This week Jacqueline and I wanted to take our conversation from December 22nd a step further. Now that you know what to expect in 2016, how can you best align your business analyst career path and goals for success?

Episode 3 | January 5, 2016 Business Analysis Podcast Transcript

Jacqueline: Greetings everyone, and a Happy New Year! This is Jacqueline Sanders-Blackman of Technology Expresso Radio. I’m excited for our first show of 2016, and we’re starting it off like we ended it: with Kupe from B2T Training, the guest of our new series – “Ask An Analyst”. Hello Kupe, and Happy New Year to you.

We want to welcome back our listeners. We’re starting with a full switchboard. Our hot topic to start the New Year is  “What type of career moves do our listeners have planned for 2016?”

As soon as we hung up from our last show in 2015, the emails started coming in. Listeners were marinating, listening to us banter back and forth, and pulling their questions together. Some of them sent them via email (via technologyexpresso@gmail.com), some of them are going to join us on today’s call. If you’re at your computer, you can tweet with us. We’re going to be on Twitter. Look for our hashtag: #BizTechLiveChat, and our secondary hashtag: #AskAnAnalyst.

So just a recap: Both Kupe and I are deep in the business analyst world in various IT related environments and have been in it for some time (25 years +). Kupe is the president of B2T Training, which has trained over 17,000 business analysts. We have a lot of insight and perspective in that arena.

I also want to give a shout out to one of the people who called into our switchboard when we opened up the call, Felicia Phillips (@thepinkmogul). She’s a business consultant. That’s another line of work related to business analysis. She deals with entrepreneurs, and specifically, the Pink Entrepreneur network.

Felicia  has insight from the pink entrepreneur network point of view. Those interested, so whether you’re in corporate and thinking about going into the entrepreneur space or vice versa, you’re in the entrepreneur space and want to come back over here into corporate, we’ve got you covered! Kupe and I can share some insight about both applications of business analysis from a corporate and entrepreneur lens. We have our bases covered, Felicia and I will be featured on our series that we’re starting just for entrepreneurs which will air on Technology Expresso every other Monday starting January 11  at 12 noon..

The hot topic for today’s show —  goes along with it being a New Year — is people starting to look at where they are in their career, position, or company. Some people might be in transition, or a role in their organization might be coming to an end. New years are about resolution and looking for what’s next. That’s the theme of our show. We welcome calls and questions if they’re about what’s next as far as business analyst career paths and what opportunities are available in IT.

We will talk about the business analyst role and about it’s cousins in regards to job classifications, project management, QA test analyst, database/data analyst, process analyst/change management and all the other roles that are in the software development life cycle. We certainly have a lot to share.

Kupe: I got excited when we started talking about this particular show around career. You sent me some of the emails that came in and the questions. I’m excited about the questions, and I’m ready to get started. Hopefully we can shed some light and give our insight into these topics that people want to hear about.

Question 1: People often transition into business analysis from different business or technical roles – What was your path?

Jacqueline: In my experience, a lot of people, whether you come into IT from the business track or you come in from the IT track, whether it’s coders or testers, after a while, when they’re looking for something new,  the business analyst career path often is an option for people looking for a transition. What was your path?

Kupe: The route I took was a subject-matter expert route into the role. I think that’s one of them. For those of you that don’t know, I grew up as an accountant because my dad thought since everybody needs an accountant, I should get an accounting degree. I was an accountant and got put on teams with IT projects related to financial software applications. I was their subject-matter expert, I was a super-user of some of the systems, and I really enjoyed playing those roles on the software development team. When a position became available as a reporting/business analysis, I jumped on that, and that’s how I got into the BA role. I started off and stayed on financial software applications, but as my BA skills grew and expanded, I was able to apply them to many different industries, projects, and initiatives. That was my route. The other route is people already being on these project teams as a QA analysis, a project manager, or maybe as a developer. They then determine that the analyst side, the problem-solving side, or the communications side of the business analysis role is really intriguing. They leave the testing/development world and decide to stick to the BA space, but they have a lot of system-software background which helps them. They then need to build on the business side, the subject-matter expert side a little more.

Jacqueline:  It’s kind of a balancing act — how you come in from the technical side with room to grow into developing your application of analytics, problem solving,  soft skills, the critical thinking skills, and even specialized communication skills.

The alternative is that you come in from the business side. Coming in as a business analyst from the business side, if you’ve already worked in that space, you have the knowledge level of a subject-matter expert (SME). But just because you know the subject matter, there are still those skill sets around being an analyst that you have to develop. Then, you have to also make sure that you just don’t rest on what you know about the business, but you also have to have an understanding and an appreciation of the technical side.

Question 2: What are your thoughts on some of the challenges of the subject-matter expert coming over to the business analyst role? 

Kupe: The topic of being a subject-matter expert and playing the business analyst role is talked about a lot. People have to realize that the day you leave the business as a subject-matter expert, your “SMEness”, your subject-matter expertise, starts to decline. You can’t fall into the trap of making assumptions that you know the business well and that you were just there so you don’t have to ask questions, dig deeper, get curious, or work with other people to really understand what’s happening in the business. You’re like, “Well, I’m a subject-matter expert, so I know it.” You have to lose that attitude and know that your SMEness is declining every day that you’re not in the business anymore. Make sure you’re asking what you might think is a silly question because you ‘know’ the answer, but you can’t make an assumption that you know the answer.

On the flip-side, the people who come from the technical side, the more solution side of the house, you can’t jump to a solution too quick. That happens all the time in our industry. People are coming to solution teams with a solution in hand and asking for its implementation. I think people who come from the technical/solution side are excited, like, “Yeah, we can do that. Here’s how we’re going to do it,” but you have to take that step back and ask questions. Make sure you’re understanding what problem you’re trying to solve or what opportunity you’re going after before you just jump in and start creating some solutions. People fall into that trap day in and day out.

Jacqueline: Felicia Phillips (@thepinkmogul) has called in and I want to let her  add to the conversation.  I have two great people on the phone: Kupe that I know very well (we do the corporate and business analyst training at @b2ttraining.com for our corporate clients) and Felicia and I, work with and coach entrepreneurs and people transition in or out of corporate America. Kupe, I think we have a quote of yours from our last show, that a lot of what business analysts do, whether it’s looking at what a client’s needs are, stakeholder analysis, identifying their requirements, or problem-solving, it’s the same critical thinking you do when you go into the business world.  Business analysis is a shared skill set whether you working for someone or working for yourself, it’s just in some cases it’s internal customers, b2b or external customers.

Question 3: Would you say business analysis skills aren’t just tied to IT?

Kupe: First, I was going to say: It sounds like you’re cheating on me, Jacqueline. I didn’t realize you were having these conversations with other people.

Jacqueline: I’m two-timing you, right? (Laughter)

Kupe: That’s right. I will add, I was a corporate BA for many, many years, and now with B2T Training, we’re a small business. I’m the president of that organization, so I’m responsible for running the organization, and I’m using my business analysis skills everyday. I’m not a business analyst in corporate America doing projects like a lot of people with the title BA are, but everyday I’musing my BA skills to improve our business. Even in the sales conversations we’re having, we try to really understand what challenges our clients are having so that we can serve up the solution. These things are totally transferable.

Jacqueline: Felicia, welcome, and thank you for joining us.

Felicia: Thank you for having me. I’m always excited when I’m on the show with you, and yes, we do talk a lot in regards to transitioning from employee to employer. Being a business analyst is a great position to be in if you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur because of the skill set you already possess, as far as the analytical. What happens for a lot of people is that when they think about entrepreneurship, they have these great dreams and big visions, but they lack the skills to develop their step-by-step plan, which is one of the reasons as a business coach for 24 years, it’s very important to have one in your life if you don’t possess those analytical skills to be able to look at your strengths and weaknesses and to be able to identify the opportunities that maybe lying before you.

Jacqueline: There’s a lot of synergy and a lot of the same language. Business is about problem solving, finding solutions. If you aren’t doing either of those no business – big or small – will survive.  I’ve got Kupe on one side and the Pink Mogul on the other helping us talk about opportunities, career and small business/start-ups and leveraging the analyst skill set.

Kupe: Jacqueline, can I add, because something you said, Felicia, really resonated with me — the big ideas of some entrepreneurs, but they then have to come up with a plan. It’s not good enough to have ideas, and I think what I’ve been talking a lot about lately is the concept of divergent thinking and convergent thinking. That’s what you’re hitting on. In our space, a lot of analysts aren’t doing enough of the divergent thinking. People that are playing this role have to be more entrepreneurial in knowing what options are available and what to do; they need to do more divergent thinking when coming up with ideas or being part of that conversation. Also, where good, tactical, analytical thinkers are, now that we have this idea, “How do we get it to the finish line?” Entrepreneurs need some of that analytical, and the people who are in the analyst role need to focus in on how entrepreneurs coming up with new ideas and creative ways of doing things.

Felicia: I totally agree with you, Kupe, because there are opportunities on both sides. I see a lot of people coming out of the technology industry like yourself who are looking to create businesses which creates jobs which helps our economy. The thing about it is, the first thing people want to know is how do we get connected.  When you bring both sides together like you said, if we start to do that more or at least provide the platforms to do that, we’ll begin to see more things happen in that arena. It’s just that nobody has actively put a platform in place that says, “Ok, we like the visionary aspect or the idea of the entrepreneur, but they need the support of what the business analyst brings to the table.”

Jacqueline: I see Kupe and Felicia on a stage together doing a presentation on this topic, and I see a knockout opportunity for people to see what happens when both sides come together. You’re absolutely right, and Kupe, you hit some important. Organizations are looking for people inside the organization still have the entrepreneurial mindset. We call them Intrapreneurs. You may be inside the company, but they want you to push that envelope and have that breakthrough thinking and design thinking. We’re in the age of innovation, and in order to innovate, you can’t just have that cookie-cutter thinking, that you’re just looking to follow someone else’s footsteps. You have to go off the beaten path in order to be a trailblazer, both internal and external.

Thank you Felicia for joining us today.

Felicia: Sure. You can follow me on all Social Media platforms, @ThePinkMogul. I’m on periscope every night at 11pm. Look for us: we’ll be doing the Pink Tech Summit again this year, September 30th. Look out for more information on that, and thank you again, Jacqueline, for allowing me to be on the show with you today. Kupe, I enjoy talking with you.

Kupe: Yeah, it was awesome. Thank you.

Jacqueline: Next Caller is a familiar voice: Mr. Blackman, are you there?

David: Hello Jacqueline. Hello Kupe, thanks for joining us again.

Kupe: Absolutely David.

David: One of the things that you mentioned here was about the business analysis skill sets, and even Felicia alluded to that by talking about entrepreneurship. Those skill sets really resonated with my listening audience, the project management (PM) audience, and I always stress the importance of being able to combine those business analysis skill sets with their project management skill sets, especially when working in an agile-type environment where the employers are looking for not necessarily an agile framework that they’re trying to employ, but more of an agile mindset. That’s really important: the communication, knowledge, and language of business analysis around holding scrum sessions. Can you speak to the importance of being able to switch back and forth between business analysis and project management and how closely involved those two roles are?

Question 4: Can you speak to the importance of being able to switch between BA and PM skills and how the two roles are closely relate?

Kupe: Yeah. I was going to ask Jacqueline if I could step back and talk more about entrepreneurship with BA’s, but it applies to PM’s and everybody on the team. Your question, David, brings to mind my thoughts about business analysis in general. Last year at one of the big BA conferences, the BBC, which is IIBA’s big flagship conference, I made a statement on a panel saying in five years, the title “Business Analyst” will be gone. The reason I said that is because everybody on the team or in an organization needs to have a BA mindset. That mindset is all about making sure that you’re focusing on the right initiative, problem, and opportunity, and then breaking things down into chunks that people can act upon and either solve that problem or take advantage of that opportunity. Whether you’re a PM, QA analyst, or whatever your title is in an organization, you have to be thinking like a BA all the time.

To that point, everybody should be thinking as an entrepreneur. One thing that entrepreneurs have, because most entrepreneurs don’t have a ton of money lying around — if you’re starting a business, you’re always thinking about what will give us the biggest bang for the buck in the shortest amount of time? What’s going to make the most sense? Entrepreneurs are constantly thinking about that, and they’re spending money and time on things that they believe are going to add value to their business and to their clients. That’s what people on project teams, whether you’re a PM, BA, QA analyst, or developer, you have to think like that, and too many people don’t. They’re like, “Hey, I get paid a salary. I’m doing my job. There’s this process we’re supposed to follow, so I’m going to follow that process,” rather than thinking about, “What’s going to add the most value to my team, today, or to my project?”

Felicia talked about small companies creating jobs and adding to the economy. The same thing will happen in organizations. If people are doing a better job with their time in organizations, then those organizations can spend more time on things that are going to help their company and clients which will then create more jobs, create better things for us, and innovate like Jacqueline was talking about.

Hopefully that answered your question. I kind of did a little politician thing on you where I weaved in my points about entrepreneurship, but I think it all flows together.

Jacqueline: I even want to take it a little bit further, Kupe, because you’re right on point. What I’m hearing, the theme is that people need to think about diversifying. You have to diversify your skill set and not just think black and white, BA and PM. Even myself: I cross-pollinated between project management, business analysis, six sigma and scrum master when it came to my certifications. Even though I don’t use the PM role (my roles is a business analysis), it helps me better understand what I need to do to support my project manager. Those skill sets, even though they may not be primary to what you’re doing, they give you a different perspective, more longevity, more marketable skills, and differentiate you when your competition for a job or for a client’s business.

Question 5: I’m a Business Analyst but I keep getting offered hybrid PM/BA roles – Is this going to the trend for near future?

Kupe: One of the questions that you emailed me earlier was about a person in the BA role being asked to do PM and testing work. They were looking for a role that would just focus on the BA skills and grow as a BA. All this depends upon what your personal aspirations are, but I see more and more organizations going to what I believe is a better model around teaming and having people who can do more than one space. Especially in the BA space, there’s an argument out there of people saying, “If you had to have brain surgery, are you going to go to your family doctor, your primary care physician, or are you going to go to a brain surgeon?” The answer is obvious: a brain surgeon. They use that for business analysis.

If you need business analysis work done, are you going to go to a BA or are you going to go to a generalist? I think  there are some initiatives that really need that brain-surgeon-type BA, but a lot of things that we work on day in and day out don’t need a brain surgeon. They need capable people, and that work might even be spanned across two or three people; it doesn’t have to fall on one person’s lap all the time. More teams are going that way, and if you want to be especially on a software team, it’s going to be hard to just focus on one thing and be valuable at the same time. Teams are going to ebb and flow. You have to step into different roles at different times when you have that skill set.

Jacqueline:  One of the things in my many years of experience in IT is that, going back to the analogy of the brain surgeon, in general, every brain is created pretty much the same.  However, with software and software projects, there are different implementations, different interpretations, and different methodologies, and every company does it differently. I have all these different experiences, and I draw back on all of those to say, “How should we approach this?” or, “I have seen a problem similar to but not exactly like this. What tools should I use?” In IT, you have to assess the whole situation. It’s ever-changing. A lot of people, yourself and myself included, we thrive on the dynamic nature of every assignment and every project. It’s the reason we love IT.

You have to come into IT knowing that it’s not cookie-cutter. It’s not an assembly line. Just because this worked perfectly on this project, it may not on the others. There’s an interesting article I was reading just the other night on the topic of “Should BA’s be considered subject-matter experts on projects.” It was saying that companies are getting away from this one person who’s supposed to be an expert, but they’re starting to create what the articled called a “community of intelligence.” It takes a collective effort. The business analyst is that facilitator, but part of it is knowing, “I have to pull from this person. I need this group over here. I need that group over there.” Getting different perspectives to solve today’s complex problems.

Kupe: Absolutely, and I like to use the term lenses, but perspective works. You have to make sure that on your teams, and I think a lot of teams struggle with this; you have to be careful, especially in the agile world, because there’s the concept of “a product owner,” and that’s the person the team is working with to get their input. That’s fine, but you have to validate that the product owner has all these different lenses coming into their viewpoint in the decisions that they’re making. It’s ok to have a representative as the product owner, but as a team member, do you know you can trust that person? You have to validate that they’re getting their lenses somehow, these perspectives somehow. That’s so important.

Jacqueline: Sounds like the take away is that everyone needs to have diversity in terms of skill sets. Don’t let your current PM, BA or Developer title keep you from expanding your skill set.  David, you had the question. Kupe and I were on a roll there, but did we hit your question, and do you have a follow-up?

David: Absolutely. You hit all the points I was referring to. Running  Technology Expresso is a prime example, we consistently have to pivot and use all of our skill sets; that’s how we’ve been successful. We were entrepreneurs in developing and creating this platform, and Jacqueline and I called on our business analysis skill sets, project management skill sets, and technical skill sets (because I came from the technical side as a wide-area network engineer, and I parlayed that into project management). Personally, I think project management is one of the toughest jobs in the world because we consistently, and I may be a little narcissistic here, but we consistently have to manage one of the hardest elements, the human element. We consistently have to manage personalities, psychologies, resource teams, and client-based teams; that’s really tough.

Question 6: The Project Management and Business Analyst roles are tough? Which is why there is such a high demand for good PM’s and BA’s. What makes them tough?

Kupe: Jacqueline, you said earlier that PMs and business analysts are like cousins. I think one of the reasons is because people that play in the BA and PM spaces, the largest group or thing they deal with is people; they’re trying to help people, and they deal with people day in and day out. When you’re dealing with people, attitudes and personalities change day-to-day. Some people have split personalities. You have a lot to deal with, and to me, that’s the most exciting and challenging part of the job.

Jacqueline: People that are passionate about business analysis or project management and this whole IT space, it’s funny that the toughest part of our job is also the most exciting. If we didn’t have it, we probably would be bored. Having the constant change, the challenge, solving problems, things being thrown at us, having a different configuration every day, having to work and massage the situation, and using different toolsets: on the one hand, sometimes you come home exhausted, but hopefully you get a good night sleep and are ready to do it all over again. Throw agile into it, and every day is even more dynamic. I said all of that to say: we thrive off of that. That’s where we get our adrenaline. Something too cookie-cutter would not suit our personalities, even though sometimes we wish things would slow down just for a little bit.

Kupe: For me, in the accounting industry, there was some differentiations here and there, but for the most part, I had a weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly routine. That just kept going and going and going, and I couldn’t do it. What I love about project work is that every day is a little different, and when an initiative comes to an end, you get to work with other people and do different things. I always tell new parents: if you’re not tired as a parent, and not because you’re not getting any sleep because of a newborn, but as you’re parenting your growing child, if you’re not tired, then you’re not doing it right. It’s the same thing with business analysis. If you’re not tired — because as a parent, I’m always trying to look for little teaching moments for my kids. I joke when I have a teaching moment; I’ll be like, “This is life lesson 742,” and I’ll give them that lesson. You’re always listening, looking, and trying to find out how you can make your children and yourself better. It’s the same thing with business analysis; you’re always listening and watching how other people are reacting. If you’re not tired at the end of the day, then maybe you’re not doing it completely right and there are things you could tweak.

Jacqueline Thank You, Kupe! So Let’s take Our Next Caller, Patricia!

Patricia: Hi Jacqueline! I enjoyed the conversation. I’m a part of the IIBA, and I was present in Atlanta at the presentation you and Kupe gave a couple of months ago.

Jacqueline & Kupe simultaneously: Thank you.

Jacqueline: Excellent. Now, you have our undivided attention. Do you have a question for us? What’s on your mind?

Patricia: Yes. I’m looking for some advice.

Question 7: I’m kind of in the space of a SME, and I’m trying to get into a business analysis position. From that standpoint, I don’t have all of the technology experience that I want. If I’m interviewing for a business analysis position, do you have any points on how I can make myself more marketable and persuasive to the hiring manager that I’m the right person for the job?

Kupe: Yeah. I think the main thing, especially if you’re coming in from the SME-side and don’t have a large technical background, there are two things. Ideally, it’s similar to my business analyst career path, and I think it would still work for you, if you can make a transition within your company if they have an organization with BA’s. Then, you promote that you have a lot of company/organization knowledge as well as the specific business area and that you can work on teams that are helping that business area; the institutional knowledge is going to be a benefit to the team. You can also transfer that to other companies. I don’t know what you’re doing. Today it’s a SME, but I bet you other companies have those SMEs while also having teams supporting that group. Look for areas that are looking for positions in the type of work that you do today.

A good friend of mine who also lives here in Atlanta, someone asked him, “I want to get into banking, but I don’t have any banking knowledge.” Well, do you go to an ATM everyday or once a week? He said yes. Do you use a bank? Yes. Do you interact with banks? Then you have banking knowledge. One of the big things that companies need are consumer knowledge. They need that consumer lens. Jumping in at that angle, that’s kind of the route you want to take. You’re going to bring this new lens, or as Jacqueline said, perspective, to the team. Teams might not need that, but you’re looking for a team that has that gap that you can fill in. While you’re on that team, you can start picking and choosing other tasks. Maybe they offer training, and you have your team to help mentor you so that you are able to build the other skills needed.

Jacqueline: Agreed. Patricia, you answer during that interview, in a nutshell, is, “That’s an area I’m working on.” What you can do is what Kupe said; use those different examples to say how you’re working on it. The main thing when we talk about a BA having technical experience is understanding the language, the concepts, and what it takes to build a system with the logical components and pieces. It’s all to help you ask better questions. In doing that and exposing yourself as much as possible, it doesn’t mean that you can get in and do the hardcore coding like a developing.  You just want to learn to speak their language.  You want to use your understanding so if they are telling you something isn’t possible, that you have a basic understanding so you can relay it back to the business. You want to be able to take what the coders are telling you and translate that back to the business.

One of the things is learning the language and the jargon. When I’m in an interview and someone says, “I’m working on it,” that could be an online course you’re taking, a book you’re reading, or an organization you volunteered for; you could do volunteer work that’ technical in nature or you shadow someone doing technical work, but it directly or indirectly gave you exposure. Saying “I’m working on it,” could also mean that someone is mentoring you and helping you to learn the language. Those are just a couple of examples that come to mind when you say, “That’s an area I’m working on.” Does that make sense Kupe and Patricia?

Patricia: Yes, it makes a lot of sense. Thank you both.

Kupe: Awesome. Good luck. We loved having you. Jacqueline, I don’t know if we have another caller. Can I chime in to a point you made about how technical you need to get?

Jacqueline: Chime away, Kupe, and we do have another caller. Dwayne, I do see you there. We’re going to get to you, next. Go ahead, Kupe.

Kupe: There was a point in my career when people preached this: BAs don’t need to get technical at all, they never focus on the solution, they always talk about the business’ needs, and blah, blah, blah. I do think that’s needed, but at the same time, nowadays, and I mentioned this on another call, everybody is dealing with technology everyday. The people that we work with have so much technology in their pockets that they have an understanding of technology, and if you don’t as a BA, then you’re not going to be as valuable or look as credible.

The attitude I think people have to have, and as a comparison, I ask, “Do you want a financial advisor, or do you want a financial analyst?” A financial analyst is someone who would come in, look at your finances, and say, “Hey Jacqueline, it looks like you’re going to retire when you’re 95. I hope that’s what you wanted. Have a good day,” and then let someone else deal with the solution. I think that you have to be more of a financial advisor where you do that analysis, but you also have some information on options that people can take; at least know the lingo so that you can talk to your solution team credibly about what the options are and then work with the business side to say, “Here are some options we can do down.” If you don’t have that stuff and you’re not always thinking about how we can help organizations with solutions, then I think you’re missing a big piece of it.

Jacqueline: Absolutely. Great point. That’s the thing: if you’re going to be a business analyst or project manager in IT, knowing the language is the baseline. You don’t want to be intimidated by it. When someone starts talking technical, you don’t stick your fingers in your ears and go, “La, la, la, la, la, la. I don’t want to hear anything.”

Kupe: Right. Like, “I’m the business analyst. I don’t talk about technical stuff or solutions.”

Jacqueline: Exactly. I know on many a project, I asked, “Can I just sit in the back of the room?” when they were doing the technical design or when they were having one of their design brainstorming sessions. I’ll tell you, I may not have caught 100% of it. I might have caught 50% of it at best, but I heard it. Every now and then, I can remember being able to chime in and say, “Did you guys also realize they wanted XYZ.” Then, they began realized that there was value with even having me in a room with whatever I was picking up. I’ve always asked and volunteered, “Can I shadow you? Can I be along for the ride to hear what you’re talking about?” It built a rapport: just hanging out with the technical folks and not trying to distance yourself from them; helping them understand that they’re just as much as your stakeholder and your client as well goes a long way.

Again, thank you Patricia for that question, and please tell others about the show. We look forward to you being on the show again. Dwayne has been listening to us patiently. I’m opening up the line. Dwayne, are you there?

Dwayne: Yeah, I’m here. Good, good. Thanks for inviting me. David invited me to the call. I’m a senior network engineer, and I have been looking for employment with an organization that can use my skill sets. It has been very difficult. I’m a certified Cisco Network associate and ipv6. I do routing and switching primarily with Cisco, but I’ve worked with Juniper, Extreme, and Avaya. I do network management, network design, wireless LAN design, and network operations. I’m skilled in many areas, and I would like to forward my resume to anybody that has engagements open. I have also done project management, but I’m looking for opportunities where I can use my skill sets, and I was wondering if anybody on the call knew somewhere I could send my skill sets to and that could possibly engage me as a resource. Also,

Question 8: What are some specific job search tips you have in today’s job market?

Kupe: Dwayne, thanks for calling. I don’t want to act like I knew everything you just said; there were a couple of terms in there that I wasn’t familiar with. I’d say this to anybody looking for employment, that you shouldn’t just drop your resume in an email and hope that you’re going to get called back. The name of the game is networking. The more people who you know and can have conversations with, the better. I think you’re headed down that path, which is good. The other thing is, it has been some years now but it feels like ops is getting more play in the agile space, and that’s DevOps, development operations. Part of that is the actual software development side and the testing side, but then there’s the IT operations. A lot of things that you talked about is needed to make solutions happen. In the agile space, they’re talking about how to weave in technical resources early in the software life cycle,  that includes brining in testers, developers, and product owners during analysis — but now they’re like, to get better, to get faster, and to improve, we need the IT operations as part of that core team. If you’re looking at job openings, look for terms around DevOps or development operations, and I think that’s where you’ll be able to fine-tune your search to that which you can utilize your skill sets.

Jacqueline: I didn’t understand all of those designations that you mentioned, but it sounds like you have a lot of good experience and background. You just have to continue to get it out there. The interesting thing, and Kupe, you kind of touched upon this, too, is that you do have to balance between doing that online search and the one that they call “pressing the flesh”; you still have to do the face-to-face. There are some really good meet-up and network organizations. Sometimes, you have to diversify. You might belong to one organization but check out other networks. I credit going to a Six Sigma (SPIN) meeting, Kupe you may not know this, but that’s when Barb stood up and talked about B2T; that was my introduction to B2T. It wasn’t an IIBA meeting, but that’s how I got connected with B2T.

Work various networks and don’t get discouraged.

If your technical credentials are solid perhaps you also want to work on and list your soft skills.  In IT  team member have to use soft skills and hard skills and having a good balance. That’s a big topic, so Kupe I’ll give it to you first, and then I’ll throw in my two cents. Anything you want to share with the audience and drop secrets about the hard skills and soft skills?

Kupe:  Some of that, we covered in our first episode which is in the Tech Archive and on the B2T website.

Jacqueline:  You’re right, and I want to add when you’re creating your resume and your skill sets that you should make sure that on your resume that you have both soft skills and hard skills. In my mind, going back to when we were talking about the blended roles, no matter what role you are in or how technical you are, make sure you also have some soft skills that appear on your resume. That’s my thought.

Question 9: What if some of your skills are stale, you haven’t used them in a while?

Kupe: Yeah. Resume-wise, and this goes back to using current terms of whatever job you’re seeking. You have to keep up. In the BA space, you use terms like the BABOK and terms that are used in agile so that people can be like, “Oh, they’re up on the current techniques.” I did a presentation and got some feedback, and one of the comments were: “This is nothing new. It’s just different terms for the same things we’ve been doing for years.” You can say that about almost anything, right? So many people earlier in the agile days would be like, “Oh, I did this with RAD back in the 70’s. There’s nothing different. I’m not buying into this agile thing.” Well, if the employers are calling it X and you’re calling it Y, they’re not going to look at your resume. You can get on a high-horse about it and be like “I’m calling it what I’ve called it for years,” or you could call it what other people are calling in so that you’re recognized and you can have a conversation.

On the softer side, you have to talk about how you interact. These days, we’re all working on a team, so how do you interact with a team? What do you do? What differentiates you and how you play on a team vs how others play on a team? Use LinkedIn. People can give you recommendations. Use LinkedIn and ask people to give you recommendations, not just on your technical skills, but on how you act as a team-player, a collaborator, and a communicator. It’s beyond the resume. With technology, we’re able to have that out there, and you can send people to your LinkedIn profile to see all of this great stuff about you that goes way beyond what you can put on two pages of resume.

David: If I could add… I just wanted to follow that up and speak to Dwayne’s point as well. As an engineer, when you get an interview — well, you have already gotten an interview, so you know that they’ve recognized your skill sets. In an interview, you have to be able to pivot and show your other skill sets, as Kupe mentioned: your collaborative skill sets. Dwayne and I was speaking earlier today, and I mentioned how in project management, we call our different stages “phases,” and in the agile world, they call them “sprints.” Being able to communicate and change the language to be more relevant today to the methodologies that are being utilized is equally important. Showing that you can work in an agile mindset, meaning a collaborative mindset, will show your potential employers that you can work with the other positions and the other key elements of the overall project or initiative such as your business analyst and your project managers. I just wanted to reemphasized that which Kupe spoke of and show how it’s related to Dwayne’s point and his skill sets and needs as far as employment is concerned.

Jacqueline: One of the things I say whether it applies to you or some of our younger callers who are looking for experience, there are always volunteer organizations and opportunities whether it’s professional organizations or non-profit organizations that need technical support and help and are trying to build things. You can volunteer and still do projects and get recommendations, and it’s a form of networking. If you need to get some experience to augment some of your education, that’s one of the ways: volunteering. It’s also a way to stay active, because we all know that when you learn something, you use it or lose it. If you have a skill set that you’re not actively being able to apply, then look at volunteering.

The other thing is, we talked earlier on the call about diversifying. If you have a very technical background, maybe augmenting it with something like a business analysis or project management class would show that you a versatile. It also differentiates you from someone else who has the same exact technical certifications that you might have. Anything that makes you stand out and shows your diversity is a good take-away from our overall call.

Jacqueline: We receive an email that I want to acknowledge. Keith, I’m going to read your question, next.

Question 10: Someone with a technical background that is looking to transition into Business Analysis, has taken BA classes, but companies are looking for business/industry knowledge.

Similar to our last caller, Keith has a technical, network-type background, and he is looking to transition. He’d like to go into business analysis. He’s taking some classes and has dabbled a bit in it, and that’s where he wants to transition into. He’s trying to change and update his resume, but what he is finding is he’s not getting a lot of hits because he doesn’t necessarily have the front-end exposure from the business perspective, so everyone just sees his technical background. He’s wondering, how does someone who is technical and that knows how to build software transition over and be taken seriously when they apply for business analysis jobs? What would you say to them?

Kupe: I came from the SME-route. He’s more technical. You’re in a position where you don’t have the information in a resume or even on LinkedIn where people are searching and finding you because you don’t have all the keywords that they’re looking for. It does come down to networking, getting your story down, and how your experience is actually a huge benefit to the organization. Again, I think it was Patricia coming from the SME-side and her using the angle of that business knowledge and getting the technical knowledge that she needs; she has to find teams that has the gap of that business knowledge and push into those teams. The same thing for you, Keith, is finding, networking, and discovering an organization that may have a team that has a stronger pool of  business skills on the team and not as much technical, and they need to get their BA team a little stronger on the technical side for some credibility; jump on one of those teams, find those type of assignments and build up your skill set.

We work with a lot of organizations that still have BA managers with BA teams; some of them are matrixed, but a lot of them are not anymore. The BA’s might not be working on dedicated teams, but they still have somebody, maybe not their HR manager, but somebody over the BA practice. You want to look for and network with people with titles like BA manager or BA lead. If you do a search on LinkedIn, you’ll get a ton of those people. Try to find those organizations and those leads, because they’re going to be the ones to know what area their team is deficient in and how you can fill that gap. If they have teams that have a lot of technical knowledge, then that might not be the best team for you. There are teams out there that have real, business-oriented BA’s that know the business well but struggle on the technical side. Try to find those and find out where you can jump in and fill that gap.

Jacqueline: The other thing I was going to add to that is, from a resume perspective, going to different formats of the resume. There’s the functional resume where you pull out and emphasize those skill sets.

Second, if there’s a job that you see yourself in down the road, you have to figure out what skill set you need and how you can demonstrate and exercise that. I’ve heard people say, “I want to be in a leadership role, but my company doesn’t have any openings for a senior PM or a senior BA, so I’m stuck.” If you give up, that’s your choice, but the other option is, like I said earlier, find a volunteer opportunity that needs leadership so that you can get experience, learn by doing, work with  people who can recommend you and give references that they’ve seen you in an active role as a leader. Then, when you’re applying for that job, you have that experience; it wasn’t necessarily on the job you got paid for, but it was in a volunteer role. Then, on your resume and in interviews, you can speak about examples where you have used that skill set. I’ve seen this work very well for several people I know.

David: I just want to add, I’ve seen recently some resumes come across my desk from my PM community and even my engineers where their resume is extremely short. If we recall back where you put your resume on one page: that does not apply to this arena. It does not apply in the technical arena. I’m going to differ on that. You have to be able to show your experience. That’s what everyone is looking for. They’re not printing this out to look at 1-2 pages. They’re looking for content, and you have to be able to speak to the multiple skill sets they’re looking for as a business analysis, as a project manager, and even as an engineer. You have to speak to those skill sets. My resume, if I printed it out, it would be about 4.5-5 pages long, and that’s just it; employers are all over me. You have to be able to speak to all the different specialties that they’re looking for, and you cannot do that on one page.

Kupe: If I can add to what David is saying, the key to the resume piece is twofold. 1 is the cover letter. You have to be thinking about, Keith, to your specific situation — if you’re going for a BA position and you have this technical background, in your cover letter, answer the question for employers on why they should look at you. You know they’re questioning: “There’s a bunch of BA’s with BA experience, so why should I look at Keith when he has more technical experience and when he’s going to potentially be more junior on the BA side?” You have to answer that question. Be upfront. Say, “This is why you should hire me over anybody else.” I know it’s hard; a lot of people are humble, so they don’t want to come out and do that. Unfortunately, I used to say, “I would be so much better if I had an agent.” It’s hard for us to sell ourselves, but you have to be out there and answer that question.

In the resume, and I think David and Jacqueline were saying this in slightly different ways, but the way I would sum it up is you have to change your resume not to necessarily what you were doing, but how that translates to the job that you’re looking for. Your title might have been systems analyst or engineer, but whatever job you’re looking for, what did you do in that role? To David’s point, you might have 4.5 pages explaining not that you were able to code for X amount of time on this and that application or that you know Java; you don’t have to know Java to be a BA, but what did you do on that job? I’ve worked with so many developers that were incredible analysts and that could transition without a problem, but you have to explain what you did on that job that relates to the role that you’re looking for. I’m sure, Keith, that you have a lot of that; you just have to change some wording around.

Jacqueline: That resume and cover letter has to catch their attention. Let’s say you get the interview. You have to be able to sell it. If you need to practice with people and different organizations, we belong to BDPA. Certain times of the year, they do coaching and help people do mock interviews. Sit with someone and practice selling it/you. You have to believe it, and you have to make the person across the desk believe, too, that you can do it, and if you can’t, you can grow into it. It’s similar to what Patricia was saying: she may not have the skill set now, but she wants to be convincing that she has enough and will continue to develop herself in the area she needs to grow into. Practice, practice, practice.  

If you have a question or comment, call 855-484-6837, leave a message and we’ll read it on our next episode. Also, please visit our Tech Expresso Cafe page on iTunes for this and other series!


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About Kupe

“Kupe” Kupersmith, Senior Instructor, B2T Training, possesses over 18 years of experience in software systems development. He has served as the lead Business Analyst and Project Manager on projects in the Energy, television and sports management and marketing industries. Additionally, he serves as a mentor for business analysis professionals. Kupe is the co-author of Business Analysis for Dummies, a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) and a former IIBA® Board Member. Kupe is a requested speaker in the BA field and has presented at many IIBA chapters and BA conferences. Being a trained improvisational comedian, Kupe is sure to make you laugh while you’re learning. Kupe is a connector and has a goal in life to meet everyone!

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