Becoming the Go-To Business Analyst – An Interview with Andrea Wilson, ACBA, PMP

Becoming the Go-To Business Analyst – An Interview with Andrea Wilson, ACBA, PMP

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Hello and welcome. Laura Brandenburg here from  Bridging the Gap here today with Andrea Wilson   who is an ACBA recipient and a participant in our  Business Analyst Blueprint Program and agreed to   share a little bit more about her career and her  experience with the program. Thank you so much   Andrea. You’re joining us from Tallahassee, right? Tallahassee, Florida. Yes. 

Yes, welcome. And you are an Information  Resource Management Specialist. Is that correct?  Information Resource Management  Consultant. It is a lot.  Consultant, yeah. Way better. Do you want to just  start by maybe sharing a little bit about where   you were before you started the Blueprint program  and what you were looking for out of your career?  Sure. It’s been quite the rollercoaster. I started  my job a few years back. It was new to me. I  

started as a Systems Analyst. I was doing coding  and I was there for just a few months and someone   mentioned that there was this business analyst  role coming open. One of the managers put a bug   in my ear and said, “You’ve been doing really  good. This is an opportunity. We’d hate to lose   you. We hate to see you walk out the door.” It  kind of fell on me to do a little bit of research.  I had, apparently, been doing business  analysis type things and did not realize   that’s what I was doing. I started kind of  searching around asking questions, gathering   information and in my searches I came across  Bridging the Gap and saw some information about   starting a business analysis career. I thought,  “Okay, I’ll read this and see what I get.” One of  

the things it talked about was kind of looking  at transferable skills and I thought, “Okay,   what are these skills?” I started to read through  them and realized, “I can do that.” “I’ve done   that.” “I’ve been doing that.” I think that gave  me just a little bit of confidence, enough to say,   “Okay, I’m going to apply for this.” I did and I got an interview. It was   going to be a huge jump for me so I thought, oh,  okay, I really need to know what I need to know.   I took a few more of those free courses that  were available from Bridging the Gap because   I was so excited about what I was learning and it  seemed like things I could apply. It made sense.  

It wasn’t just this vague notion of stuff. I did. I went through a few of those   and went through the interview, made the second  interview, and there I was with just these few   free trainings. I got a $26,000  pay increase which was huge.  Immediately, I’m in the role and there’s a lot,  the heavy hitter stakeholders and all these things   and I really wanted to hone my skills more. You  found that I was a return customer. I took the   Use Cases and Wire Frames class. After that, I  jumped into the Blueprint almost immediately.   It just kind of changed my world. I realize  I’m being wordy here, but I really want to  

talk about my path because I lacked the full  confidence I needed to just really push forward.   As I learned more concrete and structured  skills, I was able to start applying them.  Once I did that, I quickly became the go-to person  after the Blueprint. That was amazing. That was   good. I became kind of the right-hand person. I’ve  just flourished since then. When the opportunity   for the ACBA came open, oh man, I just didn’t  have the money. I didn’t have the money. COVID   happened and our office didn’t have the money,  but I’d had so much success and I said, okay,   I’m just going to bite the bullet here and pay for  this and do it. The very first thing that happened  

after I finished it was I posted it on Linked  In and this CIO sent me a message saying,   “Superb. This is awesome.” I got immediate  recognition from a place I did not expect it.   The confidence just continued to  grow. And that’s how I got here.  Wow. I’m so glad you shared that. I had no  idea. That was so gorgeous. That’s such a   beautiful story. There’s so much that I think we  can unpack there and go into a little bit, but  

the piece that you started with, the transferable  skills, I’ve been doing this before but I didn’t   know what it was called. Can you talk a little  bit about in that first interview when you were   interviewing for that business analyst position  and that’s where you got the $26,000 pay increase.   How did you start to speak to those things?  We have a lot of people in that position.   What gave you the confidence to say, “I can  do this based on what I’ve done in the past?”  I started thinking about roles that I had in the  past. When I looked at the, I think it was an   eBook. It was something. I don’t remember. It was  so long ago that I got from Bridging the Gap about  

starting my BA career. There’s that roadmap there.  One of the first things on the roadmap was looking   at transferable skills and I thought, “Okay.  I’ve done QA. I’m process driven. I’ve done these   diagrams for programming. I’ve done flow charting  and things like that.” There were so many things  

on that list that I said, “I have these skills.  I just have not seen them under this title.”  Once I picked out several of them and I said, “I’m  doing this. I’m doing that. I’ve done this. I’ve   done that.” Okay. Let me read a bit further. Let  me see exactly what a BA is doing. And I’m like,   okay. When you come in to something you just  don’t know. It was just kind of a no-brainer.  

You get to know who’s who. You get to know the  “why” behind the situation. You get to know,   “What’s the end goal?” “What are you trying to  do?” What is my role?” Those were all things that   I saw very early on. It’s actually been a repeat  thing that I’ve seen across many of the courses   since I’ve taken so many. You always start there.  I’ve seen that and that was what made me say,   “Okay, I’ve got confidence. I can move  forward with this. Let’s just go and  

see where it takes us.” That’s what I did. Then you were in the first position and it   sounded like it felt like it was a big jump. You  had the confidence that you had done it before.   But when you were in it, can you talk a little bit  about being in it, officially, for the first time?  It’s funny because it’s an IT office and in an IT  role, I started kind of in this development role.   But as a developer, you have to do your  own business analysis anyway, but it’s   different. You do your developer analysis. Once I moved in to the role, I think I was   still considered a developer and folks would  come to me and ask me development type questions.  

Or when I would go to these meetings with the  stakeholders, there was kind of this expectation   that breaking down the business process was not  where I was going to go. Being able to hold those   conversations, to help to define scope and to  reign in scope and to keep it from creeping,   and then just having those conversations  about where are we going? Is everybody on   the same page about what the plan is? That’s  what when I first stepped into the role,   there was just kind of this uncertainty and having  taken some of the courses, I had some tools.  I bought some of the templates that were available  so I had ideas for starting meetings with the   stakeholders and having those discussions and  trying to figure out where to go, looking at   artifacts that already existed. Those were things  that gave me structure and allowed me to function   in a way that was very organized and present  myself in a way that was very organized. Using  

those tools, putting out professional looking  meeting agenda, that was very helpful. I gained   a lot of those things through these courses. That’s awesome. It sounds like there wasn’t   a lot of structure to the business analyst role  in your organization. Some people have “This is  

how you do things,” but they were really  looking to you to bring that structure.  For our agency, we have what I think is a  small IT department. We’ve got quite a few   developer network teams, all these sister  positions. But the BA position there was  

fairly new. We’d had another person in the role,  but she kind of had her own process. It was very   informal and I think I had the autonomy to be  informal, but the structure is important and that   helps the tech team of a developer, that helps  keep everyone on the same page. Having that   structure provides a guideline for everybody  to follow, then also provide some continuity   from each iteration of the project or each sprint  that we do along with our users. Very informal.   The sessions with our users were very informal. Now we can go to a place where everything was  

documented. Everything was  there in black and white or   whatever color I chose to make the template. But  then, we started into this very structured process   and our users got used to it and they liked  it. They were happy with now, okay, this is   organized and it makes some sense and we can refer  back to documents. It was a big change, I think,   for everybody. But it was a pleasant change. Management, my direct management changed about   a year into that role for me. The person that  came in came in from outside the organization.  

She learned that I had a different role and  was a bit apprehensive not just with me,   but with the whole team. And quickly, after seeing  that structure, “Oh, you guys know what you’re   doing here,” and adopted some of those things.  And it was very helpful to bring us all together.  It’s amazing. It sounds like you  not just excelled in the role,   but brought a lot of leadership to that role, and  a lot of standards and gained a lot of traction. 

You mentioned being the go-to person  and I’m guessing that’s kind of what   made you the go-to person. Is that a fair…? After the new manager came in, yeah, that did.   Once she got to see what we  were doing and our processes,   the Blueprint was coming along for me  at that time. We just were able to mesh   and talk through a lot of these documents  and these diagrams that were created.  

Then just showing the overall process, looking  at the contexts between the different systems   was there because it had been documented.  Quickly, I became the, “Let’s go ask Andrea.”  A great place to be in. That built so much   confidence. People felt comfortable enough to come  and ask you, especially if there’s a, “Okay, we   need an answer now. You probably have it. What is  there?” Yes, that did build a lot of confidence.   I couldn’t have done it without all of the  studying I did and all of the direction   that I had, and all the guidance I  had from these different programs.  Even the free things that you put out there  in looking at the studies from other people,   watching their confidence build, the ACBA was  a no-brainer. I’m glad to see that there’s a  

certification that came out of that. I  have a project management certification   through PMI. But this, just for my business  analyst skills, took things to a different level.  Thank you for that. Just the talking about  your Blueprint experience, specifically,   any of those four modules – business process,  use cases, data modeling, or the BA Essentials,   do one of those stand out, specifically, where  we could talk about an example of what you did   for your work sample and how that played out  for you? Which one maybe jumps out to you?  Those were awesome. I had done the use cases  training before that and the business process…I   could pick…so, data modeling. 

That’s a good one. Data  modeling is always a good one.  At the time, we were working on a project where  there had to be some changes where the data was   going to live and how the process worked. That  was a good one to do. It was strenuous in that it   caused a lot of thinking, but it also was helpful  in that it caused all that thinking. As you build,  

you start to ask all these questions. The more  questions you ask, the more answers you can get.   You’ll find that there are yet more  questions that you did not think of.   That was, I think, where I learned the most  as a BA, and knowing that I did not have to   be a technical person. I don’t have to dig into it  that way. That was a very good experience for me. 

You mentioned you did have a  bit of a technical background.  Yes. This was still a new area.  What’s funny is, and I remember asking this  through the process when I submitted one of the   assignments. We moved into the next step and we  had a webinar. You start talking about how to…we   were drawing relationships  between these different things.   I started asking pretty technical questions  and quickly my response back was, “Oh wait,   yes, that’s where we’re going but we’re not  there yet.” I needed to back down a little bit.  The learning point for me there was in  having conversations with stakeholders   to not go there and to this very technical  jargon that you don’t have to. It’s great  

when some of them understand it, but sometimes,  you don’t need to. You can let these things out   in front of them and have these discussions and  you don’t have to have these tech terms to have   these discussions with them. You can translate  when you get back to your IT team. That was a   big takeaway for me during that module. Yes, that’s awesome. I want to talk a   little bit more about the CIO piece, too,  because I know the ACBA was a big piece.   You said you were part of a Blueprint before we  offered the ACBA and now have earned your ACBA   with the final piece of that. What went into your  mind about wanting the certification and then   also just sharing the certification. Some people  get nervous. Were you nervous about sharing it or  

were you excited to share it? Obviously, you had a  great result. Can you talk a little bit about that   part of your process to in your journey? Obviously, we’re in COVID times and I   have been working remotely. You lose a little  bit of that water cooler time where you share   what you’ve got going on daily or what’s happening  or what your new goal is. When I made the decision  

to do the ACBA, it was pretty abrupt because I had  said, “I can’t do this right now. I really can’t   afford this right now.” You and I shared a few  emails because you’ve had such this personal touch   all along. There was something you had said  that made me just rethink this and just take   the plunge. So, I did this in my off hours and  through the holidays and I got finished. I had   this nervousness about sharing it because I had  not talked to anybody about it. I had not had that  

discussion, other than you, but not with any of  my coworkers, but I was also very excited because,   to me, having done the Blueprint, it would have  been great to have had that as an outcome. I did   that while I was at work and in the office and  it was like, “Yay, I finished this.” I’ve got   a certificate. Certificates are good but having  something that documents that you have applied   what you learned is very different than getting  a certificate of completion. So, it’s kind of a  

no-brainer at that point to share it. I felt good  about what I had done and now I had something to   show that I applied it. I applied it successfully. It was one evening after the work day was over,   dinner was on the table, and I sat down, I said,  okay, I have not shared this. I need to jump   on Linked In and make an update. I have done  something that is worthy of celebrating and I   just recall hearing that in some of the  webinars that we had during the ACBA.  

Let’s share your successes. And what can  come back from sharing your successes,   or what it can do for other people. I did that quick share and the next day,   I was not looking for responses, I just  got a notification that I had a response.   When I opened it and saw who it was from, I  thought, wow. Just what we were expecting, there  

are people out there who you don’t know are  looking, who you don’t expect to be paying   attention, who may see exactly what you’re doing. When I got that from him, I thought, “Oh wow.   Okay.” There’s confirmation that sharing this  was a good idea. Then, a couple of days later,   again, yet from my immediate supervisor who  I had not discussed this with because I was   doing it on my own, saying, “Hey, I see you.  Good job.” I thought. Okay. When we return   back to the office, I’m sure that will be a  topic of conversation. I’ll have my badge up.   I’m looking to see what’s next. I’ve seen all  this growth through this process going through   all of these things and then topping it off with  the ACBA. I’m like, “Okay, so what’s next for me?” 

I’m sure that there will be something. There  maybe something in the works. Who knows?   I’m looking forward to it. What do you see as next?  I don’t know. I feel a lot of confidence right  now. The funny thing is after, and I didn’t think   about this a minute ago; after I shared that, I  had two recruiters touch base with me and say,   “Are you interested in looking at something?” I  have not responded to those yet other than to say,   “I’m open to conversation,” just to see what  they’ll say. I’m happy in a full-time position,  

but you never know. I might be able to point  somebody else in that direction. But I feel a   confidence now that I did not have before. So,  I’ve had these steps in my confidence level,   and it just keeps rising. That’s awesome. One last question for you,   if you had not chosen to invest in the  Blueprint, where do you think you might be today?  Oh wow. I don’t know. I would hope  that I would have done something,  

but I’m not sure that it would have produced  the fruit that I received through the Blueprint.  Thank you. Your story is absolutely incredible. I  appreciate that we have been part of that journey,   but also want to just celebrate all that you  did on the journey because you did the work,   you applied what you’ve learned, you shared  it. That is a big part of the effort too.  

They go together. We give you the tools,  but you leverage the tools and you put   them out there and you applied them on a  day-to-day basis and was doing the work.   That is huge and my hat is off to you, too. Any last words before we close, Andrea.   Anything you want to share? I just want to say thank you for   what you’re doing because I feel like I’ve been  here while Bridging the Gap is growing up too.  

There have been so many new things implemented  since I started and I see what you all are doing.   I see the team growing, which means you’re  having some success. I feel success from   your success. I want to say thank you for what  you’re doing to the business analysis community.  Thank you for that. It’s been an exciting time  to help people like you. Thank you so much.

2021-05-16 20:10

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