I was almost a complete slacker this week. I spent just an hour or two on Wednesday progressing against this week’s goal, which was to work through (and maybe finish) the techniques section of the BABOK. At about 80 pages, this chapter is the longest. It also contains the real tactical gems that we all love. Yet, I made it through about 10 pages total.
Now, I did do some studying this past weekend, finishing up Solutions Assessment and Validation and going through a practice exam (again topping out at 78%). This chapter was the most difficult I’ve tackled so far. Maybe it’s just my type of BA experience, but I found it abstract and very difficult to relate to. I kept trying to pull out pieces of my career history for examples, but there were a lot of cases where I just wasn’t sure exactly what part of my experience aligned. This is one chapter I’m definitely looking forward to reviewing as part of the BA Mentor prep class, as I hope by talking about it with other BAs it starts to sink in.
But Wait – Some Good News!
But in all my honesty about my slackerdom, I have forgotten to share the good news. On Wednesday I also received an email indicating my application had been accepted. I’m all clear to sit for the exam! Now to pull together the $325 and be ready to commit to an exam date.
The Slacker Antidote
One thing I’ve learned about myself in the last few years is that if I don’t know why I’m doing something, I usually stop before I finish. There are a few reasons…and they might surprise you.
Learning from the PMP
First, if you look at the BA career path and assume it might evolve similarly to the PM career path, there’s a definite risk factor in choosing not to earn the CBAP while I have the experience to do so. If in 5 years (or 10 or 15) I want to go back to a full-time BA job and, like the PMP, the CBAP is so prevalent its a “must have” requirement, my options will be limited. I’m not sure I will want to do this, but I don’t like having my options limited.
But I don’t make decisions based on fear alone. And something tells me that the 300+ posts I’ve written here will count for something. I’ve already earned credibility and trust by sharing what I know and what I don’t. Do I really need some letters behind my name to further validate what I’ve already proven?
Related to the above is the idea that the very success of my mentoring and training organization might come to depend on my being certified. I actually received my first response from a potential mentee a few weeks back challenging my experience and lack of certification. My response is (and will still be even once certified) that you should judge me based on the results I can deliver for you, not based on a certification. Still, it makes me wonder how many people are caught up on the idea that I’m not certified and use that as an excuse to look elsewhere for their training needs.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m creating a bit of a fail-safe for myself and protecting my career against potential future circumstances. Because we all deserve to take care of ourselves once in a while, right?
I Care About BA
Which leads me to my second reason. I care about business analysis. When I left my full-time job just over 3 years ago and took the summer off to find my career direction, I discovered that business analysis is where I belong. And then I started writing here and meeting many other talented BAs, the kind I had been looking for in my work for a long time, and everything kind of clicked. And you know what, many of the talented BAs are CBAP Recipients. There is definitely a sense of being one of “them” that’s inspiring me on this journey.
That being said, I show I care and belong to this group in many ways, mostly through writing but also through training and mentoring. I could choose to say ‘that’s enough’. There are some great BAs out there sticking to this approach for their BA careers and I will never think anything less of them. In fact, I might think more of them because they are choosing the more difficult path of consistently proving their value and contribution to the profession through their actions and not by relying on credentials.
The Value of the Certification Process
But let’s go back to this certification and what it really means. At the end of the day, it means that you can have the designated experience and can pass a multiple choice test that represents you have comprehended or memorized the BABOK. That being said, many people find value in the process. The application process alone requires you to dig up elements of your BA work history and many people find this creates a great sense of confidence. I agree. I’ve been digging up my career history ever since I wrote the first Bridging the Gap blog post. It’s a valuable process I do because it’s valuable, not because I need to do it for a certification.
And how about that exam preparation? In a comment on my first CBAP Journey post, Deb Hill said something that clicked.
There is still a lot to be learned from the BABOK. My first reaction to seeing it many moons ago (I think I first saw version 1.6) was … wow, somebody really gets what I have been doing for the past twenty or so years. A lot of good stuff … Understanding how the outputs from one knowledge area/task flow into another knowledge area/task is really helpful.
Yes, this is what I needed to hear. And it’s resembling my own experience as well. By going through the BABOK and putting the pieces together in my head I’m building a model for business analysis that goes beyond what I had before. I have the pieces and parts, I can diagnose my experience, now maybe I’ll be able to be a bit more “formal” or at least informed about my approach.
I’ve also already found that as I create new lessons for My Business Analysis Career, I’m bringing elements I’ve learned through my study to bear. These represent small tweaks, but definite improvements. Again, I could do this without ever taking the exam, but even though I’ve read the BABOK a couple of times, reading it with an eye for the exam is encouraging deeper comprehension.
My Deep Dark Secret
So then to the final reason. If you look carefully at the archive of posts on CBAP here at Bridging the Gap, you’ll notice I’ve rarely presented my personal opinion on the value of CBAP. I’ve shared others’ opinions, interviewed CBAP Recipients about their experiences, and published posts by CBAP Recipients and CBAP-wannabes, but I’m relatively quiet on the topic myself. (And there’s not much I’m quiet about, is there?)
Why is this? Well, despite talking to so many great BAs who also happen to be CBAP Recipients, my impression of certifications in general is not favorable and I wasn’t ready to share my view publicly. I think there is a significant disconnect between documenting experience and successfully passing a multiple choice exam and great business analysis. Although I’ve heard the stories and listened to the experiences, I haven’t drunk the CBAP Kool-Aid. Something is missing.
What I think we see happening right now is that those who are most passionate about the profession chose to earn the certification because they’ve been waiting for a way to say, “yes, this is me!” And that’s definitely honorable and it means that CBAP Recipients, at least those in our readership, represent a top-notch group. Five, ten, fifteen years from now when there might be 20,000 CBAP Recipients, the story will probably be very different.
Although I’m pursuing my CBAP, my opinion hasn’t changed. I’m not pursuing certification because I think it will make me a better BA or because I think it should lead someone else to think I’m a better BA. But I am curious about the process and the benefits it might have for my career, even if I am not-so-secretly still questioning that those benefits are valid. A girl can be practical, can’t she?
Besides, I’ve realized that I simply don’t have the right to be critical of a certification I myself haven’t yet managed to earn. Rest assured, when all is said and done, I’ll share if and how going through the process has changed my opinion of certification.
So there you have it…my ‘why’. I know I won’t get anywhere without it and, quite honestly, I think it’s a little weak. It still frustrates me that I have to take time to do this when I could be creating better products or helping more people advance their BA careers or honing my skills by picking up a small contract. For me, all of the above are the opportunity costs of becoming a CBAP and the reason why I’ve put it off to the very last responsible moment.
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