It’s my honor today to introduce you to Tammy Schlador, ACBA, and a Senior SAP Business Analyst, from Tempe, Arizona, who recently landed a new BA position and received a 20% salary increase.
In this interview, you’ll discover:
- How Tammy experienced a light bulb moment around process maps, even though she’d been doing them for over 20 years.
- How she leveraged data modeling techniques to cut down the turn-around time when working with an off-shore development team.
- How she created more project momentum early in her projects by applying the 8-step business analysis process framework, which led to people thanking her for her work. Even her boss said, “Wow, this project is going really well.”
- How she was able to nail a job interview by knowing the right terminology to use, and feeling more confident in her work.
- How updating her LinkedIn profile to highlight her ACBA certification and be clear about her purpose led to her being contacted about more relevant job opportunities, and landing a new position she didn’t even apply for – resulting in a 20% salary increase.
Laura Brandenburg: Hi, this is Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. I’m here today with ACBA Recipient, Tammy Schlador, from Tempe, Arizona.
Tammy Schlador: Hello.
Laura Brandenburg: Hi. So grateful to have you here. We’ve been chit-chatting a bit before we started and I’ve gotten to hear bits of the journey you’ve been on, but I’m excited to get the full details. If you can just take us back a few years. I know you’ve been a business analyst, you said for 20, maybe 25 years, but can you take us back about three or four years ago when you started The Blueprint program?
Tammy Schlador: I had just started a position at a steel foundry as a business analyst and this company wasn’t really big on BA processes. They really considered the lack of bureaucracy a bonus. I was really struggling. I was struggling because even though I had been a business analyst for a long time, I never had the formal training, like real specific training.
But I was also finding that the projects that I was working on, I’d get done with them and then the projects didn’t really go anywhere and/or I would get started on them, but I really couldn’t find the business, anyone who was willing to help me get going. And I’m like I’m doing this for you. So, I was really struggling with all of this.
So, then, I’m like, you know what. This company has an amazing training program. Their budget for it is huge. And so I went off looking and I found Bridging the Gap. I went asking, “Can I take these classes?” And they’re like, “Yeah, go ahead. No problem.” So, that’s where I started.
The first class I took was The Business Analyst Blueprint®.
Laura Brandenburg: You were looking to kind of formalize your experience and, it sounds like, be a little bit supported in an environment that didn’t really have a lot of support for a business analyst.
Tammy Schlador: Right. In The Business Analyst Blueprint® class, one of my big “wows” out of that class was the process map. How you actually try to process map, the visual display process. And when I got done through the class and working on my project, it was like, wow, this is awesome because my process is now so clear and it made me find the gaps and the missing pieces. It just forced me into a better process.
Through that, I had to pick a business process, a project that I was working on and I picked one that I was really struggling with it at the time and it was awesome because I had to figure out…the process was that we would make molds out of silica sand. Then we had to move them from the area where you make the mold into the area where the melted metal gets poured into them. The molds are huge. They’re about the size of a car. Where you put them and moving them around wasn’t easy. We had to be careful. I had to figure out how to do it better.
I was told, “People smarter than you have tried this and failed.” And I’m like, “Wow. No pressure here.”
I worked with all the people that were involved and in the end, I finally understood what the constraints were and I knew why it was failing. It wasn’t there. That wasn’t the problem. It was upstream. It was the things that were happening, decisions were made upstream in the process and the business said, “Yeah, we don’t want to change that process.” And I’m like, “Oh, alright then.”
I didn’t fix the problem, but I was able to talk intelligently about what the constraints were and why it was what it was.
Laura Brandenburg: Now, I’m sure you had done process maps before this.
Tammy Schlador: Oh yes.
Laura Brandenburg: What was the difference? What was the gap for you that got filled there?
Tammy Schlador: Part of it was who is doing what? Most of my process maps were simply just “what” and not who was doing them. Often, it was once you actually stop and said, “Who is doing what?” It was like, “Oh.” This is not just one step. This is six steps with decision trees that have to get put in there. That’s the piece that was the “Aha!” moment.
That when I got done with it, it’s like a process, especially one that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s different when it’s something you do day in and day out. But when you have to come into a new business, new process, and to understand it when you’re forced into the who and the what, and it’s just one action for each box, it’s like, wow. I know what’s happening now.
Laura Brandenburg: And it is. It’s often those little tweaks. A participant sometimes can feel like we’re being a bit sticklerish. That’s not a real word, but with how we review things and the feedback we give. But it is because those tweaks challenge your thinking and how we see things.
Tammy Schlador: They do.
Laura Brandenburg: Now you have that you just, I’m sure it’s natural for you.
Tammy Schlador: It is.
Laura Brandenburg: There are no questions. It’s always who and then what.
Tammy Schlador: Always. Yes.
Laura Brandenburg: That’s awesome. Do you have any other takeaways from maybe the use cases or data modeling module that you want to talk about?
Tammy Schlador: The use cases, I’d never done that before. That was actually kind of fun. I’ve not ever really used it again because I haven’t needed to, but it was still just stretching the mind on another way to look at how to look at a business process.
Data modeling, that I have used. That has really helped me with having even just the format on how to lay it out and how to present the data to somebody else. That part has been really good and helpful with newer projects.
Laura Brandenburg: Yeah. I don’t think we spoke or shared this yet, but you are an SAP Business Analyst. Right?
Tammy Schlador: Yes.
Laura Brandenburg: You have SAP expertise as well as business analysis. I can imagine that data comes up with maybe integrating systems or moving systems into SAP. How does it come out for you, the data modeling, specifically?
Tammy Schlador: The ERD where it shows the systems coming in and out, especially, I’ve had ones where you’re trying to understand where the primary set of data is, and then where it’s leaving and where it’s coming back. Sometimes, it’s just one direction. Having that diagram is even helped me understand the flow of all the information and what’s most important.
Also, the data dictionary, there have been times when I have had to design new tables that have to be used for a program. And so, having that process and those tools have made it so much simpler that I just kind of fill in all the blanks. I know exactly what kind of information I’m going to need to give to a program, or to somebody else to actually implement it without them coming back asking me, “Is that a number? Is that a text? What do you want it to look like?”
All of that just made it the first time and out, especially in my last job where the programmers were in China. There’s a whole 24-hour turnaround on any question that gets asked. It cut down all the questions and they were able to just produce what it was that I needed.
Laura Brandenburg: That’s awesome. It gets you to a lot of detail, for sure, that data modeling. But it’s necessary in a big system like that because, otherwise, the data just kind of disappears into the ether.
Tammy Schlador: Right.
Laura Brandenburg: You were one of our very first ACBA recipients. You took the Blueprint a few years ago and then in 2020, late 2020, early 2021, became an ACBA recipient by taking the BA Essentials, which is now Module 4 of The Business Analyst Blueprint®. Do you want to talk a little bit about that experience? I know you had a lot of Aha’s and kind of great feedback around the process and how that affected even the business that you were in. We’ll get to talk about your new job too.
Tammy Schlador: Right, right. Yeah. The BA Essentials was my favorite class out of all the ones that I did. That one, I would work on projects and there were times when I knew what I was doing, but I would feel a little lost at times, or sometimes I wondered, “What am I missing?” or “Why isn’t this flowing as easily as it should?”
After the 8-step business analysis process, when I learned all of that, and I start at the very beginning and worked my way through it, it was like, “Oh, I feel like I’m actually in control,” which is control is only so much what it is. But I still felt like I knew the steps.
I was very clear.
And then I could communicate with the rest of the team on what my expectations were and get clarity on what the business needed and the whole scope document and even having that clearly defined and signed off. It was like wow. I would just bring everyone into a room and say, “Okay, we need to discuss what it is you really want,” and then get them to sign off. When you get them to sign off, it gives a lot more responsibility on them to be really clear on what they want because they realize, oh, this is all she’s going to do.
Also, at the same time, I’ve got business support at the very beginning, and I actually generated a whole lot of positive energy around the project where people got excited about it. Where before, they just kind of acted like, “Well, you’re just going to go off and do and then you’ll tell me at the very end,” which was disheartening because in the very end, sometimes you get the “Oh, that’s what you did?” And I’m like, “That’s what you told me,” or “That’s what was documented.”
With the new 8-step process, I’m able to actually get better buy-in at the front end to get the positive energy through it. And then at the very end, people are like, “This is wonderful. Thank you.”
Laura Brandenburg: Yes. It sounds like just increase engagement all throughout as opposed to feeling like you had to figure it out on your own and then hope it’s right.
Tammy Schlador: Yes. And the last company I worked did not encourage user engagement throughout a project.
Laura Brandenburg: You were able to work around that, though.
Tammy Schlador: I was. And I was able to push the user engagement in a way that drew them in. Also, my boss even said, “Wow, this project is going really well.”
Laura Brandenburg: Awesome. Tell us a little bit about your new opportunity now.
Tammy Schlador: Now, I’m working in a pharmaceutical company, which is very different than a steel foundry. It’s my first time ever in pharmaceuticals. I had to go through a very rigorous interview process with many different people. Well, 75% of the interview was my SAP knowledge to make sure I actually knew what SAP was and how it worked. 25% was really about business analysis processes.
I felt like I was being quizzed through it. But I knew I got the answers right when you see the manager shaking his head and smiling. A lot of it was around the functional spec, around a scope document, getting user requirements documented, getting the user to sign off on it, staying on a timeline, which is part of the eight steps of having a very clear timeline that goes through the whole process.
All of that was part of the interview process. I just felt like I nailed it. I don’t believe that I could have done that without going through both the Essentials class and The Blueprint class. Going through the BA Essentials class and going through The Blueprint class, I was able to nail the interview.
Laura Brandenburg: You mentioned, too, like it was the terminology. Kind of intuitively you knew it before, but having the coursework helped you have more confidence.
Tammy Schlador: Yes. In the past, I know I fumbled through some of those questions. I felt like I knew the answer, but I just wasn’t communicating it clearly enough. You could just see on their faces, “I’m not sure if she really understands what she’s doing.” With the right terminology and the confidence, I was able to, very confidently, answer the questions. I know that’s what managers are looking for.
Laura Brandenburg: For sure. How did they find you? Did they find you on LinkedIn?
Tammy Schlador: They did. They found me on LinkedIn and sent me a message. When I first got the message, I was like, “Yeah, you know, I’m missing this and this.” And they responded back with, “Well, do you have XY and Z?” I’m like, “Yes.” They were like, “We want to talk to you.” And I’m like, “Alright. Let’s talk.”
I did update my LinkedIn profile recently. There are two things that I did on it. One was answering my why, my passion, what moves me. And my why is, “My passion is to create environments that are logical and intuitive by working to solve problems and improve systems and processes with innovative ideas.” That’s on there.
Then, also, about the same time, I completed the ACBA and I put that on my LinkedIn profile and promoted it as well. After those two changes, every week I’d get people sending me messages for new leads. Now, the positions are much more business analysis centric, which is awesome because that’s what I want to do. Before, a lot of them were more technical/functional positions that I wasn’t really qualified for. Now, I’m actually getting the right leads, which makes me feel really good.
Laura Brandenburg: So many people are out trying to find that right opportunity. They actually found you.
Tammy Schlador: Right. I wasn’t looking. I was hoping. I was wanting to move on, but I wasn’t actively looking when it came knocking.
Laura Brandenburg: And you almost said no. You’re like, “Eh, I miss these things.”
Tammy Schlador: Yes. With the job at the steel foundry, it bumped my salary up into the six-figure salary. I got good raises while I was there. But this new job, I thought I would push a little on the envelope, what I thought was pushing on the envelope, and I asked for a 20% raise. The manager didn’t even bat an eye. He was just like, “Yeah, that’s within our salary range.” And I’m like, “Oh. Alright.”
Laura Brandenburg: Congratulations.
Tammy Schlador: Thank you.
Laura Brandenburg: What has being in the new company having that kind of salary, what has that meant to you?
Tammy Schlador: It has been amazing. First off, I’m able to do some things and plan some vacations. Of course, still waiting for COVID to calm down a little bit more. But I have some amazing vacations with my family planned with the extra money.
With the new position, I have a boss who is amazingly supportive and who respects me and trusts me. The change has just been amazing. I feel like a whole new person with this new job.
Laura Brandenburg: I feel like I can testify to that because we were in webinars together just a few months ago. Your energy is just amazing and you seem really happy. It’s great to see that.
Tammy Schlador: Thank you.
Laura Brandenburg: Final question, any words of wisdom for somebody looking to follow in your footsteps?
Tammy Schlador: I would say that even with my 20 plus years of experience doing business analysis work, this class, this training has just stepped up my game and helped me more. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing something; you can still continue to learn and grow and become better. That’s what I was looking for and that’s what I found. Even now that I finished my ACBA, I’m not done learning. I’m not done growing. I am still continuing that journey.
Laura Brandenburg: It’s a learning profession. Thank you so much.
Tammy Schlador: It is.
Laura Brandenburg: Thank you for sharing that, Tammy. Thank you so much for your time today. Congratulations.
Tammy Schlador: Thank you.
>>How to Learn the Foundational Business Analyst Skills (And Build Your Body of F0rmal Work Samples)
When you join The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program, you’ll gain real-world experience in the industry-standard techniques and business analysis processes. You’ll create work samples vetted by experienced instructors and have the opportunity to become a credentialed business analyst as a recipient of the Applied Certification in Business Analysis™ (ACBA).