Perry McGuire joined The Business Analyst Blueprint® having held the title of business analyst, but not fulfilling the full scope of business analyst work he found in his local job postings in Jersey, one of the British Islands.
By going through each of the skill sets in The Business Analyst Blueprint® and applying them through volunteer work at a local non-profit, Perry boosted his practical business analyst skills and increased his confidence to apply for a broader range of business analyst positions
Soon after recording this interview, Perry reported in our online community that he landed a business analyst job offer. And a few days later, he had a second job offer to consider!
Click the play button to tune into Perry’s interview below, or read the full-text transcript.
For those who like to read instead of listen, here’s the full text of the audio:
Laura Brandenburg: Welcome! Today, I’m here with Perry McGuire, who was a member of our 2018 session of The Business Analyst Blueprint®. Super excited to meet with Perry and hear a little bit more about his experience. So, hello, Perry.
Perry: Hello, Laura.
Laura: Thanks for being here. Where are you from?
Perry: I’m from Jersey in the Channel Islands.
Laura: The Channel Islands? That sounds gorgeous!
Perry: It’s a small island, which is closer to France, and it is England. It is actually a British Island.
Laura: Okay, so do you have work in that area or do you commute off the island?
Perry: Well, Jersey’s had a lot of bad press, I guess, recently because it’s seen by some as being a tax haven, which the island authorities are determined to counter. But as a consequence, there’s an awful lot of finance business that goes on in Jersey.
And so, when one’s talking about business analysis and business analyst roles, it’s primarily focused in the finance sector because, you know, with the banks because they’re the only companies that have ongoing projects and budgets that can afford that sort of staff.
Laura: Oh, yeah. That makes a lot of sense. That kind of got us off track a little bit there, but I was really curious to hear about where you were from, and we do find that different local areas, definitely, have that industry flavor, and that has a big impact on the business analyst roles available to you.
Just to get us started, and thanks again for being with me today and sharing a bit about your experience.
If you can, kind of, take me back to January of this year before we started working together in the Blueprint. Where were you at in your career at that point?
Perry: Okay. I’d recently completed a compliance analyst role in December. That was a six-month role, and I figured that I would, obviously, look for work in January, but whilst I was doing that, I would complete my BCS diploma studies for my business analysis because, the logic being, even if I managed to secure work in January, I wouldn’t start until February. So, in this case, January was a free month, so I might as well put it to some use and complete my studies.
Whilst I was doing that, I came across three business analyst roles in January, and I looked at them, and I thought, “I can’t do them. I don’t have the practical BA skills to perform those roles.” And that was quite worrying.
And then I suddenly thought, “Well, hang about. Even if I complete my BCS study and get my certificate and the diploma, that’s not necessarily going to advance my practical BA skills.” So, as you can imagine, my head was a little bit scrambled at the time thinking, you know, “I’m not sure where I’m going to get my next job from.”
Laura: Right. And you had mentioned that you had just come out of a compliance role. Had you filled other business analyst roles in the past?
Perry: Yes. I mean, I’d performed two commercial BA roles. One with the local government here in Jersey, that was a five-month role and that was a change management project. And, then, I had a holiday in Norway, came back, had half the day to myself before I walked into another role with a bank also as a business analyst. And I was there for thirteen months.
Laura: So, you had a fair amount of experience in business analysis, but the roles still had a gap.
Perry: Well, you say that, but this is where I’ve been caught out because the role I had with the bank, my title was “Business Analyst.” I was there for thirteen months, but in all honesty, I was just a project administrator.
I wasn’t actually performing any business analysis. And so, when people look at my CV, they, as you’ve just done, “Okay, you’ve got thirteen months experience as a BA,” but that’s not exactly true. And, I mean, I’ve got to hold my hand up, and there’s probably more I could’ve done.
I could’ve been more forceful, I could’ve been more obliging, whatever. But, you know, it’s history. I had thirteen months, and I didn’t really progress my business analyst skill set.
Laura: Then you took the plunge, and you joined The Business Analyst Blueprint®, right? If I remember correctly, you put your BCS goal on hold temporarily.
Laura: What were your expectations when you joined the program?
Perry: Well, I’ve been aware of Bridging the Gap for a number of years, and I know that Bridging the Gap is bona fide, it’s legitimate. And I think what swung it for me was when I read the introductory documents for The BA Blueprint course.
There was a passage about BAs being on expensive courses, cramming a lot of knowledge into two or three days but still leaving those courses without really improving their practical BA skill set. And I mean I could… I could relate to that so much because I’ve completed four of the five exams for the BCS diploma, and that’s exactly what happened.
You cram an awful lot of knowledge into two or three days, you have an exam at the end of it, but does it really improve one’s practical BA skills? Well, not really.
Laura: You were looking for that practical experience and improvement?
Perry: Yeah. When I saw those three jobs in January, I just thought, “I don’t have the practical skills to perform those roles.”
Laura: Yeah, that kind of gap can be a bit scary, too, to be honest.
Perry: Yeah, definitely.
Laura: And so, you took the plunge, you joined The Blueprint, and I know you’ve done some fantastic, fantastic work. Take us back to that first technique you used. I mean, I think you started at the beginning with the process analysis, correct?
Perry: Yes, mainly.
Laura: How did that go?
Perry: Well, process analysis… I mean, I thought my process analysis skills were quite good. I mean, that was my strongest skill, my strongest BA skill, if you like. But I had to relearn everything I knew about process analysis and process improvement as a consequence of The BA Blueprint, and it was fantastic because I was actually doing, performing business analysis.
And there were some fantastic tips. Things like: keep your activities in the workflow down to a minimum of, I think it was, eight or nine or maybe ten activities at max, otherwise create a sub-process instead. So, little tips like this were just fantastic, and as a consequence, my process analysis, my process improvement skills, I think are extremely strong.
Laura: Oh, that’s awesome! And now, were you applying these? Had you found a new contract role at that point where you were applying these techniques, or did you find a different way to do them?
Perry: Well, obviously, I applied them through the course itself through the workbook, but at this stage, I was actively looking for work. I’m also a member of a local charity, and, so, that was enabling me while giving me the opportunity to implement some of the new skills that I was learning on The BA Blueprint.
Laura: You were able to volunteer to do some of that work.
Laura: Yeah, that’s an awesome solution when you’re kind of in between opportunities. Did you face any resistance to them? Because sometimes we hear people go to find that, and then people at the nonprofits or the charities are challenged with how to leverage a business analyst. Are there any challenges that you had to work through with them to make that happen?
Perry: No, not really. I think, you mean one has to sell the idea to do them, i.e., it’s in their interests, ultimately, because they were the ones who will benefit by improving their processes. I mean, I think you have to be a bit careful, and you have to be a bit mindful that you will be using other people’s information, especially if it’s a charity, a not-for-profit.
Then, I think you do have to be quite careful with the information you are handling. But that aside, certainly the experience I had was that the charity were quite happy for me to be involved, with caveats.
Laura: Right, right. That’s awesome. What improvement were you able to make through the business process work you did?
Perry: Well, they had a process, an existing process, an as-is, whereby people could apply for financial assistance, and the process that they had in existence at the time wasn’t actually documented. So, there were issues of traceability, governance issues. And, so, it was an ideal opportunity for me to get started and practice some of my new process analysis and process improvement skills.
Laura: And then, so, let’s maybe move forward. Did you use that same organization to practice use cases and wireframes?
Perry: I did, but, obviously, a different perspective. The use cases, I mean, I knew of use cases, but I hadn’t actually done anything apart from a use case diagram. So, actually having the opportunity to put together a use case was fantastic and really interesting. And the use case I created was in regard to making online donations through the charity website.
At the moment, it’s an option that they don’t have, so, I went through the various process, well not process, but the flows, the basic flows, the various exceptions, alternative flows to achieving making donations online. I mean, it’s not going to happen any time soon, so, I mean, I was aware of that before I sort of commenced the work. But it was an opportunity to use it as an example.
Laura: Right. I like that you got creative there. And I’m sure when they do try to explore it, they’ll be that much further ahead.
Perry: Well, yes, the work is already there. The work is there for them to pick up or someone else to pick up, whatever. But at any minute, it’s all relevant. It’s relevant should they decide to take the option going forward.
Laura: Right. And what was your takeaway as the analyst from going through the process of writing a use case? It can be a little mine-bendy if you haven’t actually done one before, right?
Perry: Yeah, I mean, you have to get your head around the principles involved and the direction you’re going in. But once you do that, you can start thinking about the path. I mean, you’ve got the main path and then you’ve got the various other options.
Once you start thinking like that, then you can start to see how powerful it is because, potentially, you can sort of see you can get all these requirements, thoughts sort of popping out. It’s just fantastic. Yeah, I really, really enjoyed it. I surprised myself because, as I said, I’ve never been involved in doing use cases before. And now I have, and I can now make reference to on my resume.
Laura: Right, right. And, now, was this one of the skills that you had seen on those jobs?
Perry: I’m not sure. I can’t remember whether it was included in one of the three roles I saw, but I have seen local, other roles advertised locally, where use cases are mentioned. And again, prior to being on the BA Blueprint, it’s things that like that, that probably would have put me off applying for those roles.
Laura: Right. Awesome. Now, anything you want to share about the data modeling component?
Perry: Well, for me, the data modeling component was the biggie because of it being so technical compared to the other two modules. I thought, “Hmm, this is going to be interesting.” And I was pleasantly surprised.
I mean, the glossary was fine. I didn’t have a problem with the glossary. The ERDs, the entity relationship diagrams now, I’d attempted to do those in the past with varying degrees of success. And I think I’ve got my head around it this time. It was using the cardinality, the crow’s foot, it gets you… It’s something you have to get used to, and you have to sort of think about where you’re heading to.
And, again, I think the information that was provided in the course was very, very useful in identifying the cardinality. It was quite useful in doing that, making it a little bit easier.
Laura: It is one of those things that you kind of have to step through it. Do it a few times. And even now when I go back to it, if I haven’t done it in a while, I have to look at those keys and be like, “What means what?” and really step through it the way that we talked through it in the course in order to make sure I’m not going to screw something up.
Perry: As you say, it’s like anything, isn’t it? The more you do these particular techniques, they will become second nature. At the moment, they’re not second nature, but almost second nature.
Laura: Yeah. If you look back, you obviously applied all the techniques and got additional practice and experience as part of your background through this, but what would you say is the result of doing all that work for you?
Perry: Well, for me, certainly, I mean, I got what I wanted out of the course, which was to boost my practical BA skills. All the boxes are ticked, and as a consequence, my confidence is very, very high because I know that I’m able to perform a host of business analyst practical skills in respect to best practice, and that gives me an awful lot of confidence.
Laura: That’s awesome. What has that meant for you, professionally, over the last couple of months?
Perry: Well, it means that I have confidence in applying for roles, which perhaps once upon a time, I wouldn’t have applied for. I mean, I’m looking at a role at the moment, which mentions data migration and data mapping and data analysis.
Now, I’m not a data analyst, but looking through the job description, I’m thinking, “I could do that, I could do that, I could do that.” Now, once upon a time, I would’ve just knocked the job back saying, “No, no. It’s a data analyst role. I can’t do that.”
Laura: Right. It’s opened up additional opportunities.
Perry: Yes, definitely.
Laura: Well, anything that you would like to add?
Perry: Well, I think also, one thing I thought was fantastic was the course instruction and feedback from the instructors. I wanted to mention in particular Paula Bell and Doug Goldberg.
There was an instance where I was, I think it was an ERD, actually, and Doug came back to me and gave me a few words of advice. But the beauty was he didn’t, actually, tell me what to do. He gave me a few dots, not all the dots to join, but just a few dots. So, I still had to go away, understand it, join the remaining dots myself, and join those dots.
So, that was fantastic because it actually got me to think even more, instead of just telling me, “Perry, you need to do this, you need to that, and you need to do this.” I wouldn’t have benefited, really, because I wouldn’t have learned from my mistakes, so to speak. But by telling me, “Well, hang about. Be careful here. Remember that this exercise is about data and not process.”
You have to take a step back and start thinking about it, which is great.
Laura: Yeah. Our instructors are great at pointing out those things and facilitating that learning process, so, I love that we’re able to do that as part of this model. I guess one final… And thank you for sharing that. Paula and Doug are great, great instructors. So proud to have them on our team.
Laura: One last question for you. If you hadn’t decided to invest in The Blueprint, where do you think you’d be today?
Perry: I wouldn’t like to say. Basically, in January of this year, I couldn’t see where I was going to get a job from, and it was quite worrying. I took a punt on The BA Blueprint, and it was… I don’t want to say a risk, it wasn’t. I mean, obviously, I was paying for the course, so there was an element of risk involved if it didn’t actually provide me with what I wanted at the end of it.
But I can honestly say it surpassed my expectations, and I am so pleased that I went on the course. And as a consequence, my whole outlook in respect to the business analysis and being a BA has been transformed.
Laura: Well, that is awesome, awesome to hear. Thank you, Perry!
Perry: You’re welcome, Laura. I’ll say a big “thank you” to everybody involved and even the other students, the other candidates because with the Facebook page and the webinars, I think we started to have a real sense of community.
Laura: Yeah, that’s something we look forward to continuing on, too, as we expand The Blueprint. Awesome.
Well, thank you so much for your time today. Anything else you’d like to say before we close things out?
Perry: I would just like to say, you know, “Thanks very much, and keep up the very good work.”
Laura: All right, you too. Thank you.
Perry: Thanks, Laura.
About The Business Analyst Blueprint®
When you join The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program, you’ll learn all 12 of the industry-standard techniques and the business analysis process framework – to build your confidence in the best practices of business analysis.
You’ll create validated work samples and be a credentialed business analyst as a recipient of the Applied Certification in Business Analysis™ (ACBA).