In this interview we talk to Business Analyst Lisa Hudson who tells us about her career path into Business Analysis, the personal challenges along the way and gives great advice for those starting out in the profession.
You can connect with Lisa on LinkedIn here
Can you give a brief summary of your career path to date?
When I first embarked on my career, I stumbled around for a few years in jobs that didn’t quite suit me as I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Looking back now I can see that my first big opportunity came when I was offered a job at Close Motor Finance which is part of the Close Brothers Group.
I started in operations, processing new business which entailed doing credit searches (sometimes for hours and hours at a time!), loading deals onto the computer system, sending out welcome packs, dealing with customers, calculating and raising dealer commission cheques, underwriting deals and booking vehicles.
A few years later I moved across to the debt collection side of the business to manage an existing customer book and found that I was surprisingly good at it! These roles gave me a good grounding for the future.
During my time at Close, I was offered a new role in the IT department. This changed my whole career and I have never looked back. I started in an IT support role – resetting passwords, changing ink cartridges and doing other general support activities to help keep branch staff operational. I was soon given the chance to become an Oracle developer and spent the next few years writing SQL, PL/SQL and developing internal Oracle Forms and Reports.
I was then ready to progress my career and took a role at Leeds Beckett University as an Analyst Programmer. During my time in the education sector, I realised that I loved the days where I was doing BA related activities and decided to present a business case to management to ask for support in studying for the BCS International Business Analysis Diploma. Eighteen months later I had completed my qualification and brought my newfound skills back to the workplace where I used them to establish a new BA function.
A few years ago, I moved into consulting and now have the privilege of heading up a team of talented BAs and delivering business analysis on an array of exciting projects for the technology consultancy, 6point6.
In your view what is the core role of a Business Analyst within an organisation?
The BA role is so complex and far-reaching, but it is essentially about investigating and assessing all kinds of business situations and being the best internal consultant that you can be to your business as well as acting as a trusted advisor to your clients. BAs should always be doing strategic analysis work to support the three main reasons to do any project, which are to:
- Make Money
- Save Money
- Become or remain compliant
In addition to having a naturally inquisitive personality, I believe that the most successful BAs are the ones who are hardworking, intelligent and likeable people who can act as the ‘project glue’ between all stakeholders and aren’t precious about getting stuck in and doing a bit of everything to keep things moving.
What would you say is your proudest achievement so far?
My proudest career achievement is probably being recognised as a respected figure in the Business Analyst community. I have spoken at several events in recent years including the IRM UK BA Conference Europe and the BA Managers Forum in 2018 and have been selected to speak again at this year’s conference in September with our CEO and Co-founder, David Webb.
I have also had articles published in Modern Analyst and BA Times which I’m proud of. It’s nice to know that other BAs can resonate with my experiences and that I can give some useful insights back to the industry.
Have there been any low points in your career and how did you deal with those?
Many, although the first thing that springs to mind is inequality in the workplace. Being a woman in a still male-dominated environment is sometimes a disadvantage. Like lots of women, I’ve had to deal with visible and invisible instances of sexism and even misogyny throughout my career which were real low points for me.
I’ve had to be resilient and work harder to progress up through the ranks. Thankfully, most of the men I have worked with have been hugely supportive of me and my career and have been amazing role models, as have my wonderful female colleagues.
Other low points have probably been self-inflicted and include times where I’ve misjudged situations and perhaps fallen short of expectations. I’ve had to learn to accept that we all make mistakes at times and now try to take feedback positively and use it wisely to make improvements.
What do you think are some of the particular challenges that a BA faces in today’s business world?
Five years ago, my answer to this question would have been obvious; that BAs are constantly having to prove their value to the rest of the world. In recent times, this seems to have changed for the better, probably through the activities and great community spirit that is ongoing within the BA profession. The IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis), BCS (British Computer Society), AssistKD and many other BA related organisations continue to be instrumental in keeping Business Analysis on the map.
Today, I think there is still a big question over where BAs ‘best fit’ in an organisation structure and this can bring political challenges with it. In some organisation’s BAs sit within a PMO function, some sit within Business or Solution Architecture, some sit within IT at a higher level, some sit within the Business itself, some within Engineering and some alongside a UX Design function. I think most BAs would agree that they are best placed in the location that provides the organisation with the best advantage for success, as long as they have a voice and are given the respect that their work and discipline deserves.
On a day to day basis, BAs may also face seemingly small project challenges such as not being involved when they should be; being invited late to the party or being left out altogether until a crisis point has been reached when it’s ten times harder to rectify. A lack of involvement can soon escalate and cause resentment between functions which could easily be avoided.
Do you have any career aspirations for the future that you would like to share with us?
I love my role and generally enjoy getting up in the morning and getting on with my day so in the immediate future, I’m exactly where I want to be, at work and in the industry.
Longer-term, I would love to do more mentoring or become a trainer delivering BA qualifications.
What advice would you give to anyone who is early into their career as a Business Analyst or considering a move into the profession?
Stick with it or do it.
My first public speaking topic was around the pressures of BA life and the first question I asked each group of participants in those sessions was what they loved about their roles. Every time without exception, the first answer was ‘variety’. It is a hugely varied job that is rarely boring.
As a BA, you get to deliver in multi-disciplinary teams, perhaps using Agile ways of working and touch on every part of the software development lifecycle. You may get the chance to be involved in start-ups and all kinds of projects that make a real difference to the world and gain knowledge about different sectors. Most of all, you get an extremely fulfilling career and the chance to work with some great people.
What about your life outside of work, can you tell us a bit about that?
Outside of work I’m very homely and when I have time, I love baking and crocheting. I have a Diploma in Sugarpaste which is essentially a cake decorating qualification!
Before I moved into Business Analysis I was taking lots of orders for children’s cakes, wedding cakes, christening cakes and much more! It was going so well that I nearly set up my own cake business but in the end I decided against it as the mounting cake orders were spoiling my love for the hobby.
Now I just make cakes for very special occasions and I’ve pretty much always got a blanket on the go!