In this interview we talk to Business Analyst Kane Woodking who tells us about his long journey into becoming a BA and the challenges that he faced along the journey!
You can connect with Kane on Linkedin here
Can you give me a bit of background of your career before becoming a BA?
After graduating from University I moved to Cardiff where I found bar work and also picked up shifts on the restaurant side of the business. In parallel to this, through a graduate scheme called Go Wales, I was lucky enough to land a temporary role as a film maker for Newport Council working on a European Union funded project about the issues of unemployment and the over 50’s.
When this contract ended I was too young to appreciate the opportunities this could have continued to open up for me and was feeling a little burnt out from pursuing the idea of working in film.
As well as the bar work I picked up a job as a roadie. Technically it was more of a stage hand as I didn’t tour with any bands but I did get to crew shows for acts ranging from Foo Fighters, Alice Cooper, Machine Head, Lamb of God and Korn (literally the best possible place for a heavy metal obsessed individual such as myself!)
Sadly this work was quite seasonal, sometimes irregular and I was getting a bit tired of working so many unsociable hours.
My next venture was into retail where I became a Weekend Supervisor as major health food chain Holland and Barrett. This led me into becoming a store manager and being able to drop the bar shifts and settle into a more structured career path.
Three years down the line I saw a CD / DVD shop was opening up and recruiting to a manager position. I landed the job as store manager of That’s Entertainment whose parent company happened to be Music Magpie. If you were to ask me at age 15 what I want to do in the future outside of stating the obvious answer of ‘being Batman’ I would have definitely said ‘RUN A RECORD STORE!’
What happened that eventually started you down the path to being a BA?
About 12 – 18 months in to the role at That’s Entertainment I joined the company project team. The core objective of the project team was to improve processes, drive efficiencies, reduce waste, innovate existing practices and increase profit and I was involved in some form with the majority of outputs from this over the course of 5 years.
In my 7th year there it became increasingly difficult to continue to have a high street presence. I was unfortunately made redundant. Pretty devastating at the time, particularly as I had a 9 month old son at this point.
I went through the usual anger and denial phases and when I landed in acceptance I decided that the path forward from here was to use this as an opportunity to switch careers entirely and try something new.
In Wales when you’re made redundant there is a possibility you’re eligible for a grant of up to £1,500 in order to fund training so you can gain new skills and get back into employment quicker. This was a lifeline for me and I decided on an AAT Foundation Level 2 in Accounting and Finance.
We were lucky enough that my Wife was able to return to work full-time after maternity leave so I took on childcare responsibility and attended my course once a week.
During studying I was fortunate enough to find a job for 2 days a week within Cardiff Council on a scheme where I joined a team of business analysts as a corporate trainee. The cost of the nursery fees was barely covered by working just two days per week but what I gained from this in terms of exposure, opportunity, mentoring, experience and resources was absolutely priceless.
I learnt so much in a short space of time, and I also realised that in previous roles, particularly film making and the 5 year stint as being part of the project team at Music Magpie I had done masses of BA work without knowing at the time that’s what I was doing!
Picking up the BCS foundation book, working through the Council’s training portal and being supported by colleagues in the office I was able to “join the dots” learning the correct terminology for things I’d done previously, filling in knowledge gaps, affirming approaches to things, building on existing skills and experience and of course learning new techniques – it was like a carousel of lightbulb moments!
Drawing on every piece of my past experience and everything new I’d learnt I poured my absolute entire being into applying to join the team full time and I was successful. There isn’t a moment that has passed since that I am not grateful for the opportunity and thankful for being where I am right now. If Record Store Manager was the “perfect” job then being a Business Analyst is the BATMAN level of a “dream” job!
In your view what is the core role of a Business Analyst within an organisation?
To drive, champion and facilitate change and improvement. To question, inform and empower decisions. To achieve value for money, efficiency and well-being for an Organisation.
That’s my view of the core BA role. Of course there’s much more to it when you examine the detail, but for me I like how simple this summary is.
What would you say is your proudest achievement so far?
Securing my permanent role within a high performing and established team within six months of joining the Organisation as a Trainee.
To sum that achievement up in one line does not do justice to what this took.
Suffice to say this involved 6 months of intensively throwing myself into the deep end, getting stuck in, cramming training to fill in knowledge gaps and demonstrating that I had the right skills, mind-set and abilities to make this happen.
Not to mention the 15,000-odd word supporting application and then presentation prep I had to do for the interview when I got shortlisted.
Have there been any low points in your career and how did you deal with those?
Going through redundancy was incredibly difficult, stressful, challenging and most definitely my career low point. Through it I was able to build a tremendous amount of resiliency but getting to that point was a massive uphill climb. To overcome this low point and everything that was going on around it, I used the career break to re-skill myself.
Another job in retail wouldn’t have afforded me as much of a chance to contribute to the business project team or the same level of enjoyment day-to-day. I fully went back to square one and decided to pursue a new career altogether.
I ran through what felt like endless possibilities…Personal Trainer, Accountant, Business Admin Support, Sales Team Leader, Law Enforcement, Teacher…
[“I went forward in time, to view alternate futures. To see all the possible outcomes of the coming conflict.”
“How many did you see?”
“How many did we win?”
Doctor Strange / Iron Man quote from Avengers Endgame – sums up my decision making process!
I eventually settled on taking an accounting course via the redundancy funding scheme with the view to transitioning into a finance based role. Ultimately this led me into the BA world.
The way I dealt with redundancy is the same way I deal with all challenges, obstacles, problems and low points – see through and beyond the difficulties and analyse where the opportunities are.
What do you think are some of the particular challenges that a BA faces in today’s business world?
Being recognised for the valuable contribution that we can make, not just being heard but being listened to. Whether that’s in the form of recommendations we make for improvements or when risks are identified and uncovered.
Lots of good value adding work is being produced out there. Getting it seen, understood and implemented is (for me) the main challenge in the business world facing a BA.
Do you have any career aspirations for the future that you would like to share with us?
Being relatively new to being a BA (or rather, new to realising I was a BA all along!) my short and midterm aspirations are to continue learning, expanding my knowledge and gaining new skills. As I’ve mentioned previously, I have an excellent support network within my team packed with knowledge and experience for me to draw on to help facilitate this.
Long term aspirations are to contribute and be recognised for producing meaningful work that helps achieve objectives and effectively faces the challenges outlined within the Organisations Capital Ambition Programme.
This in turn will benefit the people of Cardiff and mean that what I do has a real tangible and positive impact on the lives of its citizens and the future of our city.
What advice would you give to anyone who is early into their career as a Business Analyst or considering a move into the profession?
Being as I am relatively new to the profession myself the thing that has helped me the most is finding a mentor.
Someone who has the time, energy, knowledge and passion to provide guidance, explanation and support when you need it. Whether this is an informal 30 min catch up with a coffee or a two hour deep dive into facilitation skills for workshops or even just someone to sense check a piece of work briefly and give some quick feedback.
It must be said that I’m incredibly lucky to have a whole team that I could call upon for any and all of the above (and quite regularly do) so as a “top tip 1.2” it would be embrace all the support from your team, listen, learn and definitely ask stupid questions!
But, I do have a designated mentor that I know I can cover things in a little more in detail with if needed. I even have weekly 1-2-1 sessions where I have dedicated time to cover what I’m currently working on, raise any issues or problems I’ve encountered or cover a tool / technique / methodology I’m not completely familiar with.
The sessions are led by me in terms of what I feel like I need to cover and I always leave them with something valuable – be that some further reading to go and do or a better understanding of tool I can deploy the next time I face a similar challenge.
What about your life outside of work, can you tell us a bit about that?
I’m a parent first and foremost, that seems to supersede everything else these days.
Massive comic book reader, Marvel mainly but my all-time favourite superhero is Batman and he’s DC. I’m an avid powerlifter / bodybuilding wannabe / gym obsessive. I settled on the bespoke, mysterious and heroic sounding “Iron Agitator” to summarise my interest in health and fitness, although I don’t think it will catch on.
I’ve hit 1,000lbs total in Squat, Bench and Deadlift although these are all “gym lifts” (didn’t even film them – I have no proof!) so the ultimate goal with this is to one day enter a powerlifting meet or strongman-type contest to get these numbers officially recorded and verified.
I’m also a music obsessive, specifically heavy-metal / alternative – anything loud, noisy, aggressive, violent or just plain weird. I know I’m the only one in the office to have written up a few process maps whilst listening to Annotations of an Autopsy, Lamb of God or Behemoth…maybe I’m the only BA ever to do this? \m,/ \,m/
The music fits very nicely with my gym time too, the synergy between lifting heavy metal and listening to heavy metal definitely improves athletic performance. Heavy listening = heavy lifting. Heavy listening also = smashing through heavy workloads, at least for me it does!
I’m not super active on the social medias but hope to be more so in the future and have some interesting content planned if I ever get around to producing any of it!