Specialist or Generalist

It has often come up in discussions with friends and former co-workers as to what type of job progression is better for career development. Is it better to stay in the one organisation and try different roles or is best to hone one skillset and apply it at various organisations?

The job I had whilst finishing university (and beyond) was the place I wanted to spend the rest of my career in. This was because the organisation of 5000 could offer various opportunities throughout my career without needing to change. The other reason of perhaps equal weighting was that this organisation provided a good working environment and my loyalty to it would reflect my gratitude for having been given the opportunity while I was still an undergraduate student. This notion eventually changed when after two years of service, I decided it was time to move onto a role that matched my profile and aspirations.

Whilst I had at one stage envisaged working there for many years, why did I decide to leave?

This was mainly due to my desire to validate the choice I made at university and to put to use the learnings in my field of study. The best way to achieve this was to pursue the role of business analyst so that I could utilise my strengths and interests to add value to organisations. So in pursuing a specific role, my career has become one where I will work for various organisations but always inside a defined role and skills set. My former colleagues on the other hand stayed on at the organisation however, they’ve since tried their hand at various roles. We are all happy with our decisions and realise there is no way to really conclude what is the best path for career development.

On the one hand, staying inside one organisations allows for the trajectory to senior management to be attainable faster. There are several advantages such as cultivating constructive relationships both within and outside of one’s section which allows for lateral movements and even promotions when the opportunity arises. Staying in the one organisation also allows you to develop a deeper understanding of the organisation’s subject matter as well as culture. Thirdly, persisting at one organisation provides a level of assurance to the employer that you are likely to stay around and add value.

In my experience, working at various places has forced me to prove my skills and worth to all employers at each role. Building rapport with stakeholders is a constant requirement and I think over time, I’ve been able to extend my natural tendency of being an introvert to a learned extrovert. Whilst I haven’t been exposed to work other than business analysis, it has allowed me to further hone my skills in this role and achieve depth in skills rather than depth in one business context.

So in the end, was it worth it?

I think it’s too early to tell but I relish knowing that I’m more confident in my adaptability and the skills I’ve developed so that I can continue to adapt to new environments or stay at one place for a while if the circumstances are favourable. Having said that the BA path is one of constant learning to the extent that it can never be mastered.

What I Got From a University Degree

My university degree didn’t automatically grant me a job. It didn’t give me a career nor did it earn me a promotion in my job once I graduated. To be completely honest, in my first professional job, people with less qualifications and experience got further in their careers than I did! I sometimes had to reflect on what advantages I achieved from attending university. So in the end was it worth it? What did I get out of finishing a university degree?

How to Think

Firstly, university taught me how to think. Thanks to my degree, I can now express my thoughts on many subjects. During this time, I had to research publications that align with my thoughts and present those findings in a coherent way. Even in my tutorial classes, I had to express ideas and defend them in an impromptu manner. It also helped me appreciate the views that were different to mine and understand how this actually enriches discussion on any topic.

Deal with Pressure

The degree I studied put me in situations of pressure and stress and I am grateful. This was of course more apparent during the assessment periods of each semester and heightened at exam time. Outside of university, I have also been through periods of pressure in various jobs and it makes it easier to withstand because I’ve been through this before.

Build a Network

The other benefit is that university allowed me to meet some great people. Three of my best friends that I have today I met while studying my undergraduate degree.

Strengthen Communication Skills

University strengthened my communication skills. The way I interacted with lecturers, tutors and class mates have helped me develop a productive communication style which serves me well today. Apart from day to day interactions, I learned how to improve my presentation skills. It’s thanks to the many group assignments that I learned how to collate a group effort and share the responsibilities of a joined presentation.

A university degree means something different to each person. The journey is quite unique and personal. All of which I’ve mentioned above can be accomplished without going through university. This happens to be the journey that I went through and what I came away with. I am grateful for my experience but a university degree isn’t everything. I found this out in the years after graduating. I wouldn’t change anything given a second chance though.

Four years on and counting

I’ve now had this blog for a little over four years. I first bought this domain in 2007 but left it with just a humble ‘under construction’ front page for almost two years. Then back in 2009, my partner suggested that I use the site to record my opinions. I’m so grateful for that advice.

So I learned how to install WordPress on my domain and within a few weeks, I was blogging with ease.

Four years on and I am pleased with how much I’ve accomplished. I have no programming knowledge or developer skills. I think it’s great that you don’t need any to run a blog these days.

It’s fantastic to read old posts and remember what things were happening in my life at the time. Back then, I hadn’t graduated from university and I was trying to  establish a business analyst career even though I was living overseas.

The purpose of this blog was to record all the things that seemed important to me and to track my career journey. It has been great to achieve all the goals I’ve set for myself since then.

My posts have become less frequent but the content I have to share nowadays is what I wanted all along. It’s good to know I have this blog next to me all the time to share snippets of time throughout my life.

I hope you enjoy reading this content. I recommend blogging to anyone. It’s a great pastime.

Business Analyst, how do I become one and what strengths do I need?

As many BAs can testify, this is a profession where you have to find your own way in. I think this will change with time as the BA profession becomes more common but for now this is the challenge that many aspiring BAs face.

Going to university and studying information systems is a good start but unfortunately it does not grant you an entry into the BA field right away (unless of course you are able to find a good graduate program).

There are many discussions online about the different paths one can take to end with the illustrious title of Business Analyst. Continue reading

Why business analysis?

When I was growing up I had a few ideas of what I wanted to become in the future but none of them were about business analysis. In the early nineties, not everyone had a computer. I remember our family first got a computer in 1996.

From what I can remember, these are a few of things I wanted to be when older:
An ironman triathlete
A writer
A politician (prime minister of Australia to be completely truthful)

As a teenager, I had to revisit what I would become as it was becoming more urgent. By then, I at least knew I had to attend University to get ahead – I thank my parents for instilling this thought into my head. The things I realised by year nine (ninth grade) was that I liked solving problems and I could figure out how to use a computer relatively quickly. Little did I know that this would be influential in my decision to become a business analyst later on. Back then, I didn’t know what business analysis was but I was confident that the IT industry would provide a career that would utilise my interest in computers and pay well – the late 90s was a great time for IT professionals. Continue reading