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The CBAP was My BA Booster Shot

A few years ago, my company generously paid for a CBAP certification class to be held in one of our local offices.

That class was the start of a journey that would lead me down a path I could not have anticipated. I liken it to a kid getting a booster shot to strengthen the immune system. It’s not that the CBAP exam itself contained some magic elixir, but the journey leading to taking the exam, and that which followed, has changed me in ways I could not have anticipated.

In class, we were challenged to choose a date to take our exam. That date was a big looming doomsday sign. I needed help. To get it, I looked into my local IIBA chapter. I found a meeting and went to see what it was all about. That day was the day of the Annual General Meeting. The chapter was very small, and they did not have enough IIBA members at the meeting to fill all their open Board positions. I had some website building experience, so I volunteered to become their chapter webmaster. They never did have enough people that year to hold a CBAP study group, but I was able to reach out to other members who had taken or were studying to take the exam themselves. While I was practicing for my exam, I was attending monthly board meetings, chapter training opportunities, and more. By April of 2015, I had become the chapter’s President.

I will never forget it; my exam date was June 6, 2015. Moreover, I can tell you, failing that test while holding the title of Chapter President was not an option in my mind! It spurred me to study harder, and take my certification seriously. I had the absolute support of my family, my management team, my chapter board, and a colleague who accepted a panicky call or two the day before the exam which helped to guide me to success. I passed!

So, the test was done. Mission accomplished, right? Not completely. At this point, it’s important to know that I am extraordinarily lucky and thrilled to be celebrating my 20th year with my company. Of those 20 years, about 18 of them were in a business analyst capacity. When you have spent most of your adult life with the same employer, unless you make a conscious decision to be active in your field outside your company, you can form habits that aren’t productive for you or your future. It can be challenging to improve your communication if you are communicating with the same people you have known most of your career. How do you become a better leader when you grew up with everyone you lead and don’t realize where you need help or where you are great? You can take class after class on topics such as leadership, communication, business writing, and more, but until you can put the training into practice, it is just a class with the limited opportunity for application, or it was in my case anyway. Studying for the CBAP provided me with the insight to know where I needed help. I was able to partner with my management team to build development plans that worked for me and incorporated what I was learning as a chapter leader to be able to apply it on the job. Crazy right?

Once I had my CBAP and was active and growing in my chapter, I felt I had an obligation to pay it forward. I volunteered to moderate our chapter’s CBAP study group. I started to see students pass that I had mentored, and that put a fire in my belly push myself further. As I did more and was working with new individuals with all different levels of experience and backgrounds, I became a better leader, teacher, and friend. I learned different leadership techniques and used communication techniques I’d never had to use in my day-to-day job. I have since taught a CBAP Boot Camp, become a mentor for other BAs, and created training and document standards in my chapter that are now shared across all IIBA chapters. I was a guest speaker at our local Business Analysis Development Day conference, and have submitted papers for national conferences. I volunteer anywhere I can with the IIBA International chapter to move our profession forward. I work with our local PMI and QAA chapters to see how we can work together to make each other better. The more I give, the more I receive. Colleagues have pointed out differences in me they are seeing, and I get a wonderful sense of accomplishment from that recognition. All in all, I am happier in my career than I have ever been. I am definitely more well-rounded and have a better grasp of the ins and outs of my profession. Moreover, it all started because I had to take that test.

The things I learned leading up to and after getting my CBAP have made me a better me. A new improved and stronger me to be proud of. Oh, and apparently, there was enough of an extra dose of confidence in my booster shot actually to write and submit this article. Who knew?