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Business Analysis Certification Diaries Denver

Read about the certification journey of Stephanie Cracknell, a Business Analyst in Denver, Colorado, USA
Your name: A. Stephanie Cracknell
Company you work for: Mercy Housing
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Which certification did you choose to do and when did you achieve the certification?

Certification name: PMI-PBA
Certification date: July 2014
Also a candidate for the IIBA CBAP

Why did you choose that particular Business Analysis certification path?

I chose to complete the PMI certification as I was part of the pilot with the PMI and also due to my project management background. I have been a member of the IIBA for quite some time, and wanted to understand the project BA focus that the PMI promotes. The IIBA was in the middle of deciding when the BABOK 3 was to come out, so I opted to go with the PMI certification, with an aim to complete the IIBA exam once the BABOK 3 was out. The application process was quite simple with the PMI, where the IIBA is much more time consuming. The training/education requirements are quite similar.

Can you describe your approach for preparing to sit the certification exam? Did you do self study, study groups, study guides, training courses, coaching etc

I approached my prep as I do most studying by reading the material and creating flash cards. Main term on the front and a definition or explanation on the back. this link shows the mapping from exam content to the sections in the PMBOK for review.

Unlike the CBAP where there are many exam simulators around, there was very little and still is very little review material for the PMI-PBA. I reviewed the BABOK, and specific sections of the PMBOK ahead of the exam as well. I used diagram to solidify learning, as I am a visual learner. I am doing this as part of my prep for the CBAP as well. The PMI also gave a list of 11 textbooks that they had derived the exam from. I was lucky to already have a number of them, and access to the remaining ones via the IIBA website. I did a quick review of most of these resources. Don’t get hung up if you do not have them all, I do recommend The Software Requirements Memory Jogger however. The PMI tends to put more emphasis on requirements elicitation and management.

In my current preparation for the CBAP, I have purchased access to an exam simulator, I am reading through the BABOK, and working with an IIBA study group as preparation.

What mistakes did you make during your preparation or what would you do differently if you had to go through the certification again?

If I had had the opportunity, I would have begun preparation much father in advance. I am prepping for the CBAP exam now, and I am not set to take my exam for 6 months. I prefer to know an area inside and out before I move on to the next. Also, bring a snack and water. There is nothing like sitting and exam with the distraction of your stomach growling. I brought a banana and a granola bar with me as well as coffee to keep me alert and focused. Sleep well the night before, and eat a decent meal beforehand.

What was the exam itself like? (Was it more difficult than expected or did you find it easy?)

The exam is 200 questions with 4 hours in which to complete them. I finished the exam in just under 2 hours. It was difficult in that it was quite heavily PMBOK based. The focus of this exam is on your practical knowledge of the subject matter, so it is not something you can merely memorize. I didn’t find the exam particularly difficult, and much easier than the IIBA practice exam simulators that I have done. The PMI-PBA exam is not an exam I would try if you are not a practicing BA as it does rely on your experience.

What helped you the most during your preparation for the Business Analysis Certification exam?

To be honest, it was my professional experience that helped the most, followed by my study of the PMBOK. Being a PRINCE2 practitioner (UK project management certification) I was unfamiliar with the PMI BOK, so really reviewing that document and understanding their view of what tasks are PM related and which are BA tasks was valuable as there is overlap and areas that I consider to be solely BA tasks.

What has it meant for your Business Analysis Career to now have this certification?

I think that any certification gives a bit of creditability to a BA. When I was living in the UK, time in the job is considered more valuable than a certification however, when there is competition for a job, having a certification shows your commitment to your career, and does help make you that much more marketable. In the US where I live now, education and certifications are seen as key milestones within job specs and more and more recruiters are looking for this on your resume/CV. Having a certification here is seen as a necessity and tends to be a method for sifting through resumes for candidates. Having the dedication to your career as far as continuing education and investing in your career is seen to be quite important. I am currently setting up my organization’s BA Centre of Excellence, and I will be incorporating elements of the BABOK3 as well as elements of the PMI PBA. I am doing this so that any artifacts that the BAs work on can be used to demonstrate skill and experience for preparation for certification.

What is your top tip for Business Analysts who are embarking on the Business Analysis Certification journey?

I would hope that any BA starting out would recognize this as an amazing career. I have been a BA for 15 years now, and have no desire to be anything else. The certification journey does not have to take over your life, but you do need to invest the time to properly prepare (and not cram) for the exam. That means understanding how much time you need to dedicate weekly to get to your end goal. I would be realistic in your timing for sitting the exam. I would plan 6 months out, and understand that this will mean regular study for that 6 months. If you don’t feel ready in the run up to the exam, put it off for a month or 2, and prepare prepare prepare. If you feel relaxed and prepared, you will pass the exam with flying colours.

Tell us about yourself – please share your professional background with Business Analysis Professionals here.

I started my BA career as a project analyst on the IT team for a property company in London. My job was split between infrastructure projects and software and process improvement projects. My biggest learn was that all projects have stakeholders and all projects have requirements. Don’t start an infrastructure project and not interview your stakeholders. After 8 years with Mapeley, I moved to one of the largest charities in the UK, the Royal British Legion. I was the first BA to work for the organization, and worked as a hybrid BA/PM. I built the BA practice up to a team of 5, where I was promoted to the Head of Strategy and Architecture. It was amazing how quickly the Legion realized the value of the BA at a strategic level and valued the input an experience that the BA brings to any project.

I moved to the Denver area 18 months ago, where I realized I missed being a BA, so I changed my resume to focus on the BA skillset and downplayed my PM skills, and I am currently senior BA and team lead at Mercy Housing, a non-profit based in Denver. I am currently working on establishing a BA Centre of Excellence within the PMO.

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