to verify my certification. I think those three certifications probably were taken into consideration because I only have one Salesforce, but I have two of the other ones: the BA and the scrum master.
So I think those put some weight on the decision. I had to wait two months to start. Hopefully, the current background check is okay. They are pretty strict. I have some paperwork and volunteer work and I lump everything together as the same company, but I don’t know whether they would like it or not. And if they don’t like it, then I’ll have to explain, a lot of explaining for them.
Paula Bell: Well, we’re just going to believe everything’s going to be fine. You have the skillset to do it. You’ve demonstrated that. Clearly, they found value in you and you have the ACBA certification.
Really quick last question for you. How have you leveraged what you’ve learned from the ACBA certification? Since you have left the program, how have you leveraged what you’ve learned in that program, in your career up to this.
John Sim: I think the program, the topics that Laura taught it’s useful and it’s actually a reminder course to go through again. And even though I’ve been using it strictly in the actual work environment, I’m always attending other sessions of BA. Then, also, Tony Martin’s BA session, I’m also part of it. If I can learn as much about BA and real-world experience, it’s helpful to keep track and note so the next time when I do it, I can just borrow the experience in my real job. It’s all helpful. Down the line, I might use more and more and more. Even though I get the certification doesn’t mean I know everything. I’m still learning, probably the beginning level of a BA.
Paula Bell: But at least you have the tools and the resources to help you along with that.
Well, thank you for sharing your story with us today, John. I really appreciate it.
Before I wrap up, though, is there anything else that you would like to share before we close out?
John Sim: It’s just for beginners, those mid-career people, just be patient. Don’t give up. Don’t get yourself boxed in a time period to get a job. You can get it sooner or you can get it later as long as you have the resources to keep looking for a job. Just persevere. Be persistent, leverage the community network to let them know that you’re finding a job and what area you need.
And also have faith in God. Trust that God will give you a good path. Who knows. He might give you a favor and He will get you to something better down the line. Although it might take longer, sometimes the longer you wait, the better job you get. Sometimes I was like, should I try everything? Every little page? Should I go there? Should I do this? Could I do this? Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Figure out what area you want to focus on and then stick to it. Sooner or later you will get it. Just don’t give up and don’t be frustrated. I get discouraged and frustrated all the time, but just keep up to faith and something good will come your way.
Paula Bell: Perfect. Thank you for that wonderful words of wisdom. You heard him everyone. Don’t give up. Even if you’re frustrated, push through it, persevere, you can do this.
Thank you once again, John, for joining us today and sharing your story. I truly, truly appreciate it. I’m quite sure your story is going to impact others and inspire others and encourage others as we go forward.
With that, it was an honor speaking with you today. I just want to say once again, thank you. Everyone out there who’s listening, I’m quite sure you got golden nuggets from John today and we will talk to you soon. Have a great one.
>>How to Learn the Foundational Business Analyst Skills (And Build Your Body of Formal Work Samples)
When you join The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program, you’ll gain real-world experience in the industry-standard techniques and business analysis processes. You’ll create work samples vetted by experienced instructors and have the opportunity to become a credentialed business analyst as a recipient of the Applied Certification in Business Analysis™ (ACBA).