Immersing Herself in the Business Analysis Profession – Sue Melchert

It’s my honor today to introduce you to Sue Melchert, a founding member of the Circle of Success coaching program and wonderful, positive influence in our community. Sue joined the Circle of Success with the intention of moving into a more people- and business-focused analysis role.

Watch or read Sue’s story to discover:

  • How she picks up more “BA lingo” each time another member shares their wins for the day, and that helps her see herself in a business analyst role.
  • How validating it felt to be seen as a colleague by others in the community straight-away.
  • How listening to other’s insights gives her a sense of what situations BAs might face, and what’s acceptable and what’s not.
  • Why she’s pursuing a business analyst role and how this aligns to her unique gifts (that may have gotten her in trouble in other roles!).
  • The different types of projects, from small businesses to financial systems, where she has leveraged business analyst skills.

Connect with Sue on LinkedIn


Laura Brandenburg: Hello, and welcome. Thanks for being here. I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap here today with Sue Melchert from outside Chicago. Hi Sue.

Sue Melchert: Hi.

Laura Brandenburg: So grateful to have you here and share a little bit about your journey into business analysis this year and your participation in the Circle of Success. It has been an amazing presence and an amazing vibrant part of our community. I’m excited to hear a little bit more about your story personally as well.

To get us started, tell us a little bit about where you were towards the beginning of this year when you started to join the program.

Sue Melchert: Okay. Well, thank you for asking. January 2019 I felt like I wanted to shift away from just being a systems analyst to be more of a people-oriented business analyst. That was my impetus.

I don’t know how I came across Circle of Success, but I know that I’ve been on your mailing list, so I constantly got the reminders do this, do that and finally I decided well let me jump into this because it seemed like it would be a good platform for me to get involved and hear other business analysts.

So I clicked on the link and it took me to what was called Circle of Success and I had to use Slack to do it. I was familiar with Slack, so I signed up right away. It was as though I walked into a room with a number of business analysts. It was great. It was the people that I wanted to talk to, so I was there.

They didn’t know my background. They didn’t know who I was, but they knew me as a business analyst, so the presumption was I was a colleague, and that felt really good.

As I started to get more involved with Circle of Success, because I was just in the trial, I decided to go ahead and purchase the program for the year. That’s how I got started.

Laura Brandenburg: Oh, that’s awesome. And I love that, “They saw me as a colleague.” How important that can be to say to ourselves. “I’m a business analyst and I’m part of this community of business analysts,” and how that just changes your self perception a bit, too.

One of the things I’ve seen you say in the group, like, “Oh that gives me the insight of what that’s like,” or the lingo, the insider lingo. Do you have something to share around that; lingo that’s come up or how that’s affected you?

Sue Melchert: Well, I really…my takeaway from reading all the wins every night is people share their day and what they feel they’ve learned. So I get a lessons learned synopsis every day and what a treat.

Laura Brandenburg: Yeah.

Sue Melchert: Just the other day, someone was talking about a sprint and using the terminology that I didn’t really know a few months ago, but I could visualize what it is that she was trying to explain. So, for me, that was a big help because now as I go into my interviews, I can whip out the terminology and sound like I know what I’m talking about. At least I’ve got a visual of what the process is. That has helped me. It really has.

My contribution to the group is I try and feedback positive comments because it’s so important. And you know people are just pouring their hearts out explaining the good and the bad. Some of it’s tough to read. What I have learned from that is sometimes we’re all in this together.

What I’ve experienced, which I thought was just worst-case scenario, someone else has also experienced it and this may be part of the job. So do I need to develop a thicker skin? Maybe. But also, listening to other people’s stories gave me insights as to what is acceptable, what’s not acceptable, how to resolve situations, and when may be the best time to walk away.

Laura Brandenburg: That’s probably a good point because there has been; I mean there’s obviously been a lot of successes and a focus on wins. We do that. But there has been a decent amount of heartbreak as well and that’s part of the culture I wanted to create. This is our first year where we’re still; honestly, I’m figuring it out with everyone.

We wanted people to be able to show up in the vulnerability and where the challenges are happening and have a safe space to get support around those challenges. I’ve heard this a few times, that feeling of I’m not alone has come up a few times. “I thought I was the only one who had this crazy ridiculous thing happen to me.” I guess it makes you feel a little bit like it’s not my fault. It’s other people that I respect and that I can see, no, they have their stuff together; it happened to them, too. It’s been an unexpected, but I feel, valuable component being able to share some of that.

Just the more challenging aspects of what it takes to do this. Thank you for bringing that up.

What’s driving you to go from more of a systems analyst role to a business analyst’s role? What do you see in that for you?

Sue Melchert: I know I’m good with people. I’ve got good people skills. When I work in a team, I encourage everyone to speak up. I’m comfortable delegating tasks that I can do in order to build someone else’s skillset; all the technical positions that I’ve had in the past. I tend to do a lot of training, technical training, because I want people to learn. I want people to be able to use the tools they have.

My last position as a systems analyst was more enterprise because it was working for a state job and I was hired as a systems analyst, so my role was pretty well defined. But I always felt the need to go above and beyond. Sometimes that got me in trouble because I was being too nice or helping people all the time when I just needed to stay on my tasks.

So it felt like I really need to shift into more of a people role being able to interview stakeholders. I feel comfortable talking to various levels in the organization.

My last job, I got in trouble for treating an upper management person as a colleague. So I wasn’t displaying the deference that I needed to display. But that’s how I do treat people. They’re important to the organization regardless of what level they are. So I think of them as colleagues. The role that I had as a systems analyst was more programming related as compared to people related.

After a couple of years in that role, I decided, you know, I really enjoy the technical part. I can talk the talk, but I wanted to be more involved with talking to people. Why do you want changes? What are the benefits to you to change, or what motivates you to change? How can we actually make it so? That’s what got me more involved with being a business analyst.

I have a skill set that I can apply. I have a business degree, so I understand finance. I feel very comfortable with finance. Marketing changes all the time, but even business operations. I feel comfortable with the mechanics of business and being able to talk to the business owners. I feel comfortable doing that and asking them questions. So, I thought a business analyst role would be a better fit for my skill set or my gifts.

Laura Brandenburg: Yes, your gifts. Exactly. And I love that you’re being called towards it for the people side. But also the things that got you in trouble. Our roles, when we’re doing our best work, that should never be the stuff that gets us in trouble. It’s kind of a good sign that the role that you are in or the box that you are in was maybe a bit constrained for what your true gifts are.

What’s your journey been like this year starting to pursue that next step?

Sue Melchert: A lot of research. Kind of looking at a data analyst vs. a business analyst or a systems analyst vs. a business analyst, or what is a business systems analyst, IT analyst? There are so many different job titles for this skill set and I didn’t know I was a business analyst until a recruiter mentioned it back in, I think it was 1999. Showed her my resume. She brought me into the office and we’re talking, talking.

She said, “Oh, you’re a business analyst.” I said, “Oh, okay, well.” I’m also good at this and this and this, and I like to be a technical trainer. I have a business degree. I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me, but having listened to you and actually doing some research and listening to everybody else, the business analyst role, for me, is a better fit. And it only took how many years to figure this out? So 20 years later…

Laura Brandenburg: But you’ve been kind of doing that a lot, right? I mean you’ve been doing this for small businesses.

Sue Melchert: Right.

Laura Brandenburg: Yeah. You can also say I’ve been a business analyst for 20 years. You could reframe things that way.

Sue Melchert: Yeah, because everybody has a different level of engagement. If it’s a business analyst, even for a small business, it’s still the same process. You’ve still got to go through it. You still have everything like the lessons learned. I took a lot of project management classes. That dovetails really nicely with business analysis because sometimes you wear both hats for small projects, and I’ve done a lot of that at the small business level.

Even when I was working for medium-sized business, I was brought in as a business analyst for the financial side. I loved that because I love accounting and I was able to contribute. I knew the lingo, the chart of accounts, the numbering system.

It felt really good to bring that skill set to the table under the title of business analyst/financial. So I have been doing it. I just didn’t know what it was called and now I do.

Laura Brandenburg: Awesome. One final quick question for you, or actually there will be two final quick questions. But you’ve been really generous with your time.

When you think about the year that you’ve had with Circle of Success, do any of the teachings, in particular, stand out that you benefited from in a particular way? And how have those impacted you?

Sue Melchert: The monthly webinars have been very helpful. Going from jaded to motivated, very very helpful. Thank you.

The negotiation one where we had the guest speaker. She was great. I’ve taken negotiation classes before and this webinar really helped me with the dialogue. It helped with phrasing and how to kind of set up the negotiation. That was very helpful.

Laura Brandenburg: You applied that one right away. That was like an immediate win.

Sue Melchert: Yes and it felt good to be able to apply the skill you just…

Laura Brandenburg: Yeah.

Sue Melchert: The Einstein Time was interesting. I had to figure that out and look it up. How did Einstein come up with this idea?

And then I also read people were referencing Einstein time in their little wins for the day, so I decided, well, I’ve got to figure this out. How can I apply it? So it’s almost like people say put it in the universe and do the expectation and you’ll get what you expect.

It’s all that same premise. You have a game plan. You proceed with your game plan and time will present itself. As long as you’re ready, just like in marketing, it’s a lot of preparation. When the moment hits, you’re there.

Laura Brandenburg: We were talking just yesterday in our group call about all the work that might happen, but then it’s the snap. Actually, a lot of times things are that quick. Sometimes you need the preparation and the planning and all of that; but sometimes it really is just a switch that flips and then you’re like wait, the world’s different and that can create space or release a lot of space to work on the things that matter most.

Sue Melchert: Yeah. That’s surprising what you can get done in just a couple of minutes.

Laura Brandenburg: Right.

Sue Melchert: I’ve decided to focus more on my tasks. So every morning I get up; I do my kind of like meditative with a cup of coffee, and then I decide what are my goals for the day? What do I have left over from the day before? So I’m prepared. And if I have a couple of minutes free, then I go right back to my task lists because I have an idea of what I want to do.

Laura Brandenburg: Yeah.

Sue Melchert: I also read someone else’s opinion of task lists and their suggestion was put it on the calendar. That just having a task list isn’t enough. You have to commit to the time. And that’s so true. And so when I talk to people on any kind of project, we do the same thing. If there’s a discussion on what needs to be done, the next question is “When?” I even do that with my family, too.

Laura Brandenburg: I was just listening to a teaching about that, which is something I think I want to talk about in the Circle in 2020 is how important your calendar is and scheduling in even the important personal stuff which feels impersonal. You have to schedule it in, but it actually is one of the most loving things that you can do by making, because once it’s in your calendar, you’re saying it’s a priority.

Sue Melchert: Right.

Laura Brandenburg: It’s philosophically the same thing with your task lists, but you’re really putting the time, you’re allocating the time to it. So thank you for sharing that.

Sue Melchert: It’s like date night. You have to plan a date night.

Laura Brandenburg: Yes you do. We do.

Alright. Last question. Thank you so much for sharing. What does success look like to you?

Sue Melchert: I see myself getting into a business analyst role. From there, gathering my hours so I can pursue getting the certification. I have not been able to get certification for project manager because I just wasn’t in an environment that presented enough hours.

So, this particular certification, there are fewer hours that I’ll need, but I also need to be in a project clocking the hours, having the whole backup for that. So, that’s like my year goal. I’m pretty sure I can pop it off in a year, but once I get into that environment, that’s where the hours come in.

Laura Brandenburg: And what certification are you considering?

Sue Melchert: Just the regular business analyst, what is it, CBAP practitioner?

Laura Brandenburg: Yep.

Sue Melchert: So a three-year goal…I’m seeing a lot of people that are also business analysts have that ITIL background. The IT, more of an overall familiarity. I think it’s up to four now.

One of the women in the group, she’s got her ITIL. So if she’s got it, I want to get it.

Laura Brandenburg: It is not a competition.

Sue Melchert: Well, I admire her, so let’s put it that way.

Laura Brandenburg: Yeah. Awesome.

Sue Melchert: She’s my secret mentor. She doesn’t know it. That’s really what I wanted. That’s why I joined because I wanted to see others and what are they doing.

This whole Circle of Success for me has been a mentoring program that I’ve certainly enjoyed and it has helped.

Laura Brandenburg: Thank you. Well thank you for sharing that and I’m excited to see where you go in your business analyst career. It’s been a real honor to have you as part of our founding members of our program this year and to be able to share a snapshot of what’s been going on with the rest of the world too. So, thank you so much, Sue.

Sue Melchert: My pleasure.

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