06 September 2019 - Bursary inspires a career in knowledge sharing

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

In 2018 I was successful in my application for the ucisa bursary and subsequently had the opportunity to attend the ten-year anniversary of the Business Analysis Europe Conference in London – a highly acclaimed conference in the Business Analysis profession and one that I’ve been extremely keen to attend for many years.


Image of Rachel Drinkwater tweet regarding getting ready for the IRM UK Business Analysis conference 2018

One of the key drivers for attending this conference, aside from my personal professional development, was to build connections with other Business Analysis professionals outside of the education sector and to gain an insight into current thinking in the BA practice. I was also seeking to develop new skills and learn new techniques that I could apply in my role as Senior Business Analyst at Coventry University.

My attendance at the conference allowed me to achieve all of these objectives, providing benefit to the immediate Business Analysis community at Coventry University, wider teams in the organization that I have worked with since the conference, and also allowing me to build a network of external peers. From a personal perspective, I feel that the inspiration provided for blog article subjects and the ability to utilize existing platforms to reach an engaged audience has raised my profile as a senior BA professional and, as one contact said, a ‘thought leader’ in the field.

The BA community at Coventry University
Upon my return from the conference, I presented my six ‘top takeaways’ to the Business Analysis team, in addition to explaining the process for applying for the bursary. As I was seconded out of the team into a strategic role shortly after, my opportunities for informally sharing more information about the conference were limited, however this year one member of the team has been granted the bursary and another has successfully applied to speak at a session at the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2019. These opportunities truly allow us to demonstrate our professionalism and relevance in the wider BA community.

It has also been valuable to be able to benchmark our BA function against other organizations, particularly those in the corporate and private sectors. In education, BA practice can easily fall behind modern professional practice and it was reassuring to find that we’re not only in line with the private sector, but in many areas, ahead of the curve.

Wider Coventry University community
I was almost immediately seconded to a hybrid Business Analyst/Project Manager role in the Group Programme Management Office (GPMO) upon returning from the conference. This strategic role sat within the Student Engagement Programme, a key element of which has been to map student journeys and to employ design thinking techniques. As a number of the technique-based sessions I attended at the conference focused on these areas, I was able to share, teach others and utilize my newly-learned skills and techniques on the programme.

Attending the conference also gave me the realization that I would like to be on the other side of the conference - presenting and speaking. I realized that whilst the speakers were extremely knowledgeable and experienced in their fields, I also carry the same degree of skill and experience – the only difference is that those individuals had taken the leap and had the confidence to develop a talk, apply and actually do it. I resolved to do the same and, working at a university, realized that the best place to start might be talking to our students. As such, I have now delivered two lectures to final year Business School students and have been offered further lecturing opportunities for 2020.

External networking
I was also able to build a network of Business Analysts across the country and, importantly, in the Midlands. Traditionally Business Analysts in the Midlands have been somewhat isolated, with few networking events and opportunities. I am still in touch with BAs and BA leaders in other organizations who I met at the conference, in addition to some of the key players in the BA community, allowing me to share ideas, gain insight into new developments in the practice and find out about new publications, training opportunities and events.

Personal journey
As an established blogger, I am always searching for new inspiration for blog topics and of course, trying to gain audience share. The conference gave me the inspiration for a series of blogs (and the terms of the bursary gave me the motivation!) and a ready-made, engaged audience. I feel that this really boosted my credibility as a blogger, Business Analyst and IT professional.

With video being one of the most-consumed and most effective forms of reaching an audience, I thought it might be time to try my hand at vlogging and again the conference and bursary gave me the opportunity to try my hand at this.

Further to my earlier comments regarding speaking at conferences, I am in the process of turning my much-read ‘Empathy’ blog article into a conference talk and plan to apply to speak at Digifest 2019 and the BA Conference 2020. I would also love to speak at a ucisa conference if the opportunity arose.

Image of Rachel Drinkwater tweet regarding her article on empathy

Finally, I feel that the conference validated my career choice as a Business Analyst and truly promoted the discipline as a respected profession within IT. I feel that the conference has provoked a lot of self-reflection and helped me to identify my direction of travel for my future career.