Changing acronyms. How I made the move from the P&C team to Lean BA

Explore Assurity 16 August 2017 Nadine Henderson

How does someone who has spent the last five years in Assurity’s People & Culture (P&C) team (and many years before this in HR), suddenly move to the Business Analysis team?

I was this ‘someone’ and, understandably, a few people were left scratching their heads as to how this happened. Here, I share my journey.

I’ve had an interest in Business Analysis since I started my first HR role in 2003 at Intergen. The one BA there at the time was awesome and I was drawn to her; she was dynamic and a real ‘people’ person, but was still working in the exciting and ever-changing world of IT. I was interested in finding out more, but fully focused on working hard in my new role, learning as much as possible and becoming an integral part of my new company.

My interest grew quietly in the background as I continued to learn more about Business Analysis and how much value add it brought to projects. But I found the longer I was in HR, the further away I felt I’d ever be able to work in Business Analysis.

My interest was really revived while working on Career Pathways, Assurity’s internal framework for career development. I was particularly interested in finding out more about the foundational skills needed for a BA, those fundamental, first ‘step-in-the-door’ skills that I would need to start developing skills in the field.

I also spoke to Assurity’s National Service Owner for Business Analysis and casually mentioned I had always been interested in the BA space, but couldn’t tick any of the foundational skills needed. The conversation that followed put the fire back in my belly. He replied, “Well, you don’t know what you don’t know. You’re probably doing a lot of this stuff in your current role, but might not necessarily use the same terms as we do”. We talked about my recruitment and interviewing experience which directly coincides with eliciting information – about the fact that while following up with people who were unhappy about their eNPS feedback or when doing exit interviews, I was asking probing questions and getting a deeper understanding of the actual issues.

Throughout my time in HR, I dealt with plenty of tough situations and conversations and, while in the workforce and IT industry for over 10 years, I had business experience and business maturity which was apparently a huge advantage.

Suddenly, it didn’t feel like an impossible dream after all and I made a decision not to let this go.

The recognition that I had some great transferable skills was a great driver and I was encouraged to talk to our new Principal Consultant in the BA space. She moved on from Assurity soon after, but my interest had gathered momentum and when Jenny Saunders, the new BA Principal Consultant started, I pounced! We got on like a house on fire and set about having hour-long mentoring sessions each week. Before starting them, they had to be approved by my manager. I’d explained my desire to learn more about Business Analysis and got the backing to do an hour a week, while being reminded that nothing was guaranteed.

Our sessions ranged from learning about the BA framework to writing user cases, learning about the Agile take on things with User Stories to, more recently, how different areas of the business such as Spec By Example and Design Thinking relate to and fit in with analysis work.

I spent a huge amount of time with Jenny for around a year, learning all I could and also put in plenty of hours outside of work to extend my knowledge, including buying focused books to read, using the internet as a resource and completing homework.

In May, I was over the moon to be able to transition into the Lean BA team as a Consultant. I feel incredibly grateful for having had this opportunity, for the backing of Assurity and to have been mentored by someone who is seen as one of the best in the business.

My advice to anyone wanting to follow their ‘unobtainable’ dream:

Talk to people working in the roles you want to get into

You, like me, might have transferable skills that you don't even know about! Find out how they got into the profession. You may be able to follow a similar path.

Find yourself a mentor

Put your all into your mentoring sessions. If it’s a real passion, you will likely find that this comes naturally. I left my mentoring sessions on a high from my learnings and could have sat there all day soaking in all the new information.

Ask questions

If there are things your mentor talks about that you should know about but don’t, speak up! I constantly ask questions and attempt to give examples so I can show (to me and Jenny!) that I understand correctly.

Be ready to put a lot of your own time into your learnings

I spent a lot of time in the evenings going over what Jenny had taught me. I did lots of reading and further research to find out more and develop my understandings and did ‘homework’ as required – sometimes two to three hours a night – but because I was passionate and keen to learn, I enjoyed it. I have a folder full of documents, exercises and workbook compiled from our mentoring sessions over the past year that I still go over regularly and refer back to.

Don’t expect things to happen overnight

I knew it was going to take a while to get to a point where I might be considered for a BA role. But I was careful to try not to timeframe anything and kept in mind that it could take years. I was lucky it only took one, but if it hadn’t, I would have still been doing my mentoring and developing my skills. After all, good things take time!

Take any and all opportunities you can  

This piece of advice is a great way to get more experience in different areas or expand the skills you have. It’s also heaps of fun. In the past few months, I’ve interviewed someone for a Senior BA role (focused only on the Culture and Consulting fit) along with one of our Senior BA’s, developed a new BA course for the Grad Programme and presented it, been involved in two Design Thinking interviews with one of our DT gurus Sanjiv and had the opportunity to learn about and extend my knowledge in the Spec By Example space.

I’ve now started at my first client shadowing one of our Senior Consultants and I can’t wait to put all my learnings and theory into practice. I have a renewed excitement coming to work and can’t wait to see how my BA career unfolds from here!