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