What Does Success Look Like?

So often in my work with new business analysts, we have a conflict of perspective. I see someone as successful (say because they had discovered that in their list of transferable skills, they were well-qualified for a variety of business analyst positions) and that person would not see themselves as successful (say because they didn’t have a formal “BA” job yet, or they did but it was a short-term contract, etc).

So this begs the question, what does success look like?

I believe that each of you owns your future and your career direction. I can’t tell you that you should be making $82,493 per year (which is the average salary of a business analyst, according to the most recent, but dated business analyst salary survey), or that you should be creating business cases or leading your team to create better software. I can’t tell you what your success looks like. That has to come from you.

But I can tell you what kinds of success others have found. Let’s take Rob Jowaisis as an example. Rob has shared the start of his BA career journey with us – just last week. You might read Rob’s story and say, “Well, he’s not done yet.” I say, “Of course he’s not done! Are you done?” I’m not done.

We’re done with our careers when we retire, and maybe not even then. Rob’s story is a success story. Rob is being financially rewarded for a job he likes and a job that is giving him opportunities to expand his business analysis experience. Rob is very close to closing the deal on a life-long dream of getting a college degree. Rob is a man with a mission. He is paying the price now for a greater tomorrow. He is a success. If Rob waits until he achieves every part of his dream to celebrate, he’ll lose out on enjoying the amazing journey he’s on.

Let’s take another example. One of our recent course participants, we’ll call her Jo, jumped on an opportunity to analyze a process for a local small business. Jo tackled one of their most complex and error-ridden processes. In the matter of a few hours of discovery and several more of analysis, she was able to put together that process in an easy-to-understand document.

They were so impressed, they asked her to come back and help implement the obvious improvements that were needed. What’s more, the business owner is well-connected locally and willing to make introductions to organizations that can employ Jo full-time.

Is she employed yet as a BA? Not the last time I checked (but she had just secured a second BA job interview from talking about this pro bono work experience).

Is she a success? Absolutely, and without question, yes.

The question is, what does success look like to you?

In essence, success doesn’t have to be about achieving a big milestone. That’s not to say that milestones such as new jobs and promotions aren’t important. They are.

  • But that meeting where you leveraged a new communication technique and earned a new stakeholder’s trust and created a happier conversation for both of you? That’s a success.
  • That pilot project you did using a new business analysis technique? That’s a success.
  • That contract job that in the best of worlds leads to a full-time opportunity, and in the worst of scenarios expands your business analysis experience? Success.

I can tell you what it looks like to me and when I see it in others, but only you will know what it looks like to you. My challenge to you is not to blow success up into something so big you never achieve it. Make it small. Celebrate now. And you’ll get to those big successes much, much sooner.

The only failure is absence of forward progress. Failure is not experimenting with the new technique because you might not get it right. Failure is not sending your resume because you might hear “No.”  You are too special for that. Your life is too short to be doing less than fulfilling work. Your life is too short to wait until later to be fairly compensated.

We are a community of business analysts. We make change. We improve organizations. The world needs us to do what we do. The world needs your successes – the big and the small.

2 thoughts on “What Does Success Look Like?”

  1. Howdy Laura:
    In re-reading some of your old posts that get me pumped up at being a BA, I came across this one again. Love it. What’s funny now is that I have a whole new view on the topic. This last week I took the idea of “what does success look like” to some BAs I manage in the context of the projects they work on. In building out a presentation on what I called expectation setting and management, I realized that there are different levels of it and the level depends on the context. Here in your article, it’s all about defining for oneself what career attainment and other large format goals show themselves as when achieved. In my context, we are trying to actively define what success looks like with our customers at the beginning of projects so there is agreement that success has actually been achieved. A shared vision if you will.

    So it struck me that whether we are having the conversation with ourselves in private, or having it as a shared endeavor, we MUST have it. Without success criteria, our perspectives, and potentially those of others, change along the way as the environment around us changes. We are then constantly striving for a moving target.

  2. One of our LinkedIn group members read this post and had this to say. I found her words so encouraging and inspirational that I just had to share them here:

    “In deciding to push forward and just keep moving towards the goal for a career transition without leaving the comfort zone of a secure paycheck, I started reaching out to PM’s and others in IS & T. This lead to a contact who is a BA in the company. My initial request was to secure a few ‘shadowing’ opportunities, but, based on some of my initial questions about documenting, processes, etc., the opportunity evolved into an extended meeting invite approved by the BA’s Team Lead to sit in on a Application Developer’s meeting for Standardization. After the meeting, the Team Lead commented that she was impressed by the questions I asked and even made mention that the department will be looking for a Junior BA in the next calendar year once funds for an FTE can be solidified. She suggested that I keep in touch.

    Do I have a BA job – No.
    Did I get paid to participate – No.

    After the initial excitement, these thoughts and others like them began to bring down the high. However, after reading Laura’s blog, I realized that, yes, I am a success and the it was perfectly okay to feel excited and accomplished for what I was able to make happen! It was a small step in the journey, but I am encouraged to keep moving forward.

    So for all of you trying to make the transition, Keep Moving Forward!”

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