EPISODE 4: EMILY MIDGELY

Episode 4
36:59

Podcast Excerpt:

“I started out of college being a developer and it was fine, but I would find that I would, you know, hand over my code and say, okay, here it is. This is the application. And then it would get sent back to me saying, no, it doesn’t do all of these things. I didn’t say, well, you didn’t tell me it needed to do all of those things. So, um, the more I tried to kind of shift left and figure out how do we build it right the first time I realized, okay, maybe I’d be suited to this business analyst thing.”

Episode Transcript:

Tracie:

Hello everyone and welcome to the Traceability podcast! I’m your host, Tracie Edwards, and today our guest is Emily Midgely. Emily has been a business analyst for many years, mostly in the health insurance domain. She’s a certified business analysis professional, very passionate about business analysis and currently serves as the president of the IIBA Cleveland, Ohio chapter. So welcome Emily!

Emily:

Thank you Tracie. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Tracie:

Really happy to have you here. So Emily and I connected through a coaching program that we are both part of as we’ve sort of chatted over the last year and a half or so that we’ve both been trying to sort of up level our careers and, and sort of broaden our horizons a little bit. I’m glad that we were able to have you with us and hopefully, uh, make a difference on your journey there. Normally what we do here is I just like to start out with asking how you got started in business analysis and what did you originally want to be and how did that all come about?

Emily:

Sure. Um, thinking back to how I became, um, a business analyst, I, you know, like in a perfect world, people tell you to follow your passion and like, okay, playing with puppies doesn’t really pay the bills. I’ve got to move on to something else that’ll help a little bit more. But I, I think back to when I was in college, and I as strange as it sounds, I, I loved my business classes. I found them really, really interesting and I took a couple of coding classes here and there and that was about Y two K type time. So we were hearing a lot about programming and how important like computers and systems were to people’s daily lives even then. And so I had to take a couple classes for my major found that I really liked. It seemed to be pretty decent at it. But then looking back, I think about like the group projects that I had within those coding classes where someone else often wrote the code, but then I would write the paper that went along with it.

Emily:

So I’ve always been kind of a words and ideas person and the, the code I can handle, it makes sense to me. But, um, it’s really the, the ideas and the why are we doing things that really gets me, um, into the BA world. So yeah, I started out of college being a developer and it was fine, but I would find that I would, you know, hand over my code and say, okay, here it is. This is the application. And then it would get sent back to me saying, no, it doesn’t do all of these things. I didn’t say, well, you didn’t tell me it needed to do all of those things. So, um, the more I tried to kind of shift left and figure out how do we build it right the first time I realized, okay, maybe I’d be suited to this business analyst thing.

Emily:

So that’s right about, I dunno, early to mid two thousands when the term, I don’t know from my perspective was really starting to come about like in the world. Yeah. So it’s really about, you know, how, how can we build something the right way? The first time for our customers, um, and try to, you know, do it correctly so that we don’t have to keep going back again. And again.

Tracie:

Was your company at the time, were they familiar with business analysis? Was there a someone who was able to sort of help you make that pivot or how did that, that pivot actually happen?

Emily:

How did we do that? So I think I got in like right at the ground floor, so this was um, maybe mid two thousands and there, there were a handful of people actually with the business analyst or business systems analyst job title. And um, I got kinda got to know them. There was an internal community of practice that a few of them started, so that was incredibly helpful. And probably a lot of BA’s can relate to that because very often you might be the only one as a BA on the team that you work on. So it’s really hard, you know, you try to go up to a developer and bounce some ideas off of them and like their, their brain is working in a totally different way. They’re trying to solve a different problem or to solve it from a different angle. So sometimes we just need other BA’s to talk to. So that’s, that’s why you and I are here Tracie. And that’s why we both joined, joined circle of success. So I did have some other people to talk to. Um, but I’m also really lucky because the company that I worked for had a requirements analysis class and it was amazing.

Emily:

So just, you know, really helpful. I think it was kind of a lot of basic stuff. What’s functional, what’s nonfunctional and so, so that was there and I was able to take it and since I was one of the early BAS, my manager said at one point, Hey, why don’t you teach this class? So, and that’s the first time that I learned that you don’t really understand something until you’ve got to explain it to someone else. So that’s when I really started trying to learn the science. Was that like a, a industry standard type training or was that more sort of an internal methodology type training? Yeah, it was an internal methodology. This would have been 2005, 2006, something like that. So it was something that people came up internally and I think most of the other teachers were project managers cause that’s who did requirements analysis and documentation before business analysis really became a thing.

Tracie:

Right, right. Sounds like um, some of our experiences in the early two thousands were pretty similar. I happened to be at a company that sort of, um, you know, I had been in customer service and they needed somebody to help testing. So I would help test and one thing sort of led to another. And then it was, you know, I, I had a history background so I was able to do a lot of writing and, and that, that kind of thing. And so it just sort of fell into place that way. And then I ended up taking a lot of um, similar internal type trainings where they’d have a project manager come out and teach everybody the company’s way of doing project management.

Emily:

Interesting. And that’s, that was probably so useful and probably still is like with that kind of background that you had. And cause a lot of, a lot of people I work with, like they started out as like some kind of customer service rep and then they become testers. And I, I like to say a friend of mine said this to me years ago for the first time he said some of the best business analysts I know are testers and I’ve, I’ve totally been there, I’ve been, you know, reviewing my requirements. And then a tester would say, well what about this crazy situation? And I’d say, Oh my goodness, I didn’t even think about that. That’s a whole other set of requirements that we need to figure out. So it’s really good to have that kind of mindset too. So the, the history of being someone to really use the system and then is so invaluable to have someone who knows how to break it.

Tracie:

You know, that was also the time before there was a lot of automated type testing before QA sort of went into quality engineering and that sort of path. So I think, I don’t know about you, but I had to sort of draw a line in the sand of where it was that I wanted to sort of focus my career energies. Did you ever run into a thing like that? I guess after coding and that kind of thing?

Emily:

That’s true. Yeah. So I, I made the switch the like official, like the job title switch from coding to business analysis. Um, yeah. And it was, it was interesting. My manager just handed me two job descriptions toward the end of the year. So it was just about before the holidays started and she said, well, which one of these do you want to do? So I had a couple of weeks to go home and think about it and it, it wasn’t like an ultimatum or anything, but it’s like here’s, it’s the end of the year. You’re good at both of these. What do you really want? So, so that was, there was a lot of heavy thought that went into it. But yeah, I decided, you know what, I, I learned how to code in school. Lots of people can learn how to do it. There are lots of developers, lots of development training programs. But, um, with business analysis it seems to be, and I, I don’t think I knew this at the time, but it takes, I don’t know, a special kind of person who will just poke and poke and poke at things until we’re really sure we’ve got it right or the like that we understand it.

Emily:

Because sometimes what people say is not actually what they mean and may not actually be the real reason why we’re doing something. So yeah, I’m glad I took that path and it was definitely the unconventional one. Um, but yeah, it was really about, this is really interesting to me and I like doing this and, and it’s kind of cool because it’s not, at the time it wasn’t very well defined, so I figured I could take it and make it my own.

Tracie:

So you had this manager who said, I see that you’re doing well and you’re good at this and you’re good at this. Sometimes we really need help. And having somebody who can call out what it is that we might be good at because sometimes we have difficulty seeing our own gifts. Yeah, I think you’re right. So it sounds like you had a manager there who was able to kind of see that in you and then allow you to kind of discover that for yourself as you went about that decision making process.

Emily:

Sure. Right. Just in the last six months, I’ve started working with her again. So at the, the company in that we tend to have many careers but in a single place and we’ve crossed paths again and we, we work together now. And I keep thinking, man, like she really did me a favor cause yeah. And I think maybe she saw that was the right path for me to take, but she wanted to do it kind of in a more gentle way than, Hey, you should really do this. Because if she had said that, I’m in, if I Whoa, yeah, that’s, that means I better shape up as a developer. Like maybe I wouldn’t have viewed it as the opportunity that it really was. So that, that gave me a lot of time to kind of think through it and let it Marin in my head. So yeah. So there are a lot of, probably a lot of those in my career where somebody saw something before I did and just gave me that little push that I wouldn’t have done on my own. And you’ve probably had a lot of that in your own career too.

Tracie:

Yeah. And I was, I’m sort of having this conversation with someone else recently and, and it’s, um, those conversations can either be a little bit threatening feeling, you know, like, like a, Oh no, I must not be performing well, I’m doing something wrong. Yeah. Or we can look at it as the opportunity and say yes to it and, um, which doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be challenges associated with it. Saying yes to the opportunity is, uh, often the best, uh, best path,

Emily:

right? Yeah. Something new and something interesting and exciting and that you can really shape into what you want it to be. So glad I did that.

Tracie:

Well. So you have been at your company for what, 17- 18 years. How have things sort of changed for you in that time? How have you sort of been able to, to keep it fresh and interesting for you? While sort of staying in the same organization,

Emily:

Man. I guess there are a few ways. So one thing that I was thinking of when we were both kind of talking about, you know, do I want to be a developer or do I want to be an analyst? And then for you like do I want to be a quality assurance person or a quality engineering person? It got me thinking, wow, we’ve, and several years ago, 10 15 years ago maybe our, our jobs were really starting to break apart and become really siloed. And I think maybe the biggest shift that I’ve seen is now they’re starting to come together again. So I’ve moved more into the agile space in the last 10 years, maybe less than that, where it’s all about collaborating and working together. And it’s not the BA or just the product owner who owns the story cards. It’s the whole team. Like we’re all in this together.

Emily:

And so there’s out there in the industry, there are also job titles like agile analyst where you might be a business analyst, you might be a tester. Back to that, you know, the best BA’s I’ve ever worked with have been testers. Um, where we have the, I don’t know, the same kind of quirky mind that says what if, and then tries to put rules and patterns around things and define what those are in the words and ideas. And then sort of on the other side, there’s the developer type people who also think with patterns and stuff, but they can write the code to do the things that, that we define or they write the code to verify that it does the things that we define and we think about. So we’re, I don’t know, I kind of feel like we’re, we’re merging back together with that mindset of everybody working together.

Emily:

And the more we stay in our own lane, the less we’re able to figure things out collaboratively. Working together will get us a lot further than each of us working a tiny bit separately. Yeah. So that’s, that’s probably the biggest change. Shifting from a traditional world to an agile world. And then just in the last couple of years I’ve started thinking more about things in terms of products. So agile is really great for let’s get the team moving and having their work flow well together so that we can get it out in front of customers. But then agile is pretty silent on product type things. Like in the scrum guide, the product owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the work that the team does, but it doesn’t really say like what’s valuable. So that’s where product and product management come in and it’s more or less business analysis from what I’ve seen. Like a lot of the business analysis stuff, the bigger companies, more traditional ones do a lot in that space. But then startups really talk a lot about product management. So it’s, it’s a different take gun kind of the same stuff. Making sure that what we’re doing is worthwhile. Um, but yeah, that’s been what’s really interesting to me lately and trying to figure out like how does business analysis fit together with product management? And I think IBM is doing some work with that too. So always good to catch up with them.

Tracie:

Sometimes change is thrust on organizations based on what’s happening with methodologies and popularity of different uh, systems and methodologies and that kind of thing. Scrum seems to sort of have taken over that sort of project space kind of thing. You can either choose to remain in the silo, which may make it a little different for your agile team or you can choose to sort of, I guess broaden the skill base kind of thing, in which case everyone on the team sort of has similar skills is becoming an even more vocal topic for a lot of conversations that BA’s are having and the IIBA is facilitating and that, that kind of thing.

Emily:

Yeah, it’s um, become really popular and I think especially because, so like you said, scrum is the most widely used agile framework, at least in software development. And it only defines those three roles. You’re a product owner or a scrum master or a development team member. And so the, the first reaction that’s so many people have BA’s, Q&A project managers even is, Oh my goodness, my job title isn’t any of those three things. So what do I do in a scrum world or an agile world? And you know, and the answer is, especially for BA’s and QA’s, is you do the same stuff. You’re a person on a development team with analysis skills. You still contribute, you can support everybody I suppose can support the product owner. Um, because also, you know, the product owner is responsible for the product backlog, but it’s all a lot of work to own that entire thing.

Emily:

So you’re gonna need help. And someone who might have the job title of BA is probably gonna be really good at helping with that even if they’re not the decision maker. So yeah, there’s still plenty of room for people. It’s just understanding that the terms are a little bit different.

Tracie:

Staying in an organization for a long time as you have, do you see that something continuing for you or, um, do you see at some point wanting to make some sort of change?

Emily:

I’m really happy where I am. I think I got really lucky and working at a, I don’t know, very well run company and one that treats people really well too. So I just switched jobs departments. Eh, about a year ago I was in like an internal enterprise delivery practices group where if people had questions about how do I, how do I do scrum things better or how, what are some testing techniques or what are some VA techniques they would come to this team that I was on.

Emily:

So I was doing a lot of coaching, kind of one-on-one for lots of BA’s, some product owners around the company. But then, um, within the last six, eight months, I moved into, um, like a business unit and it’s really fun. So I’m still helping people kind of where I can, but it’s cool to be full time working with a group of people who are putting a product out. So, so it’s kinda cool to be like back in the thick of things again and like writing story cards and helping with, um, sprint reviews and backlog refinement and that kind of stuff. So it’s, it’s really different and I don’t know that people make such a big difference to so and so. I’ve been happy where I am. But yeah, having had a few different careers where I am has been really awesome too. Well, that’s good.

Tracie:

Maybe talk about how you got involved with the IIBA and, um, what sort of led to you seeking them out and that kind of thing.

Emily:

Gosh, I joined IIBA many years go. I’m, I, I got my CBAP probably seven or eight years ago. So, so it’s been awhile. It was on version two of the BABOK. Anyone who’s passed on version three more power to you then that’s a lot of stuff here at better person than I am. Um, and that, that is no easy feat for anyone. So I think anyone who’s, if you’re thinking about going for it or, you know, join a study group, find some people to support you, find resources kind of out there, like, don’t do it on your own. There are lots of people out there to help. Most of them are, I don’t know, IIBA members because that’s something we find valuable.

Emily:

Um, so I probably got more active through working towards the CBAP and knowing that this group of people understand my vocabulary. So getting the CBAP for me, like and all the studying and that was kind of a double edged sword. So on the one hand, like I learned all this stuff and it was fantastic and I knew all of these things about, you know, all these different knowledge areas and how business analysis helps from such a broader perspective than just writing requirements, which is often what BA’s are stuck doing, especially at really big companies. So, so that was really cool. But then at the same time it’s like, okay, here’s all the amazing things that a business analyst can do. And then I go back to work and they’re like, write these requirements. And it’s like, Oh, there’s so much more to this job. So what I kinda had to settle with was, okay, from some perspective, every single person I work with does business analysis, even if that’s not their job title.

Emily:

So the technical architects are doing, they’re doing a lot of like enterprise analysis and systems analysis and how do these things fit together? Just about everyone’s doing stakeholder analysis. So, so I kinda had to let that go is like, no, I’m not the only person who can do these things. It’s really about if someone else is doing them, maybe I can give them a little nudge and help them do it a little bit better because of what I’ve learned. See, bap was good for me. Um, I went to a few BBC conferences, that’s a building business capability and those are just phenomenal. I was really lucky to be in a position where I could go, um, a few years in a row. So if, if you can go once, highly recommend it. My, my brain was just overflowing probably by the end of the first day each time. So I like, I couldn’t even fathom going out and doing the networking stuff and talking to other humans.

Emily:

I just kinda had to debrief and get it out of my head. Yeah, there’s just so much to learn there. And then a few years later I started to get more comfortable with stuff. I started doing more, um, presentations internally. So if I was helping a lot of people in my old job, I would see, wow, you know, we really need help with, I don’t know, writing our acceptance criteria more clearly or vertically slicing our story cards. So that sort of thing, I would end up saying, okay, here are all the tips that I’ve been giving people. I can just make that into a presentation, deliver it to whoever’s willing to listen within the company. And then I thought, well gosh, lots of people probably need help with these things. So I went to my local IIBA chapter and in Cleveland, Ohio and did a presentation there and it was fine and the world didn’t come crashing down like everything worked out totally.

Emily:

Well, they still understood what I was saying, even though I was like, you know, not inside the walls at other people’s companies. So it, it translated, it might’ve been a couple of years before I had a talk accepted at BBC. So, um, yeah, it did a couple of those. Oh, I volunteered with the local chapter, um, in Cleveland. So, um, that’s what got me really involved, at least at the chapter level. And then once, once I kinda got in there and Tracie, you’re probably the same way where if you see something that needs to get done, it’s like, okay, I’ll just do it rather than trying to find someone else. So yeah. So I think I kind of volunteered my way into, um, serving at the board and doing, um, doing a lot more. So, yeah. And a lot of it’s just, I’ve, I’ve done a lot of BA type stuff.

Emily:

I, I want to help people. And maybe some of it too is I’ve, I’ve made so many mistakes, so I have a lot of stories to share. Here’s what not to do and if I can help someone else from messing up in the same way, that’s cool too. So just trying to share what I know and it’s, yeah, it’s not easy the first time around. So like if you’re thinking about, or you know, people thinking about like, wow, I’ve, maybe I have something to share with the local community. There could be opportunities for even like 10 or 15 minute talks, like at a local chapter event or maybe now there will be a lot more WebEx type things. Um, but yeah, there’s, there’s definitely a community out there for us and people who want to listen and learn from each other. So that’s what IBA has been all about for me.

Tracie:

And that’s what it’s been for me as well. I finally found the IIBA after I’d been sort of trying to say, this is what I’m doing and you know, company not necessarily understanding what that was.

Emily:

Yes. Yeah. I think a lot of BA’s on that experience. Yeah.

Tracie:

And the, you know, finding the IIBA that got me in study groups, that got me in serving in the chapter, got me a lot of, you know, just opportunities to network and get to know other people. And that’s kind of where our paths diverge a little bit is I realized it was taking me out of my company where I’d been for almost 19 years. So I kind of ended up taking me out of my company and I’m into other companies and um, sort of other, other paths and, and stuff like that. But I think the, the commonality there is that, especially with the world we happen to be living in at the moment, and, and for those listening, this is being recorded during COVID 19 lockdown.

Tracie:

You know, the world we’re living in at the moment, it, it’s so important to be upskilling whatever that upskilling means for us personally, it could mean upskilling so that you can stay in an organization, it could mean upskilling so that you can move into another organization. I think the commonality there is that we need to be keeping our skills fresh and we need to remain curious and keep networking and keep getting those new ideas and putting ourselves out there. So, and it sounds like you’ve been able to get some of those opportunities in your organization, which I think is a real plug, as you said, for your organization because not a lot of them sort of have that focus.

Emily:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think some of it too is I’m a, I, I guess there’s not a super polite way to put it. I’m just a really big nerd and I am not happy unless I’m learning new stuff. So, um, and you’re probably the same way or else we wouldn’t be talking, but yeah, I think like, you know, if I won the lottery, so if I like hit the jackpot and won a bunch of money and I didn’t have to work for money, what would I do? And you know, people have their wild ideas and it’s like, man, I will go back to school. I would learn a little bit about all kinds of different stuff cause I don’t, I’m just curious all the time. And I guess, well yeah, and I said earlier, I, I’ve messed up a lot of things so I’ve been thinking too about, okay, what have I messed up so far in my new job?

Emily:

Like in the last several months, you mentioned being curious Tracie a few minutes ago and being curious about other people and where they’re coming from and where their mindset is really important. And I think I’ve been missing that element. So I’m used to, from my former job, someone coming to me for advice and me saying, do this, this and this. And right now people aren’t necessarily asking for my advice, but I’ve seen in my past other things go wrong and what could, what could work in this situation? So I’m provide, I’m inflicting help on people whether they like it or not, and it’s frustrating both of us. So, um, so I think my two big lessons there are get curious, ask why, help me understand which is business analysis 101. So I’ve done this for years and I still need to go back and remember this. And the other thing too is just to, to meet people where they are. So sometimes I’ll start talking about agile concepts or product management things. And if you’re not familiar with that, you’re not like not much of an idea of what I’m saying and we’re not going to connect and we’re not going to get anything out of the conversation either way. So yeah. So really just kind of paying attention, listening without judgment. And, uh, take your time. Maybe that’s, that’s what I need to tell myself.

Tracie:

All sort of those soft skills that benefit organizations because of the VA’s which kind of thrive with some of those soft skills. They, so much of the, what we talk about these days is about learning STEM skills and, and I think STEM skills are, are great. Having the soft skills to be able to activate some of those STEM skills in the right way I think is just as, as critical. And so sort of one of my big things is making sure that we’re plugging the soft skills as much as plugging the STEM skills.

Emily:

Yeah, that’s a good point too. I haven’t thought about that lately because I feel like I, I’ve been forgetting some of those like just relating to people cause it’s, it’s so important to, to build relationships and gain people’s trust so that they will pay attention to what you have to say. But then, yeah, I haven’t heard of, I don’t know, maybe I’m blanking, but I, yeah, I feel like so much emphasis has been on the technical skills and there are a lot of, they call them tech elevator or coding boot camps around where I am, where it’s, you know, you, you learn to code and then you can be ready for like an associate level programming job and that’s very, uh, technical, precise type skills but not really facilitating and active listening and that sort of thing. And I, I just thought it was because I wasn’t paying attention, but maybe, maybe that’s a bigger trend like you’re pointed out.

Tracie:

Yeah. For those of us, the facilitation skills are, are sort of where it’s at for us that, that that’s um, where we get our biggest thrills from probably.

Emily:

Yeah, that’s true. And I heard, Oh, I don’t remember which podcast it was on, but it was someone who was a like professional facilitator. I think that was her actual job title is facilitator. And she said the something really challenging about it is that good facilitation looks like nothing. Like it’s, it’s very hard to emulate. And it can be hard to describe, kind of like being a BA kinda hard to describe what this is and what the is like. I facilitate I think literally is to make easy. So you’re making the meeting run more smoothly. Okay. Well some of us do that with a few things, but to do it really well you, you wouldn’t notice someone doing that and yeah. And like a BA also, it probably feels like some natural conversation with whether a really great view of like why, why is this thing necessary? What, what’s the problem that our customers have today that we’re trying to resolve or trying to make easier for them. So yeah, a lot of it’s just relating in a personal level.

Tracie:

So as, as we wrap up this conversation, um, maybe talk about what’s coming up for you, uh, any exciting things that you’re working on. Are you going to be presenting at BBC again?

Emily:

So yeah, what’s coming up for me? Probably something I’ve got to start working on right away. So there’s, um, a group of people there, maybe four or five of us, um, through IIBA and we are doing like kind of a book club where we’re reviewing, um, a leadership book and we’re coming together, um, very soon to plan out a webinar series that goes with it. So, um, this series I think is, I don’t know, maybe four or five webinars and it’ll all be based on one single book and kind of actionable leadership steps that the audience can take away from it. So, so that’s kind of my extracurricular thing that’s happening now. And, and as the, um, president of the Cleveland chapter, we’re just working on getting our monthly meetings. Well our chapter meetings going, we actually decided, um, due to, you know, Corona virus and keeping people separate and just, there’s a lot of hectic things happening right now. Um, we decided to cancel our March meeting rather than try to do it online like as a webinar just because there is so much happening. Um, so we thought, okay, we’ll come back when things calm down a little bit. Cause we’ve, we’ve got speakers lined up, we have topics lined up, we just want to make sure that, um, everybody’s in a good frame of mind to absorb the information.

Tracie:

Good point that sometimes we need to adjust. And, and in the, in the software world we are very plan driven and so sometimes we need to make those adjustments. But I’m really interested to follow your book review series. So keep us posted how that ends up going.

Emily:

IIBA members, you will probably see, um, ads for it or blurbs for it and your newsletters that come into your mailbox. So watch out for those. And Tracie keep you posted too. If you want to keep your, your listeners up to date too, please do.

Tracie:

Because on the traceability podcast website, we do offer book reviews. I would love to promote some of those as, as you have those ready. And then finally, how can folks find you?

Emily:

Oh boy. Um, you can find me on LinkedIn. I’m Emily Midgley. That’s M, I D, G, L, E Y and yeah, that’s probably the best place to go for now. I’m also affiliated with the Cleveland chapter of the IIBA. So that’s Cleveland.iiba.org

Tracie:

very good. So, um, just a final note, uh, for those folks who are listening, your call to action today is if you’ve liked what you’ve heard or if something in particular has resonated with you, leave us a comment at traceabilitypodcast.com or send me an email at tracie@traceabilitypodcast.com.

Tracie:

So Emily Midgley, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure to connect with you some more.

Emily:

It was my pleasure. Thank you, Tracie.

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