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“So what is it you do for work?” Calling myself ‘quite nosy about what you do, actually’ opens more doors than answering business analysis…

I started in IT in 1999 when the world was going to melt down because of Millennium or Y2K bug. For anyone young enough to not know, computing had only ever represented years with two digits, the year 2000 presented a challenge. IT was a busy place to be, there were so many developments striding forward (it was the first year that buying stuff online became a serious proposition, if a little glitchy) and all the time I was encouraged to ask ‘why’ of everything.

I started as a programmer, actually before that I started in IT hardware swapping out hubs and routers and fathoming firewalls but quickly I realised working amongst server farms was a little too nocturnal feeling for me. So next stop was programming, which felt like staring at the cosmos and trying to comprehend the infinite stars; the building blocks of coding were so important to me in developing my worldview and in my growing as a person. It was deemed I had ‘too much personality’ to stay in programming for longer than a few years (let me clarify, they made it clear it was a compliment rather than a cause of behavioural measures), I had no idea what a career in IT looked like and I like variety and challenge, so I accepted the opportunity to pole vault into the strange world of project management.

Project management was great for discipline, understanding that consistency is key, respect is essential when asking people to deliver things, often alongside the day job, that there are essential elements for every project and it still allowed me to stare at the IT cosmos, just one step removed. And the space to ask ‘why?’ was still there, it was positively encouraged. I started to realise that the more robust the questioning the more robust the planning, that timelines stood more of a chance of being kept if the communication was honest and inclusive, the right people engaged, the scope written collaboratively so that delivery dates were driven by those in the know, not just by the management chain. I also realised that as the projects got bigger, I had less time to ask questions, tease out the concerns around how requirements had been gathered and check whether the scope included enough ‘think work’. There was less time to arrange a collective kicking the tyres on concepts, risk analysis, less facilitation of awkward conversations and resolutions. These were the bits I valued the most and brought confidence in a project, and what I most enjoyed being involved in.

It took a broken heart and a flit to Australia to get me out of that first job, such is the way of life, but it was there I understood that the parts of a project I was getting a bit itchy about missing were actually a job in themselves, Business Analysis.

I didn’t squander my time in Australia on business analysis alone (I refer to the previous reference to personality, I managed to be in a band, have my own radio show and star in a sci-fi film, which never made it into production before you ask, thank goodness) but a break from the UK hierarchies and class-based preoccupations suited me. There was space for more why questions and more of a global perspective on life, and therefore work; it was like a billabong for a thirsty mind.

I returned to London determined and stepped into my first proper Business Analysis role. I wasn’t wrong in the fact that I fitted in, that I had already been doing the role, but it was great to be amongst others who generously shared and supported. At a BA get together in a bar I write down this wee gem, which helped with describing the job to me. “We tread the no man’s land between IT geek and corporate. We facilitate so the customer gets what they need to do business, and the IT department gets their direction in a format they can understand, we are the translators of the business world”. I liked the support and guide type qualities it musters up and have passed it on to others. I wish I could remember who said it, but that’s been lost, it was pre-Linked In days.

I live in Bristol now, the consultancy work changed its flavour from pure IT to defence and I have spent a good number of years immersed in it. I still see the behaviours that were prevalent when I started in 1999, new technologies that dazzle and delight and promise untold treasures, but the thing that has changed is an understanding that sustainability needs to be at the core of every project so to avoid the carcasses of the shiny and new, but not sustainable, piling up with no use but lots of potential to frustrate, confuse, waste and pollute, even if that’s just polluting morale and motivation. I now find myself in the business of making sure that stuff gets used well, optimally, for the duration of its life. It feels like a good place to be, and yes, I’m still asking ‘why?’. I doubt I’ll ever stop.

About the Author: Kirstie is a business analyst and project manager who has spent a couple of decades across Financial Services, Defence and High Tech. Industries. She’s a Buddhist, storyteller, loves Eurovision and considers herself a European.

About Aspire: What does Aspire do? Almost every organisation on the planet uses equipment to deliver its service. Very few are always happy with the performance of that equipment.  We train, guide and collaborate with organisations to design support solutions that keep equipment performing, so they can deliver their service, consistently and effectively.