Keep Climbing That Career Mountain (And Don’t Forget to Enjoy the View)

My husband and I once hiked Square Top Mountain, a peak that ascends to 13,794′.  The first few miles were easy hiking through a valley and up to an alpine lake. As we started the main ascent, the trail ended and there was just a small sign that said “Square Top” with an arrow pointing us up in the right direction. About 2 hours into the hike, we started climbing up a very steep slope, taking one step at a time.

Looking back at how far we’ve come

At about 13,000 feet the oxygen gets a bit scarce. I got a bit altitude sick (a mix of headache, light-headedness, and queasiness) and wasn’t sure if I would make it to the top. I considered how tough hikes are so much like our careers.

One step at a time.

Just keep climbing.

Just keep moving forward.

Every time I felt like forgetting the mountaintop and heading back down, I looked back.  Looking down a couple thousand feet and 4 miles in the distance, I could still see the trail head. The distance between us and the trail head and our height relative to the other mountains around us kept growing.

It seemed our legs had taken us so far. We could go a bit further.

Enjoying 360 degree views at the top

Not too much later, we were rewarded at the top with a half mile ridge of easy hiking. We spent 45 minutes alone on the mountaintop taking in 360 degree views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

Of course, even challenging hikes are simpler than our careers. There is a clear goal. The top of the mountain is pretty obvious when you find it. Our career goals are rarely so clear nor are our accomplishments so concrete.

But in our careers, we do have the luxury of looking back and most of us fail to do this often enough. Many BAs report they feel tremendously empowered after finishing the CBAP application because they develop a deeper view of their career history and experiences. As part of managing our business analyst careers, I often suggest collecting positive feedback and keeping a project list of your key career experiences. In our business analyst training courses course, participants look back and look deep, often finding a goldmine of relevant business analyst experience they had no idea could help them achieve their career goals.

Those who make it to the top are awarded with stupendous views

There’s another benefit to this process.

Taking time to consider how we’ve tackled past challenges makes our current challenges seem simpler to overcome. As Jeffrey Gitomer tells us in YES! Attitude:

“Looking over your past successes reinforces your ability to achieve your present goals.”

Today, I challenge you to simply look back a few years or several in your career. Find that car parked way off in the distance — that’s the trail head when you started on your path.

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  1. This really has been a fulfilling post. When one looks back, and as you said, you just keep moving upwards in hope and now, on top, yeah, it does feel good to know of the miles behind. Thanks Laura, this was really soulful stuff for a BA

  2. Thanks for the additional context Claude. That is indeed an excellent list of characteristics that every BA would do well to consider themselves against. Nicely done.

    The journey down was indeed beautiful. Downhills always have their own challenges for me, especially steep ones, but I’ll save that metaphor for a future post. 🙂

  3. Claude Straley says

    Laura – I thought you might enjoy that acronym I provided with specific definition (Strong Person Development Life Cycle) since you articulated on some of the key phases in your story. Some of those phases were simply provided in an enjoyable journey that we can all relate.

    Note: If you do a search on Google for the SDLC acronym, there are a number of different designations (security policy development lifecycle, and another about a church, etc) however the one I provided for this article only was intended to reinforce the strong characteristics that we’ve all learned throughout our BA Careers.

    Some examples include:
    · Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time – framed.
    · Strong communication skills – both written and verbal – that include willingness to communicate, clarity of communication style, tact and sensitivity when dealing with difficult situations.
    · Strong persuasion and negotiation skills, including conflict resolution. Strive to ‘Understand’ before expecting to be ‘Understood!’
    · Good leadership qualities in setting direction and encouraging others to participate, and creating a sense and spirit of teamwork.
    · Ability to break complex business issues into actionable tasks.
    · Ability to work effectively in a professional manner with managers, technology staff, business stakeholders and end users.
    · Ability to work with minimal supervision. Self – motivated.
    · Ability to establish good and effective relationships with the business owners.
    · Strong team player and contributor.

    BTW………I bet your journey back down that mountain to the trail head where you started was just as exhilarating as reaching the top. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

  4. Thanks, Claude! Love the new acronym….SPDLC….is there any information available on that we could share with the group?

    Life is a journey, not a destination. Easier said than lived, but something to strive to every day.

  5. Claude Straley says

    Laura, Great story of accomplishment with that hike up to the mountain peak. Not just the story….but the fact that you took time to smell the roses (or thin air!! lol) along the way. Realizing, appreciating, and actually getting value out of challenges is something I like to call a phase of the SPDLC. (Strong Person Development Life Cycle!)

    Eve, A great tool for capturing info including personal notes, snippets of info, logs, etc is MS OneNote. It’s part of Microsoft Office and has many features that are extremely helpful. It also has EXCELLENT search capability. Check it out if you haven’t already.

  6. Hi Joan, What a great story! It sounds like you’ve learned a lot from looking back about what it will take to move forward. Having seen your current career intentions with a bit of an insiders view, I have to say it’s inspiring to see your drive and passion. I am sure this new career horizon will soon be something you’ll look back on with pride.

  7. Hi Laura – what a beautiful analogy. Thanks for sharing your inspirational views – both sites & insights.
    I often think about the seemingly serendipitous path my career has taken, and then I’m jolted into the realization that what appeared to be mere luck was often preceded by a focused drive. By never getting stuck in a rut and vigorously pursuing new skills, I’ve been able to shift my role over the years (requirements analysis -> project management -> process & systems modeling -> business process improvement -> facilitation), creating a well-rounded business experience and an enterprise perspective. I followed what appealed to my sensibilities and was willing to let go of what wasn’t suiting my temperament, making sure I could keep a personal interest in my work – for me an absolute necessity to run at peak effectiveness. Now my interests take me to virtual collaboration, and I believe I can leverage this new driving focus to once again expand my career horizons by helping others work beyond the 4 walls of their cubicle.

  8. Hi Eve,

    Congrats on completing your CBAP application! And great advice to keep the application handy as it is a useful record of your career history.

    In The Promotable Business Analyst, I do provide a template for keeping track of past projects, along with the positive impact you had on each project. I think a project list is one way to help yourself keep track of verbal feedback or other input that might otherwise go undocumented. Notebooks can be good as well, especially if you find yourself wanting to work through your career experiences through writing, something I do in private and often publicly here at BTG.


  9. I agree about feeling empowered after having filled out the CBAP application, having just completed it. I recommend to everyone that does this immediately print out (onto paper or as PDF) the completed application to have a handy review of one’s BA career history.

    Are there other tools and techiques to record your history? I know one of the suggested methods is via storing e-mails offline, but alot of the positive feedback may be verbal, or tasks and accomplishments not documented. Perhaps a spreadsheet or Access database to store info? A notebook dedicated to this effort?

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