From Project Manager to Business Analyst: Wendell White

Today we meet Wendell White, an ACBA and Project Manager, who recently completed The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program. 

What we love about Wendell’s story is that, similar to many course students, he wasn’t aware that he was already performing business analysis work in his work as a project manager. Through the help of a recruiter friend, he joined the program and received the certification to showcase his value to his superiors.  

In this interview, you’ll discover: 

  • Wendell’s journey of becoming a business analyst 
  • How Wendell uses the skills, knowledge, and templates from the program practically in his career 
  • The confidence Wendell has gained knowing he has the skill set and templates to serve the stakeholders and directors well 

 

Andrea Wilson: Welcome. I am Andrea Wilson with Bridging the Gap. I am here today with Wendell White, who was a participant in our 2021 Blueprint program. Hello Wendell.

Wendell White: Hi  Andrea. How are you?

Andrea Wilson: I am doing well. How are you today?

Wendell White: I’m awesome. Thank you.

Andrea Wilson: Fantastic. Very glad to have you. We’re here to kind of talk about where you’ve been, where you’re going, what’s changed for you. So I’d like to start out kind of talking about your career. Will you tell me a little bit about you and your career?

Wendell White: I will. Primarily I’ve been, for the past 20 or so years, and I’d say off and on a project manager. I started off like most, coming out of the college, just in the business world, working in technology, and I had a knack for computers and computer science in which I majored in while in college. I never knew it was something that I had a passion for or a skill until some others told me.

And for me, it was all about getting certifications and computers when it came to Microsoft certification and so forth. I would learn how to use a number of tools that I realized I was helping businesses manage projects. So I deemed myself early on as a project manager, really not knowing what managing a project was all about. But as I kept doing it, I went on and sought, further, more formal education in terms of managing projects. I’d like to say, in some cases, I felt rather good at it, rather accomplished at it, at least many of the people that I reported to said I did a good job, whether it be in their operations department or different various departments, but I’ve always had different titles.

So, as I looked at growing my career and furthering my career, and I’ve always been a believer in education. In most cases, I always look for the company to put together an educational track for me. However, when it came to the world of analyzing business or business analysts, I really didn’t know much about it. However, I thought I knew more than I really knew. It took a colleague of mine, someone I went to college with, to let me know she knew that I had been a project manager for a number of years, and she said one day, “Have you ever thought about being a business analyst?” And my response was, “I’d never be a business analyst.”

I worked with them all the time because as was a project manager, I would work with them, but I realized in the projects that I was managing, there were two things that I didn’t capture very well in my own personal career. One, I manage every project in a traditional manner. And I never knew what was coming when agile projects came into play and there were more changes than I was comfortable with. It was a business analyst that I didn’t realize her title at the time, but she was the business analyst that I was assigned to work with. And as she was putting together functional requirements documents, she put a 70-page functionals document in place. And I think she did it in a, maybe about 14 days, which it would have taken me by myself, maybe six to eight months to do. And I had no idea how she got accomplished that.

So after realizing what she had done, and this was years ago, I kept the requirements documentation because it was so well put together. I just could not figure out how she put it together and the way that she put it together. And it made me look at my requirements gathering process that typically I would do myself. And again, I thought that was a little bit more accomplished than I really was in pulling requirements. And I’ve looked at some of my documents and projects that I had in the past and I realized I could have done things a lot better. And even though most of the projects that I completed, they were typically under budget and within the guidelines.

However, I just realized they could have been better. So rather than me looking for a company organization to improve that, I just took what my friend was sharing with me in terms of to look at the business analyst route to see what really that was all about. That led me to wanting to get certified in analyzing business, because I’ve said, okay, well, I’ll get certified. As I was going down the path of getting certified, the same person that said, “Hey, look at it.” She said, “Hey, look at this company here.” And it was Laura Brandenburg’s Bridging the Gap program that she sent me over an email and I was amazed because I said, well, here’s a program that rather than me studying for, I say the initials, which is great. Here was a program that was in place that would actually give me hands-on learning and training.

And at the time, and which I’m currently today, a project manager, I was hired as a project manager. I was hired for a new project. And the first thing that I realized on the project was right around the time I was looking at the Bridging the Gap program, the first thing that I noticed was I’d asked the manager I was to report to what projects will we be working on? And the first thing he says, “Well, we don’t have any projects.” So I was left at a loss because I knew they had hired and I was sent over as a project manager, but they didn’t have any projects. So we had conversation. I explained that and I realized maybe two weeks into it that they needed a business analyst and the company had business analysts, but they had spent their budget on a project manager that, yes, I’m a competent project manager managing, but they didn’t have projects, necessarily, to manage.

So I took it upon myself to tell the company that since you don’t have any projects, I’ll work with the business analyst. And again, since they didn’t have one assigned, I took on the role of learning how to be a business analyst. And again, learning about the Bridging the Gap program, for me, it was timely because as I was receiving information from Bridging the Gap, it was giving me sort of the structure and understanding and the deliverables the company wanted and many of the things that I was learning and doing in class with Bridging the Gap, I would take those assignments and got to customize them to my job and what I was doing with the company that I was contracted to work with.

And it worked out really well outside of the fact that many of the things that I was learning in the Bridging the Gap class, the company, they loved it, but they weren’t at a pace to keep up with the pace of the class.

Andrea Wilson: Interesting.

Wendell White: That kept it going. And again, many of the processes that I learned with the Bridging the Gap program I’m implementing to this day. The documents that I put in our corporate Wiki site and in different pages, senior level representatives of company, they’re noticing that Wendell, myself, had done this months ago when I was in the class and I would actually put it in the Wiki in terms of here’s a pathway, let’s follow this pathway. So we’re kind of catching up now.

I’ve practiced many of the things with the Bridging the Gap program that I learned to kind of get me to where I am today. And that is, again, as a project manager, which I love being a project manager. I’ve opened my eyes and my career, and I look at more opportunities and I feel more accomplished that pursuing those opportunities that now look for business analysts to perform at a certain level of function. So I look to kind of bring my business analyst skills up along with my project management skills in these agile environments that I continue to find myself in.

Andrea Wilson: Sweet. That sounds like quite the journey there. So you started out as a project manager and you were doing some project management and you had this other person that had some BA skills and kind of opened your eyes to what it could be. And maybe a little hungry for more is what it sounds like.

Wendell White: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And the person that did the documentation of the functional requirements documentation, again, from 10 years ago she, too, was a project manager. However, she was trained and certified as a business analyst that I found out and we keep in contact. But that’s different from the person that introduced me to the Bridging the Gap program.

Andrea Wilson: All right. So tell me a little bit more about how you got introduced to Bridging the Gap, and what led you to pursue the ACBA certification?

Wendell White: The program was introduced by a friend in an email that had knew, for the longest, I had been a project manager. However, in me pursuing managing projects, I would say I got a little bored. And not only did I get a little bored in pursuing projects, I think projects were not… more of the projects that I found myself on, there was something wrong with project management world, and I just kind of wanted to take a hiatus from it. And it was during that time that COVID had come about and a lot of the companies and corporations were shutting down their offices and so many meetings are going on.

So, while I wasn’t necessarily pursuing any more tasks or jobs or contracts in terms of managing projects, she had sent me over an email, and I’m not exactly sure. I believe she was in the process of learning to become a business analyst, but she had somehow come across the Bridging the Gap program. I don’t know how she came across it in her world and what she does. She works from home and works as a recruiter. I didn’t know how, but she had sent me that information.

A matter of fact, I just thought. She was helping me as a recruiter find job opportunities that was outside of being a project manager. And I remember telling her that I wasn’t a business analyst. However, she kept sharing with me how there are so many opportunities out there that as she would say, they were requiring field’s that she knew I had. So, I kept reminding her because she had my resume and my curriculum vitae, that I’m a project manager, but she kept insisting that, “No, you do business analyst work,” and she’s looking at it on my resume.

So I said, “Okay, well send it over,” because I really didn’t feel that I was a business analyst. So when she sent me over the information for Bridging the Gap, I listened to, it was an introductory, maybe like a precursor class to Bridging the Gap, but it wasn’t the program. But for me, because if I want to learn something, when it made sense to not go directly for certification, because certification would give me a certification. You take a test. And I know it’s a very difficult test. I believe I had a conversation with someone from Bridging the Gap. I don’t remember her name, out of Iowa, about my path. And it was a conversation with her that she said you know, yes, you can take a certification and get the letters.

Yeah, of course, if you passed it’s a difficult exam. She said you may want to take a look at this course. And in taking a look at the course, it was at the beginning of the year. Now I believe it was at the end of the year because I said, well, if I’m going to take a course, I wanted to make sure I had a way to pay for the course in terms of if it’s going to enhance my business. So, I just took account and followed Laura’s process of just getting a precursory look at the, Bridging the Gap program and then have a conversation with one of the Bridging the Gap employees just about what it is when the wants.

And it was a combination of that. And for me, because it wasn’t so much of me getting the letters. I truly wanted to learn how business analyst went about going into a business, going into a company and systematically, with a process in mind, that you can follow. I’m a process person. I said what better way, particularly when it was hands-on. And I knew if it’s, hands-on it’s a matter of me putting in the effort to show up for class, take the assignments, complete the assignments, but also at the same time complete your job.

Because again, I was hired as a project manager and I just think it was a bit of luck that I found the program and completed the program, stuck with the program and got frustrated with the program because it was a lot of work, but thoroughly enjoyed the learning that it took me through.

Andrea Wilson: There is a lot to the program. You mentioned kind of having that need for the formal education as you moved yourself along your career and wanting to know what, you know, and have something that says that, you know, what you know. And the program is built that way. Right? So there is a lot of work. It does produce some really good fruit, right?

So I hear confidence that it sounds like in the beginning, maybe we’re a little shaky about, maybe your friend pointed out to you that, hey, you’ve got some BA skills here and you said, “Oh, I’m a PM,” and you’ve worked along and you’ve worked along and you started the program and you realize, hey, maybe some of these are transferable skills. What are some of the things that you saw that maybe your friend was saying, and that, perhaps, you’d already had some experience with that once you got into the program, you thought, okay, this makes sense? Now that we have some framework to work in, what are some of the transferable skills that you came across?

Wendell White: What immediately comes to mind is because I’ve gotten into a habit of managing projects, you go into an organization and, again, with the company that I’m kind of attracted with, it’s a fortune 500 company rather than a large company. You need a certain level. I knew I had the confidence when it came to managing projects, but I really was sort of thrown off guard when the director said there are no projects and I knew there were projects.

So for me, I always knew for any company I’ve ever worked with, any project, I hit it hard first. And there was a portion in the Bridging the Gap program that kind of admonished against, hey, you guys, you want to jump in fast. I never thought it was important, and this is funny because it crinkly is important. I’d never thought it was important to sort of hone in on the, as is current state. I knew it’s kind of tell me what direction you want to go, where you want to be and work towards that. And I remember the first day of a project early in my career, and I kept this as a habit, was I hit the ground running and I always want to jump out the door and identify the stakeholders as we’re in the process of putting together a charter document.

That’s the first thing you do when initiating it. And one of the young ladies that I was working with, this was years ago, she had a question in terms of why I was going to meet these people to put together a stakeholder management plan or just to gather stakeholders. And I thought it was natural, but it was the Bridging the Gap program that made me realize, Wendell, the only reason you’re kind of identifying these stakeholders is because of these things called requirements, which I know what a requirement is, I know how important it is. I just didn’t know how to systematically get there.

And the young lady that refused to go from department to department, I could not convince her and explained to her, then, what I was doing. And it was the Bridging the Gap program that at least put in front of me, well, this is what you’re doing, and that is when you are putting together a charter document and putting together and listing out those stakeholders, you’re pulling together the information.

It’s going to come into the requirements and the objectives that the company and overall is going toward, while at the same time, you’re documenting where they are today and sort of keeping them along throughout the path from initiating to planning, to executing and ultimately closing either a phase or a project. So those were the transferable skills in terms of, I knew sort of, I kind of had an understanding of what to do, why I was doing it. The Bridging the Gap program, in my opinion, sort of put it together just in a more academic process that I could understand. And now I can actually document it.

And if I am meeting or doing, let’s say trying to put together a focus group, before putting together the focus group I learned from the Bridging the Gap program, why not send out a memo first or an email first indicating what type of meeting, what you want to accomplish with the meeting, who you plan to be there, and leave some of those assets in place prior to the meeting before just showing up? And if you look at any of my projects in the past, I really was the guy to knock on the door and show up and I didn’t have an outline in place. But again, in the past we’ve managed to get through it. I just think I kind of learned to get through in an efficient way.

Andrea Wilson: So that framework that was provided through the process allowed you to recognize, okay, we need to stop and get oriented. Right? That’s one of the big things that comes out of the program. Thank you so much for making that observation. That’s one of the big things that Bridging the Gap does is to share that framework with you and help you to kind of figure out how to get organized, right, instead of just jumping off the deep end in the beginning and getting down in the weeds of things, standing back, getting oriented, acclimating yourself to who’s, who.

What does the business want? And getting to know what’s going on here? What is the as-is process? And let’s think about a methodical way of approaching gathering these requirements. Those are great takeaways from the program. You kind of jumped the gun here because my next question was which module really resonated with you? It sounds like that initial business process analysis, as well as that kind of essentials at the end of bringing anything together. But is there anything else that really resonated with you? Any other module? We talked about use case and wireframes, data modeling. Anything that stood out and resonated with you?

Wendell White: To be honest, yes. It’s hard to say which one, and what I mean by that is. In managing projects in the company that I’m with every module, we’re in the middle of implementing and working through now. So my natural the section with the ERDs, because I’ve done in the past, data transitions and system migrations. I’ve done that in the past. So for me, kind of being, I say a past computer guy and kind of one of the reasons I moved away from being the computer guy is because I did find that I liked being a people person.

So where my natural is, yes, migrating systems and building code. With the current project that I’m on now, I’ve been asked to code and develop. I’ve been asked to migrate systems. And, again, they hired a project manager that just kind of made me realize they have no idea of their as-is state. So that gave me an opportunity to sort of dig into the module to understand how important is the as-is state, the current state and understanding there’s a difference between the as-is and the future state.

So, why enjoy the opportunity that the company has given me to sort of pull it apart a little bit in terms of the company. They’re buying new systems. They’re getting new software programs. I have a product owner that’s doing something. It’s the Bridging the Gap program that at least allowed me to step back, put a process in place that I was able to share with the director, really with the sponsor to say, as long as we stick to the process that I’ve put in place, and the only reason I was able to come up with the process to give them and feel really confident that it’s a process that works, if we follow it, was the Bridging the Gap program.

And I will admit one of the comments you had made in one of the projects that I turned in; I forget which module. We were about to have a big meeting and you had put in your notes, make sure you ask these questions. And it was the set of questions that I do have someone that’s an influencer in the group that really doesn’t like to answer questions and really likes to get through a meeting very quickly.

I remember keeping the meeting a little bit longer than usual saying, hey, I have to get these questions answered before we move on. And they were really critical questions to where we were trying to go. So, I really can’t say I had a particular module that I enjoyed because in all honesty ,my goal when the class ended, was to get to the level of super BA status. And that is where I want people in the group, in the company that I work for now to ask, “Hey, Wendell, you put it in a number of processes, we appreciated you working with us. It was rough, but we want you to actually work with this team.” So that’s the piece that I kind of want to get to eventually deploy all the different modules with the company that I’m with, because again, they are going, literally through every aspect, every module within the Bridging the Gap program that you guys laid out.

Andrea Wilson: That’s awesome. I’m super glad to hear that. I like that super BA status and it sounds like you’re getting some really good feedback from your senior business folks. I read some of the comments that you mentioned about gaining some foundational knowledge and then gaining that confidence. It sounds like you’re sharing some of the documents that you built. So you got some hands-on experience and you are using that in your workplace. So you got kind of a bonus and able to do that through the ACBA program.

You’ve mentioned meeting agendas. Isn’t that awesome to have those agendas to help you to get off the ground in your meetings and to do that preparation. So it’s great. It does sound like you got a lot from that section as well. Having those agendas before you had these meetings, whether it was a discovery or to go over something existing. So, I’m glad to hear that those artifacts are working for you. Any tips or tricks?

Wendell White: Well, I will mention the process flow diagram. That’s the document, I believe, that’s the first module. That’s the document that we had, large company had a process flow, and I know that it was in a different department and I noticed their process flow diagram. It was put together by a senior BA. It had no swim lanes and it needed swim lanes, but again, it was a different department. It wasn’t my job. However, the department that I was reporting to was in the process of putting a process flow in place. It was just by fate that the Bridging the Gap program started that module first.

That was the one document that I will say I enjoy it because again, when I was provided my laptop and all the information with the company, it had most of the programs I’ve worked with in the past, particularly Visio. However, I’ve never done a process flowchart with swim lane diagrams before until Bridging the Gap. I’ve used Visio for a number of years. I don’t know how.

But long story short, I put together the process flow that really the following year, meaning this year in 2022, they adopted that process flow that I’d put out there in the Wiki. And it was my assignment that I turned into Bridging the Gap because Laura and the team did a very thorough job in just putting together the process flow diagram, putting together the legend, putting together the information out there that allowed sort of a new team, even though Bridging the Gap was working with me, it allowed the new team to see, okay, how did we come up with this end document, which is the process flow diagram.

And I was able to walk the entire team through a process flow diagram with minimal modifications. But we now have an actual process flow diagram for an engineering group with the company that I work for that’s able to look at it, work toward it, improve it and gain that buy-in that I learned from the Bridging the Gap program. So many things that I have to tell you that the program put together in a very short period of time. But again, I only say that because we only have you guys from what, August to January. It went fast for me though, again, a lot of work, it was longer days for me, but for me, it was a work in process because I was able to use what I was learning real time with the company that I’m currently working with now.

Andrea Wilson: There’s a ton of compliments in there. But I do have to give you one because Bridging the Gap didn’t put together that process flow chart, you did, based on the knowledge that you gained in the program. I’m glad to hear that it is working well for you and the process that you have put together to review that with your stakeholders and your team. It is producing really good fruit for you.

I’m glad to hear that was your work. That was the hands-on work that you did as a part of the program. So kudos to you for sticking to it and building a great product. I did work with you directly. You did work with a lot of the instructors, but I did work with you in reviewing some of that information and you did great work. So thank you for that. Like I said, we got to see some of the feedback after you went through the program, which is the reason we really wanted to talk to you. We like working with the participants, seeing where they came from, where they’re going.

What’s next? So any tips, advice you’d like to give to anyone that might be following your footsteps?

Wendell White: Yeah, the tips I would say is follow the process, follow the program. I do think an apply type of program, it’s almost ingenious to take to, literally, have just hands on work. And I just think that’s difficult to do in how the program put it together. It just makes sense. It flows.

Tips? Like I said, I believe the program sends out information that’s accessible. You can access it at any of the time of the day or night. So for me, a lot of times, yes, I did have to download the audio and I did listen to it while I was at work, but I felt good about listening to it at work. Not that I was not doing my job, but it was helping me improve what I was turning in to my senior level managers and so forth. So, so for me, I just say stick with the program and be open to maybe a little bit of a different way of obtaining a certification.

And yes, the certifications are great. And if anything, I would say if there was a little bit more time where I haven’t had an opportunity to really tell anyone about The Bridging the Gap program and the certification because I just have a lot of work that the company has me doing and it takes me a while just to at least relax and say, “Hey, you know what? I got the certification. I think is pretty cool.” And there are a lot of opportunities out there for business analysts that really know what they’re doing in terms of understanding that it is a process. It’s doable. It just takes a little bit of learning.

Andrea Wilson: Nice. Awesome. Well, thank you. Thank you. We’ve gotten where we wanted to go here. Is there anything else that you’d like to share?

Wendell White: No, just, I look forward to getting the emails and I think I still get a few emails from you guys and  learning even more Bridging the Gap II, the sequel. But again, my pursuit, like I said, I do remember in the program the super BA status, quite possibly just events. Actually, I do think one day we’ll get in the training and it would probably more be on the BA side than the project management side only because I do enjoy and starting to kind of really understand that whole BA stuff.

Andrea Wilson: Well, I’m glad we could be a part of starting your BA career, that you’ve had an opportunity to go through the program, that you’re seeing success from the program. And maybe thinking about doing some training as a BA yourself. Bridging the Gap works to build the business analyst career one business analyst at a time, and we’re glad to see the success that you’re having.

Wendell White: Wow. Nice.

Andrea Wilson: All right. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Wendell White: You’re welcome.

>>How to Learn the Foundational Business Analyst Skills (And Build Your Body of Formal 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).

>> Click here for more information about The Business Analyst Blueprint® <<

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