From Sales Support to Quality Assurance to Business Analysis (Martin Pakpahan)

Martin Pakpahan started his career in Sales Support and over the course of nearly 6 years worked his way into a business analysis position. One thing I love about Martin’s story is that he focused on the combination of delivering value, helping others, and finding fulfillment in his work. And this magic combination led him to business analysis, which he learned about as he grew step-by-step into the role.

With out further ado, let’s hear from Martin, who has graciously shared in-depth detail about how his business analysis career came to be.

Laura: You have experience in quality assurance, project management, and business analysis. Can you tell us a little bit about the roles you’ve held previously and how one led to another?

Martin: Well, this is going to be a long story. I am working in a company which delivers innovative enterprise solutions that enable businesses creating value and driving growth, the name is Tricada Intronik.  My first job title in July 2009 was Sales Support Engineer. It was a role that was responsible for preparing and communicating technical aspects in the selling process. It lasted for 2 years. I spent my time learning the company’s products in the technical aspect: What it is, how it works, what users can do with it, how to do it, etc.

In that period, I was directly trained by my CEO about the basics of requirements modelling. This training gave me the knowledge about UML notations in requirements modelling, what perspectives carried within each diagram, how to use it, when to use it, and also real experience to use this knowledge. I was frequently assigned to attend meetings with stakeholders and document the requirements through the model.

For the record, I have not graduated with an Informatics-based major. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Physics. That’s why I need to learn exactly everything from the beginning.

My CEO assigned me to do software testing tasks: design test method, define test case, execute it, automate it and document the result. He thought that, since I am the one who knows the requirements, I should be the one to test whether the software will meet the requirement or not.  Since then, I joined Quality Assurance, and at the same time, was still responsible for the requirements modelling task.

My company initiated a new software product, the Restaurant Online Ordering System. I was assigned two roles: Business Analyst and Software Tester. For 3 years and 9 months, I was responsible for eliciting requirements, crafting requirements documentation, communicating requirements, resolving disputes, designing test processes, testing implemented software, and documenting the testing results.

My project manager also delegated some of the project management tasks to me. Thanks to that, I was able to talk more with my fellow team members. I found it hard to understand the problem they experienced without having knowledge about the software implementation. So, I took extra time to learn about software implementation (Java, PHP, and SQL) and software deployment.

Because of that my CEO assigned me the responsibilities to prepare testing environments and production environments of the software. My tasks are growing larger in number. I requested additional resources for software testing and then began leading my own testing team.

One day, my CEO came and asked me what I wanted in my career. I answered that I want to be a project manager. I want to lead my own team in delivering a product, software or service. Two years later my CEO gave me a chance to lead a project. The job title changed into Project Manager and I successfully delivered the project.

Recently, my CEO promoted my colleague into VP of Product & Development. He restructured the Product & Development Department and created smaller departments which focused in specific knowledge areas. One of which was the Requirement and Feedback department. I was chosen to be head of the department.

I now have two job titles at the same time: Project Manager and Head of Requirement and Feedback Dept.

Laura: Why did you decide to pursue a business analysis career specifically?

Martin: During these 5 years and 9 months as a software modeler and software tester, I was modelling software requirements and testing them. Those tasks grew my interest in Business Analysis. The passion came from reading articles how business analysis impacts quality of software.

If the role of the business analyst was poorly defined from the beginning, I would never have done this work.

My company has a lot of programmers and software designers but lacks a business analyst expert. This leads to changing requirements and disputes over the requirements. The fact that I can contribute to the most pressing issues within my company thrilled me. I started to take a deeper look at business analysis. During this period, I searched references and books about business analysis.

Two of the books I read often are BABOK® Guide and Mastering the Requirement Process (Suzanne Robertson and James Robertson). In early 2014, when I Googled about what business analysis is all about, I found articles from Bridging the Gap.

Since then, Bridging the Gap became one of the main resources for me to consult about Business Analysis. All of the articles I found answered my questions about what business analysis is all about, what we need to be a good business analyst, what points business analysts struggle with, etc. Plus, I love how you write in an easy and fun way.

My competence as a BA is growing a lot thanks to the Essential Elicitation Skills and Crafting Better Requirements trainings. The opportunity to have an online training added with live sessions fit in perfectly with my circumstances.

Laura: Now you are moving into a new role to lead a new department called Requirements and Feedback. Can you tell us a little bit about what this role entails?

Martin: The department itself is concerned with the elicitation, analysis, specification, and validation of software requirements as well as the management of requirements and customer feedback during the whole life cycle of the products.

My role is to make sure all business analysts in the department perform well. That entails development of member competence, defining standard deliverables, allocation of business analysis resources for each project, and managing the load of each business analyst.

Laura: How did you create this opportunity?

Martin: I have not asked my VP why he chose me, but I believe there are several reasons:

  • I communicated clearly, honestly and in respectful way with the company, about what I want in my career and what I expect from the company regarding my career. I also asked for my company’s approval and support. In this way, my company was aware of my expectations and I was assured that the company would benefit from it.
  • I am constantly learning better ways to do business analysis related tasks through open-minded discussions, articles, training (as participant or as provider) and books.
  • I made myself available for any possible business analysis – as well as tasks that relate to business analysis.
  • I frequently shared what I learned about business with my VP long before he was promoted. Upon those interactions, I believe a trust grew between us and be became more aware of my capabilities.
  • I sought feedback on my deliverables from my stakeholders to discover any gaps and then make improvements. For example, since my VP was a software architect and team leader of the software team, I frequently asked him for feedback on my deliverables based on a software programmer’s perspective.

Laura: What do you consider as keys to your career success?

Martin: Several keys are:

  • Work not only for ourselves, but for others. It may not apply to others but it definitely applies to me. There was a time that the office became so horrible. If I didn’t have anyone who depends on me economically, I’d would have resigned a long time ago. Of course, I have personal goals which I can obtain if I have a good career, but for me, personal goals are not enough to drive me forward.
  • Passion, or to be accurate, let yourself be passionate about what your work is. At first, I took this job because I needed the money. I don’t want to do a job for the sake of the job, I want to do a job which is meaningful.  Rather than take the risky move by quitting my job and finding a new one that I may have passion for, I learned to be passionate with the one in front of my eyes. By learning the benefit of my work and how meaningful it is for stakeholders, I was able to become proud of my work. This insight drives me to deliver “perfection” in every deliverable possible.
  • If I didn’t make myself available for the extra miles, I believe I would not have the opportunities that I have today. Doing something beyond my job description helped me understand how my deliverables can be beneficial to others. Therefore, I can discover gaps and make improvements. There is always something to learn when we take on a new job.
  • Work hard, work smart. Nothing can replace hard work. To excel at something, we must spend time, patience and resources on it. That’s what I do. But, to be efficient and gain more with less effort, we have to be smart. Don’t make the mistakes of others, but learn from them. If you should make a mistake, make sure it is new mistake which leads to something new to be learned and can be shared with others.
  • For others this may be irrelevant. But to me, it is. I am a Christian and as Christian we are obliged to do everything whole-heartedly, as for the Lord and not for men. Somehow work colleagues can get on my nerves and people who depend on me are disappointed. This is the reason why I keep going to do everything my best in the worst possible situation: My faith to Jesus Christ and all his teachings and promises.

Laura: What recommendations would you make to others looking to follow a path like yours?

Martin: It is quite simple. If you want to follow someone, walk the path that he or she has walked. Do what he or she did. Invest in what he or she invested in. Live with the values he or she lived with. That works every time. I’ve written everything I’ve done to get to this point. Just do what I did.

Laura: Thanks so much for sharing your story Martin and congratulations on your new role in management. I wish you all kinds of success growing and leading a business analyst team!

>>Read More Success Stories

GR’s story is one of many BA career transition success stories here at Bridging the Gap. We’re honored to have had many readers tell us more about how they leveraged their professional experience to get started in business analyst job roles.

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