Regular readers may remember way back in February, I mentioned that the opportunity to take a temporary job as a Business Analyst seemed to have arisen — as long as I was willing to do it for no extra pay. For those that don’t remember…
An Exciting Opportunity
From initiation, the project I am working for identified the need, and budgeted, for a business analyst (BA). Our business has a department of business analysts, so it was expected one of them would be brought into the project. At the time, they were all tied up, the business advertised the role externally as a contract.
For reasons that are absolutely beyond me, apparently after two rounds of recruitment and interviews, they were unable to source a suitable candidate.
Getting desperate, they approached me. While I have no experience in formal business analysis, the skills I have picked up over the years seem to suit themselves well. The offer interested me, so I asked about the pay rate. The project manager told me there would be no extra remuneration, despite having the money in the budget.
A Matter of Payment
I didn’t think that was fair. I only asked for a one increment increase, given that I hadn’t had any practical experience in the role. For the 3 month period the total cost to the project would have been $2,500; a single figure percentage of the project budget. Knowing the amount set aside, I didn’t think it an unreasonable request, but the response remained “absolutely not”. Initially, I agreed to do the job anyway, accepting that it would be good experience for me.
Later that night, however, I stewed on it and concluded it really wasn’t fair. They were asking me to step up into a more important role with much more responsibility and a tight time frame. I decided I would put my case straight to the director of my business unit. She wasn’t available the next day, which in retrospect I was grateful for. It gave me the weekend to put together a strong, unemotional argument for my case.
Asking for More Money
I approached her on Monday and started with “I really appreciate being given the opportunity, but I’d just like to discuss the level of pay I’ve been offered.” She looked at me blankly. The project manager hadn’t approached the director of our part of the business! Luckily she was very open to discussion, but as it wasn’t her position said that her hands were tied.
Big political foot-in-mouth on my behalf. As soon as I returned to my desk I called the person who had offered me the position and confessed to what I’d inadvertently done. He hadn’t gotten around to approaching my director yet — oops!
At any rate, they went away and I had people (including the project manager) go to bat for me. Long story short, for the period of 3 months they would pay the position at $90,000/annum (pro rata). However, in order for this to occur, it needed to go out for an internal expression of interest, with a formal process. I was more than happy with this, because I honestly want the best person for the business in the role. If that’s not me then well and good, I’m happy to work with an expert and pick up what I can from them.
Months passed; they finally advertised the position internally, at a grade even higher than the one posited earlier. Although lower than budgeted, it was still a significant step up to $94,000 (pro rata for the three months) – not something I had ever dreamed I could earn. I crafted the best application I could, then submitted and waited for the closing date. Although the requirements were fairly specific, we are an organisation of over 5,000 people. One thing I have learned is that we have a lot of untapped talent here. Many people are acting in a role, yet have the skills and qualifications to be able to embrace or totally own another role.
Well, it turns out it was just as well I’d never dreamed of this level of remuneration. There was a mistake in the advertisement, so the wording was simply a descriptor of the position, not the pay grade. It was still amazing money at $90,000, but less than I thought it was advertised for.
I was so disappointed for a couple of hours, I can’t really explain it. Then I was disappointed in myself for being disappointed, and not being grateful for the opportunity and the increased pay. I feel like I was being petty when I should have been grateful. I am grateful. If they’d never put the higher rate on mistakenly, I would have been over the moon at earning $90,000 pro rata for 13 weeks. What a crazy chance to throw extra into our investment pots each month. Not to mention that my employer superannuation contributions will rise as well, because it’s 9.5% of what I earn.
Luckily, in the time it took to get to this point, Fritz had posted “A 32 Minute Cure for Disappointment”, which helped me reframe my thinking.
The Job Interview
I prepared for the interview in 2 days’ time. Research on the most common interview questions was my starting point, and made sure I had some scenario-based answers up my sleeve. I thought about the job description and the role, and tried to generate some role-specific interview questions with (brilliant, hire-me) answers. Finally, I devised a couple of questions to ask the interviewers. I crammed theory on business analysis, and tried to summarise it in a few key words that match my skills, so I was talking the right professional language.
I admit to nerves on the day — some surreptitious hand-wiping and shaking to make sure I didn’t have sweaty palms for the handshakes. The interview went well. I think I answered all the questions reasonably. However, only two of the seven were anything like I’d anticipated! (Basically, how do you deal with difficult people; tell us about a win and a challenging aspect of a previous job). The other five were winging it on the fly. My BA revision came in handy for one of them, so it was well worth the time spent cramming.
That afternoon, they called me and offered me the job! I was really excited. The stupid part of all of it was — at the time of the offer, I had no details on the practicalities of the position. I didn’t know when I would start, who I’d be working with, the hours required, OR THE FINAL LEVEL OF PAY. I was just happy to have earned the position on merit, and left all the other baggage by the wayside.
This IS a fantastic opportunity. There’s very little risk involved while I get to try out a new career. I will have exposure to experts, and the chance to get to know another part of the business. I can pull together all the skills I have picked up in my career so far and use them in a different manner.
If I decide I don’t like it, I return to my substantive position after 3 months. If I decide I do like it, I know where to focus my energies for further education, and I will have made some valuable contacts.
This means that for the next 13 weeks, I am going to have to work my guts out. I have something to prove. I will probably need to do extended hours to complete the tasks required in the time available. Luckily, I recently listened to the Smart Passive Income podcast featuring Jessica Turner. She spoke about having seasons in your life, where your focus changes for a while. It’s OK to let go of some of your normal tasks to focus on a different task for season.
In this season of my new job, I need to focus on the job. I also still have an obligation to my volunteering duties (which is only 10 minutes a day), and I want to continue to blog.
I’ve identified that I will need to stop reading so many other blogs. I can temporarily stop doing my online courses. Less TV. No selling items on Facebook. Stop Duo Lingo. I may also need to put a temporary hold on attending my Friday night Dungeons and Dragons game.
Once upon a time, this would have stressed me. I would have wanted to continue to do it all. Now with a shift in perspective I can see that it’s far more valuable to drop the other activities temporarily and just focus on the job at hand. Wish me luck!
UPDATE: Looking Back
I wrote post above in August 2017. I’m not sure why I chose not to post it at the time. The three months has finished; it turned out to be a different experience to the one I was expecting. I can’t say that I’m surprised.
Essentially, while I had the opportunity to do some BA work, I was still also doing many of my old tasks related to the project. Of the twelve weeks, I spent three of them offsite doing user acceptance testing. Unsurprisingly this means I couldn’t complete the process mapping. In retrospect, even if I totally sequestered myself it couldn’t have happened, given the volume of processes to map and analyse.
I ended up putting in very few free hours. Despite my enthusiasm above, working for free goes against my values, and dilutes the pay rise I’ve received. Also, there was no point because I could have worked 24/7 and still not managed to achieve what was required (not due to my lack of skill; my colleague at another office took 6 months, and the BA work was his only job).
They have now offered to extend my contract by another 3 months. While I’m not going to say no to the extra money, I feel in some way like I’m ripping them off. They’re paying me more to do a lot of the old work I used to do. More and more tasks are occurring in the project that I am the only person with the skills to deal with. When I’m doing those tasks, I’m not completing business analysis tasks.
It’s a challenge and a conundrum, but these pressures are out of my control. I can only do the best with what I have, because I am only one person. If I’m working on data cleansing or migration, I’m not mapping processes. I’m grateful for the opportunity, but I won’t be pursuing it further where I currently work. While I loved the idea of business analysis in theory, I suspect this is another case where the theory and the practice are only tentatively linked. What works well on paper rarely operates in the same manner once people and the complexities of business are involved.
Having said that, I am still enjoying myself. I’ve recently set some goals regarding the number of processes I want to be able to map. While it won’t be as comprehensive as I would have liked, I need to feel like I can say I completed something of value.
Have you ever tried something that wasn’t quite what you thought it would be?