Embracing Humanity with Business Analysis with Paula Bell

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In this conversation, Paula Bell and I explore the togetherness of people and technology and how business analysts must use their positions and powers to embrace humanity.

Paula is the CEO of Paula A. Bell Consulting, LLC. She is a business analyst, leadership and career development coach, consultant, speaker and author with 21+ years of diverse experience in corporate America.

Here are just a few of the highlights in this episode:

๐Ÿง‘๐Ÿฟโ€๐Ÿซ ๐Ÿ™ ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฟ "I just learned everything I could learn and did everything I could I could do." Paula shares how she started her career as a web developer and worked as an integration specialist before becoming a system administrator. After getting laid off, she worked as a cashier until landing a contract position as a help desk analyst. Paula was then offered business analysis training and transitioned into the business analyst role.

โš ๏ธ ๐Ÿง—๐Ÿฟโ€โ™€๏ธ ๐Ÿงฎ ๐Ÿ“ˆ "Risk management is huge." Paula says the hottest thing now is AI, but she also sees agile and data analysis as being popular along with remote work. She identifies risk management as critical for avoiding operational and reputational risks and that you must consider these when implementing solutions. Paula also nods towards the importance of organisational culture and stakeholder perspectives in embracing these trends.

๐Ÿค– ๐ŸงŸ "I hope we're not all robots walking around here at some point." Paula sees AI as a helpful tool but states that human interaction is still necessary, as virtual communication can't replace the benefits of in-person interactions. She says while AI can help with brainstorming and problem-solving, asking the right questions is essential. Paula concludes AI should be seen as a silent partner that you can talk to, that will guide you, and won't make fun of you.

โค๏ธโ€๐Ÿ”ฅ ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿฟโ€๐Ÿณ ๐Ÿšง โณ "Have a passion for and desire to not only serve yourself, but serve others, but do it with boundaries." Paula believes having a growth mindset, being grateful for what you have, and cultivating an abundance mindset is essential. She encourages us to prioritise our time, take breaks, and pursue our passions. Paula reminds us to focus on our business and productivity without sacrificing our personal life and to set boundaries to avoid becoming consumed with work.

โ†•๏ธ โ†”๏ธ โค๏ธ "Let that person come in with the diversity that you loved." Paula explains how diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential in creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable and has the same opportunities. She highlights how it's not just about race but embracing everyone's differences. Paula expresses that it's okay to have people who don't always agree with you and challenge your thinking and that when hiring for diversity, be careful not to change them to assimilate so you're comfortable.

๐ŸŒ ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿฟ "Let's just continue to keep doing that and supporting each other." Some closing words on the business analysis community globally and how it's making us stronger.

Tune into the episode below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your podcast player of choice. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Brought to you by Business Change Academy skills development and career building business analysis courses.

The transcript of this episode can be read here.

  • [01:06] Paula's step-by-step journey to becoming a business analyst
  • [04:59] The mixed bag of the business analysis role back in the day
  • [08:27] Looking forward, looking backwards, and making up trends
  • [13:53] Data analysis strings for the business analyst bow, or not?
  • [15:49] Where business analysis fits vs where business analysts fit 
  • [21:04] AI mastering soft skills and business analysts mastering tech
  • [27:29] Critical mindsets needed for the future business analyst
  • [32:10] Highlighting what diversity, equity, and inclusion is about
  • [41:42] Becoming more aware of the biases that are restricting us
  • [45:21] Being a global citizen and being a part of a bigger community

What was your favourite quote or insight from this episode? Please let me know in the comments. ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡

๐Ÿง  Add your brains to the  ๐Ÿ‘‰ Future Business Analyst survey.

Joe Newbert 0:00
Hey everyone, it's Joe. Welcome to another episode of the future business analyst podcast. My guest today is Paul Abell, CEO of Paula a bell consulting. She is a business analyst leadership and career development coach or consultant speaker, an author. And we're 21 years of experience in corporate America across various project roles covering everything from business analysis, project management, development, testing, and implementation, the whole spread. Welcome to the show, Paula.

Paula Bell 0:36
Thank you, Joe. This is weird. Usually I'm co hosting with you. So now it's like the tables have turned. So this should be an interesting interview.

Joe Newbert 0:45
I feel like I need to default to some of our usual phrases from the other part. But I'll try and stick on future business analysts brand here. All right. That was quite spread, right. pm bi development test. Which one of those came first? How did you get into this role?

Paula Bell 1:06
Sure. The first one was I was a developer, I used to develop web pages. So when I was in college, I actually worked for preview networks, which is now known as the TV guy channel, if it's still even known as that, but when I was in Oklahoma, that's where I learned I ended up with an internship there. And one of the things that we had to do was manage and build websites for their account, clients and customers. So that's where I started. And when I graduated from college, I continued on that path, when I started to work for Shaw Industries, which at the time was the number one carpet manufacturer in the world. And so I worked for them. And I was an integration specialist, where, in my mind, I did everything nobody else wanted to do. So I was a developer, the tester, the trainer, and all of that. So it all started with development first.

Joe Newbert 2:00
Okay. And carpets are an interesting place to start.

Paula Bell 2:06
Carpet. Yes, I wasn't carpet manufacturing industry. There's a lot that goes into carpet now is there's a lot to that. I can't remember it all. But there's a lot to it.

Joe Newbert 2:15
Yeah, there always is. Whenever I speak to people about their particular industries, there's there's always these sort of very unique nuances about work and things like that. Okay, so So dev integration, how did that lead you into business analysis? Sort of? How did you get a foot in into this space?

Paula Bell 2:35
So you know, what's interesting about that, so I really thought I was going to be working at shot industries, that was going to be my career, that was where I was going to be, that's where I was going to stay. I was in Georgia, I loved the Atlanta area, it was the hotspot for tech, it was great. And so I did that for a while. And then there was an opportunity that opened up, and it was an administrator over the Tivoli application that they had. So I moved into that. However, I ended up getting laid off, I ended up getting laid off a year after I got that position, they started to do cuts. And so I got laid off. And then I was just looking for something, you know, just like you do, you just look for a job. So I actually worked for a grocery store for a while, which was kind of interesting. I was a cashier, I just you know, do you gotta do what you got to do, you have to pay your bills. I ended up landing a contract position in North Carolina at the Administrative Office of the Courts working for the court system. And I started off as a help desk analyst. So I pretty much solved the judges, Public Defender's DBAs magistrates problems with their computers. But then they had brought in the business to Technology Group B to t. And I know you're familiar with BTT, because that's what worked for, right. And they brought them in and they did this ba training, they just offered it to us. And I didn't really know anything about business analysis. I didn't know what it was, I didn't even know I was doing it before them. And so we went through this rigorous training course and I got certified as a BA, and then I started doing VA work. And that's actually how I got into business analysis. It was very natural for me, I didn't have to work at it. It just came naturally. And I liked it. I liked being in the details and not having to develop anything. But I could tell the developers what we needed. So it was a good segue sort of change for me.

Joe Newbert 4:22
Yeah, it sounds like you just did it step by step sort of things like development, to integration, sort of working your way up the SDLC, then a bit of a leap into sort of helpdesk and support which is great, because you got a couple of different perspectives on the kind of problems that people have now. And how fortuitous that B to T would turn up and your your get your badge right. So so when you first started in that role, sort of what did that look like? What did a BA do in that space back then?

Paula Bell 4:59
Well, You know, the BA was actually a mix of business analysts, a tester, a trainer, and a little bit of development. So I did a little bit of all of those, because it was really new, the organization really didn't know how to effectively leverage the skill set, because it was a new thing. And so I just pretty much did whatever I could do to add value, because I didn't want to go back through a layoff. It's not a good feeling to be laid off, I didn't have to go back through that again. And so I wanted something that was a little bit more stable. And at that time, I was also building a family. So I have my twins. So you know, when you have family, your whole perspective shifts, and you want that stability. So for me, it was not only understanding the needs of my clients, because I worked with external clients at that point in time, and internal, but also understanding this, this software enough to understand what we what was feasible and what wasn't feasible. Because I was a database administrator, too. I was creating a lot of databases, so they wanted somebody who knew SQL. And this was back in the early 2000s. So it wasn't, I mean, it's still a need today that I see from a sequel perspective, right. So it wasn't, it wasn't that much different than what we're experiencing now. And so I just learned everything I could learn and did everything I could I could do. And then when I got further and progressed, in my career, I started to work with companies that had a little bit more maturity in the project management space. So some of them had project management methodology, some of them needed them built, I was able to just be a person who can navigate through all of that, and either build things from the floor up, or come in and enhance things that were already built.

Joe Newbert 6:49
Okay. Okay, you may make me thinking, I'm thinking back as well, I mean, I've worn that sort of BA slash PM, hat a few times, I've worn that sort of BA slash tester hat a few times as well. And often I think that takes place when it's in a smaller organization when they can't quite afford the full suite, you know, and have all of those roles independently. But when I think back, they were actually in large organizations that that I held those positions. And now I'm hearing you, you know, you got four or five hats, maybe on in these places, do you think things have changed? I mean, my perception is that now, we have a particular role that we don't fill multiple roles quite as efficiently do Do you feel the same? Now?

Paula Bell 7:33
I think it really depends on where you are. So with some of the clients that I work through through my consulting company, they are still doing what I did back in the day, they're still be a pm mesh, or the organization doesn't know how to fit them into the organization to add value. So there's a struggle. There's no formal sort of methodology, no formal sort of approach to do this sort of work. So they're trying to figure out, what should my role be? Is this really what a BA should do? Or is this really what a pm should do? Or is this really what the testing team should do? So I do think there's still some of that going, going around. Now, what I will tell you that I'm seeing as some of like, the trending as I look back, right. So I remember what,

Joe Newbert 8:22
takeaway for me i you fantastic.

Paula Bell 8:27
Yeah, I think it fits really well, because I remember when I was when I was doing business analysis, the biggest thing was waterfall and iterative. Yeah, that was the thing, right? So how do you do the project management approach more in an iterative manner, then you come in, and you see waterfall and agile. So agile was a real hot topic that came in, and it's still a topic that came in. Now let's throw on artificial intelligence on top of that. Now, mind you, artificial intelligence isn't new to me. Right. But it is getting a lot more attention, because of the value that artificial intelligence can bring to the role of a business analyst. So I still think that there are people in different areas of maturity, and I'm not here to say one is right versus the other. I do believe it depends on your organization, and what your organizational culture can handle and who the stakeholders are in there. Are there more efficient ways to do things? Yes. Does that mean you're doing that right now, you may be you may be not, you might need to get to that maturity level to do that. And that's a culture thing. It's really how the organizational culture is structured. There will depend on how easy or hard it is for you to navigate and get work done. And culture is not something you can change overnight. That takes some time. So I do think there's some I still see some of the same things that I was talking about back in the early 2000s. And then I see that there's new things that have come out that are of interest as well.

Joe Newbert 10:00
Hear, I mean, not not every place is going to move at the same speed as everybody else is always going to be some people are sort of more advanced, while others are sort of just hanging around a little bit longer in a particular space. You mentioned AI there as being one trends, what other trends might us see that are coming?

Paula Bell 10:20
Well, agile hasn't changed, agile is still a trend, you still see it, we still see a lot of conversation around that Salesforce is another one that I see a lot of, but that's more of a CRM sort of thing. But there are individuals who just like to work in the Salesforce environment, remote work is huge. Right now be enable, since of what happened in 2020, be having that flexibility to be able to work remotely, instead of being in in an office is still a consideration. And it's still something that that individuals either they really liked, or they didn't like, or they were somewhere in the middle. But right now, I think the hottest trend that I see is AI is artificial intelligence. That's just everywhere, right. I also don't sleep on data analytics, though, either, because data analytics was real hot. And I still think it is I just think Artificial intelligence has taken the forefront a little bit right now. But data is really, really huge as a trend that I see for business analysts. And again, when I was coming up in my career, database administrators managed the data, I was one of them, I was a DBA, I don't see that as much, I see that role being meshed into many other roles with the expectation that you should know it. And then one other thing I would like to mention that I think should be a trend, if it's not one is risk management. Risk management is huge, depending on the organization. Well, the industry you work in, I worked in the financial industry, which was very regulated, right? You have to be really careful when you are building solutions that you are not putting the organization at risk. It's not just about the time in the budget anymore. It's about operational risk, reputational risks, those sorts of things, security risk, right? Those sorts of things that can really get you in trouble. So as a BA, you need to be thinking about that, too, is as I'm gathering these requirements and organizing them for my elicitation or am I putting the organization at any risk if we build it a certain way? Or if it's implemented a certain way? And having that sort of thought process is important as well?

Joe Newbert 12:25
Yeah, well, let's start making risk management a trend, right? It's definitely important. Yeah, finances heavily regulated. I mean, I've got so many different pieces of legislation that are sort of constraining and just ensuring AI, absolutely, there's going to be a lot of risk there. Perhaps one that I'll also just put on top is sort of a societal sort of community, community kind of risk, you know, as an organization, you need to be doing the right things, for people for planet, that kind of thing. And of course, if you make an incorrect decision in your reputation, again, NGS data DBAs, sort of looked after the let's call it the housing a data storage, right? Perhaps the ownership of data now is a little bit different. It's like owning the actual number owning the value understanding what it is that that means the implication of it, of course, and driving it to be a better number than what it is. So there's a lot of niche roles coming out around data analysis, I mean, the one that just jumps to my mind his data scientists, do you see that this has been a split off from the BA into a niche? Or do you see this as being another sort of string to the BAS Bo? I

Paula Bell 13:53
think I see both. I think I actually see both, I see it where, depending on the organization, and depending on the resources, the budget, the things that the organization has at their fingertips, if it allows them to have someone that's focused on data analytics, data science, yes, I would see that as a group that they would have. But I also see that if you don't have those resources, or that budget available to you, but you know, you need that sort of information, where's that value gonna lie It's gonna lie on somebody, like a business analyst could potentially be a project manager. And so or technology, it could be somebody in tech, it could land in so many different areas in the organization. So I do see that as potentially being a niche and potentially being off just like we have. You have the term agile bi BA and then you have just business analyst, right? I can see a splitting off into something like that. What I do find interesting though, is you have an agile BA, but I don't think I've ever seen a process ba right. I mean, it's a process like that, but it's

Joe Newbert 15:01
I have come across specialists sort of process business analysts. Yeah. But there was no such thing as a waterfall BA, you know, or a green screen BA or a legacy BA, or anything like that. You know, as you're talking about this, and sort of, I think, you know, you're doing that typical bi answer, aren't you? Joe? It depends, doesn't it? Joe? You know, I can see both happening, which which, which, which is a fair answer. And now I'm thinking like, the question is, I almost feel like there's maybe two questions. One is where does the business analyst fit into organizations? And the other question is, where does business analysis fit into organizations? Because, of course, there are different things, and they're going to be implemented differently, right.

Paula Bell 15:49
Okay, so let's start with business analysis for a second, the business analyst one is a little bit tougher. So let's start with business analysis first, right. So if you think about business analysis, you think about the skill. So I don't necessarily look at it more as a title, or even a role per se, because so many people use the term business analysis, business analysts, business systems. And so I mean, there's so many titles for it, right. But if I think a business analysis, I do believe this fundamental things you need to do in business analysis, right? When it originally started business analysis was simply the liaison between the business and the technology team, you needed somebody in the middle to explain what your stakeholders over here needed, in a way that technology could build it. Right. And so with that, there's a lot of things that come with that you have to be organized, you have to be detail oriented, you have to have critical thinking, analytical thinking, strong communication, verbal and in writing, you have to have the ability to build relationships, you need to have the ability to collaborate, you need to have the ability to influence there, there are more of the and this is why I've always said and this is not a stat that's out there in the world. This is a Paul Abell made up stat 80% of what I've done in a business analysis world has been soft skills are what I call the critical skills, the technical stuff is great. But if I can't build those relationships, if I can't communicate, if I can't get people influence people to buy in, if I can't help people make decisions, I'm not going to be successful in business analysis, because that's what it does, it helps you analyze the business and build these transformational solutions, business analysts. Now business analysts, I personally feel need to have certain skills, again, you need to have all the soft skills, right. I've watched business analysts who can recite stuff out the BA Bach, or who can solve problems or who are just really smart, but their communication is lacking. They can't either communicate verbally or in writing, or they come off as non humble that people don't want to work with them, right. So they come off, and they don't, they don't have that emotional intelligence, which is really, really important. So as a business analyst perspective, I still believe you have to demonstrate the value you bring. But at the end of the day, this is how I sum it all up. We're here to solve problems. And we're here to solve problems to transform organizations that not only impact the bottom line of the organization, but impact the customers that we serve, and the internal stakeholders as well. So if we're doing that, we're doing pretty good, right? If we're able to actually get projects through the pipeline, and make transformational changes, where projects are held up for 10 years, and you're still on the same project, 10 years later, you're doing pretty good. But as far as for me, in a business analysts, you have to demonstrate the value that you are providing to the company on business analysis. So if I can't demonstrate my value, I'm doing the discipline of business analysis, a disservice. So that's just how I look at it. I real simple Joe, all of this extra that we'd be doing sometimes making things sound so complicated. To me, it's really not that complicated. We're here to solve a problem. Yeah. How do you solve problems, right? How do you transform organizations? And then how do you use that critical thinking, and analytical thinking, to mitigate risk, to think of things that won't work? Well, to think of those things that other people aren't thinking about? Because they're in the job day in and day out, which I think is a powerful part of business analysis. As long as you're not the Smee, per se, because I know we've had that conversation as well, where people are actually to somebody doing the work and their business. But if you're not third party looking in, that is so powerful, because you're gonna bring it up that other people aren't going to see because they're in it day in and day out. So they're just going through the motions, where you can actually bring that expertise of that challenging, that credible challenge. Why are we really doing it this way? Why are we Why do we have to thin handoffs when we only need to, you know those sorts of things, so that would be my answer. I agree. Business Analysis and business analysts are two different things,

Joe Newbert 19:58
too. Yeah. They're both going to find a place and they're going to be different places. And I think that's why we're going to have these sort of specialist niche roles. Because that's a form of business analysis, finding a very particular hole to reside in. And then we're going to have the more sort of general business analyst, as you say, is going to be more broadly perhaps driving this sort of change solving his problems transforming and things like that. Yeah, I completely agree with you that, you know, the job is more about that, that emotional intelligence, those soft skills to building rapport, I mean, I'm not going to list them again, you, you listed down all of those things that we have on the job description. And two, two things jumped out to me about that. And where you compared the 80% of that to the 20% of the tech, let's say, that's our advantage over AI for a start, right? Surely. Do si ay ay. ever being able to replace soft skills get close to it?

Paula Bell 21:04
No, I personally think again, this is just Paul Abell speaking. I personally think you need that human interaction. Think about it. So remember, back in our day, no, that were that old. So I'm not trying to say whoa, but remember, back in the day, when social media wasn't this prevalent, where you actually had to have conversations at the dinner table, or you actually had to have conversations with your friends, or you would go outside and you would play in the playground and you're talking to your friends, or you would if you're lucky enough, like go to a movie, go skating do those things. And now that social media is in a lot of people hide behind social media, right? So some people say things that they normally wouldn't say in your face. I've even seen a difference in how people, right people, right the way they text, so texting, right, take away a lot of the grammatical side of it, and all of that. And so you're so engrained in texting and things like that, that you can't shut that off to actually write a letter. Right? Back in the day, we used to write letters to people that wasn't, then you put a stamp on it. I mean, it was that thing. And it's amazing to me how many people don't know how to how to do letters now. Or how many people don't know how to write in cursive. So I don't there's there's a, there's pros and cons to AI. I love AI as a tool that I can use to help me brainstorm to help me think through things, and whatnot. But at the end of the day, in order for me to get the answer I want, I need to and I need to understand how to ask the question in a way that I'll get the answer that I want. So there's still some sort of interaction there. And I don't think we can ever take away the human interaction, I believe it's always going to be some level of human interaction that's going to be needed. I hope we're not all robots walking around here at some point in time. And we're just like just walking computer systems. But I personally feel that there's going to distill needs that human interaction, and people still need it to this day, if you even think back to 2020. how some people hated working remotely, right? They need to have that social aspect in their life, and are some of us who just loved it, right? They don't need all that social. So I do think there's always going to be people who need that, that social interaction. And some of the best sessions that I've had from business analysis has been when we are all in a room together can read the body language, because see what people are saying you can tell when people are confused, opposed to be in virtual all the time. So personally, I hope we don't get rid of that. I really believe AI is a tool. I like the way Fabrizio said it AI is your partner. Yeah. So it's sort of like a silent partner that nobody knows is there that you can talk to that will guide you, that won't make fun of you. Right, you can ask any question, it's going to give you an answer. So you don't feel like there's any sort of stupid question or anything like that. But then there's also that human interaction that's, that's still needed. So I just look at AI as a tool. I'm not getting it. I mean, it just reminds me of it with any other new thing that comes out, you know, is that going to be agile gonna take our jobs because now we're going to be building stuff more efficiently. And now I'm gonna be out of a job. We're still here, y'all. So no, it's probably not going to.

Joe Newbert 24:20
There's always new opportunity, like solving problems breeds new problems to solve, right? So if you're a problem solver, there's always going to be a new problem over the horizon. You can't quite see the other half. So back to this 8020 The other half and I'm not gonna argue your light percentage ratio here. But do you feel like knowledge and expertise in tech is going to have to improve?

Paula Bell 24:56
Yes, I do. I do. I do. If you just want Get even where we're going. Everything's technology based at this point, right? Everything we do is tech, even our kids, our kids know, tech, probably better, some of the tech better than we do. I don't think we're gonna get around that. And I always think that tech is always going to be evolving. It's evolved from since I've been in that career of technology. So yes, I do think that you will have to know Tech, I do think we have to think about how the level you have to know of tech. So I literally just wrote an article about this, what technology should I know as a BA? And and again, I'm going to say, it depends. The reason why I say it depends. It depends on your industry. If you are in a financial industry that's requiring you to know certain financial systems, then yeah, you should know that technology. That's where you should focus, if that's where you choose, you want your career to go. So it's all about evaluating the industries that you enjoy what you're doing today, and what technology are upcoming technologies coming. And don't be scared of technology, embrace it. And so it takes you longer to learn it, that's fine. It takes all of us different, we all have different learnings is right? Learn it, and do it on your own time. Right? Do it before it becomes a critical flaw in your career. Right. So all of us know AI is hot. All of us know it is one of the biggest trending topics right now. What are you doing to at least understand it? And at least I understand the benefits of it? Do you need to be a an AI prompt coder? No. Right? You don't have to do that. But you do have to know how can it be used within your particular organization or your usage? And I think that's with anything, I remember when Java was hot. We weren't like COBOL the job and everybody say every developer Oh, you got to learn Java, right? You got to learn that you got to learn that. And so it's that's always going to evolve, things are always going to come out. It just depends on your mindset. How do you think about it? Are you going to have this growth mindset that yes, I'm going to continue to learn or you have this fixed mindset, I don't want to deal with it. Well, if you have the fixed mindset, your career may not go as well as you want it to go. Best advice I can give

Joe Newbert 27:13
you. If today again, I'm like, I'm gonna lead into mindsets now. What kinds of mindsets that she thinks are gonna be important to have in the future. So let me ask you pull up on mindsets.

Paula Bell 27:29
So I have a few. Growth Mindset is definitely one the growth mindset is the mindset that you are evolving. You are constantly learning so that you continue to add add more and more value. But you also have to understand what the growth mindset you do have to have boundaries. So you need to understand like how much do you want to learn what your priorities are in life and all that good stuff. I also think you need to have a mindset of gratitude. Be grateful for what you have, and be grateful for what you have achieved, I do believe that we put a lot of stress on ourselves, based on it based on what other people think you should be doing or where you should be in your career. It's it's nice to just take a moment every day and just be grateful. You know what I'm grateful I just woke up this morning, because there's probably some people who did not. I'm grateful that my family still intact, because I'm quite sure somebody probably lost a family member last night. You know, just having just being grateful for those for those little things in life that you might not feel make a difference. But it does make a big difference. And abundance mindset. Here's something that I want to mention. It's not about the competition. There's enough in this world for everybody. So if you find that you are more stressed out, because you're competing with other people who probably don't really give you a thought during the day, you're putting more energy into it than they are. Just know that what is for you is for you. No one can take that away. Joe, if you have a vision, I can't execute your vision, because it's your vision. Even if I were to take your idea and try and do something with it is still not going to be delivered like you will deliver it because it's your vision. And so have that abundance mindset that we can all exist. So you don't have to show other people up. You don't have to stab other people in the back. You don't have to power play, you don't have to talk bad about other people. Because just know this that your actions and your words, speak for yourself and know that what is for you, you will get and may not be in your timing, but you will get it eventually. So that abundance mindset is really huge to me. And then of course have your business mindset and be and have your productive mindset I would say are two other ones that I would say make the most of your time, be as productive as you can. Make sure you take time for yourself. And those things that energize you don't burn yourself out because at the end of the day, I know this is gonna sound bad and if you As managers who are going to listen to this, they're probably going to be upset with me when I say it, it's my job, I was a manager, the end of the day, the organization, it's about the bottom line. So you could be doing 7080 hours, and they got to cut people, you might be the one cut. So was it worth putting in those 70 to 80 hours that took you away from your family, for an organization that at the end of the day, they're going to do what's best for their business. So just know that we'll make sure that you you make the most out of your time and take time for yourself. And really work in what you love. And once you have a passion for and have that desire to not only serve yourself, but serve others, but do it with boundaries, I would say those are probably my top five,

Joe Newbert 30:43
top five, okay, you got more a

Paula Bell 30:47
lot more.

Joe Newbert 30:51
The that's some really nice stuff there. business mindset, gratuity, productivity, you know, what was really nicer is, you know, when people hear the word productive productivity, they sort of do get that impression that, you know, we're trying to get as much out of you as possible. So it's nice that you said, you know, just making the most of your time, like, finding stuff that energizes you. Alongside of that bottom line, organization stuff, abundance mindset. Yeah. share knowledge, right. I don't think any of us really actually have any particular unique knowledge, do we, you know, we're just not at that level. So share chalk. Another word that sort of popped into my head is coopetition. A bit of a slang word. But you know, there are some people out there who have not necessarily competing businesses, but are in the same line of business. And, yeah, it's okay to share amongst yourselves. Now. I really, I really like those. You've mentioned some skills already, just broadly around soft skills and things like that. But are there any other skills that are sort of jumping up for you insane? Me, me?

Paula Bell 32:10
Yeah, so this is one where actually, you're going to be a guest on my podcast, coming up here in October on this topic, and this topic is my heart diversity, equity and inclusion. So here's the thing. This is another term diversity, equity and inclusion. First was diversity and inclusion. And then equity was was added in there that a lot of people think is a buzzword as well, right. It was a hot topic, it was definitely a hot topic in 2020. And we kind of got over that hump. And I'm seeing the same sort of focus on it that I was seeing before 2020. diversity, equity, and inclusion is really not just about race, I know race comes up a lot in the diversity conversations, it is a big component of it. And there's still a lot of work that needs to be done there, no doubt. But diversity, equity, and inclusion to me is really embracing everyone's differences, making sure everyone has the same opportunities. And in, in the creating that inclusive environment where people feel that they can bring themselves to work. Now, I'm not going to say bring your whole self to work, I've heard that a lot. Well, I should be able to bring my whole self to work, I may not want your whole self at work, because your whole self might be a little bit much, right. So it's some of the things we do outside of work need. There's a time in place. That's what I'm really trying to say. There's a time and place for everything. And so but you should be able to come to work and feel that you have a voice, you feel comfortable, you feel embrace, you don't feel that you are getting any sort of prejudice, discrimination, stereotypes on you, we all have bias. And it's going to happen, hopefully, not intentionally. But there are some situations where it's very intentional, where people have conscious and unconscious bias. But the reason why diversity, equity and inclusion is so powerful in project management work, we're doing transformational solutions. Imagine everybody bringing their own diverse perspective, their own diverse skills, their own diverse thoughts, and you have a room full of all of that you have the best of the best of the best. And you get all of this information. And imagine the type of product you will create for your consumers. Because you've listened to all of these different perspectives. Because to your point, we all have to cooperate, right? We have to collaborate. And I might think of something that you didn't think of and then you might think of something that's like, what have you considered this? And I'm like, Oh, I didn't, you're a different type of consumer, right, the way you want products delivered to you could be very different than the way I want products delivered to me. And so having that in the room is great. It is okay to have people who don't always agree with you. It's okay to have a devil's advocate in the room. It's okay to have a person is very good to have that and it's great to have a person who will credibly challenge you, who will make you think outside of your normal way of things. Thinking, who will make you get uncomfortable. And it's okay to be uncomfortable. You just got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. But you need that. And so diversity, equity and inclusion is really a big topic to me, because we struggle with that, not only in business, but personal. We still have issues personally, you see it all over social media, some of the things I see people say, I'm just like, Wow, that's amazing. And the bad thing about it is people will use that and judge you for that. Right? So let's say you put something on social Joe, that I feel is very offensive. Probably gonna look at you a little different. I'm in the art, or I consider us friends. So I would actually have a conversation with you first, I believe. So you really mean for that to come off that way? Right? Is that really how you feel. And if you tell me, that's how you really feel, I'm like, wow, I didn't know that about you, right. And so then that could really change or alter that that relationship, because you're seeing those sort of interactions. But it's really important to embrace people's difference, and not try and mold somebody into who you who you want them to be. So this is what I'm going to say to the hiring managers out there, get I used to be one, I still am one. When you hire for diversity, do not manage to assimilation. If you are hiring for diversity, let that person come in with the diversity that you loved. Don't try and change them now to assimilate, so you're comfortable, that defeats the whole purpose of hiring, diversity. And again, diversity is more than just race. Diversity is gender, it's a skill set is lot. So

Joe Newbert 36:44
it is education, it's it's a whole ton of things. You used to word mold there, and I'm gonna I'm gonna use that as my, in this a job description for an organization that they put out there for people to fill to be a BA, it's put in the newspapers, it's put on whatever, recruitment websites, right, there's a job description. Their job description, is like a cookie cutter. Right? It says, This is who we're looking for this is the experience they must have this is how much experience they met. This is how much education that they have. So I feel like we've got little chance of attracting the best sort of kind of diversity, because we've already narrowed the field down by that point. I mean, if I just take education is a simple thing, right? A lot of places say you need to have a university degree in order to get like, you know, as a basic requirement to even get an interview. Whereas you look around at some of the most successful people perhaps when it comes to business, entrepreneurship and stuff like that. They left school at 16. Let's call it 18. So are our job descriptions that we put out there really encouraging diversity? Or are they sort of block that standing in the way of that?

Paula Bell 38:14
I am so glad you asked me this question, because I have a personal story on this. Okay. And I 100% agree, I'm gonna, I'm gonna ask answer your question with this. Yes, some of the job descriptions that are written go against diversity and inclusion, put it out there. So here's my example. So when I was going through my career, at the financial institution, I wanted to be in management, I wanted to be a form, I wanted the formal title of manager, I was doing the work of a manager, but I didn't have that formal title. So that's what I was going for. Here's where I would always run into issues. The job description would expect you to have this many years of manager experience for and they would literally put in their formal manager experience. So how many direct reports have you had that directly reported to you how many managers reported to you from a team perspective, that would always knocked me out because I didn't have a formal title? I didn't if you were to look in the HR system, I did not have direct reports. underneath me, I looked like an individual contributor, though I was managing a plethora of bas at one point, and other team members. The reason I finally got my break for a manager position is because the manager who wrote the job description, didn't ask for a manager. She said I need you to have this many years of leadership experience. Okay? So she didn't care if you manage people formally or not. I need a leader. That's what I need. I need someone to delete. I was like, Oh, I could do that all day long. That's not a problem. Right. I had my resume spoke to that. At the volunteerism, I did spoke to that. That was what got me the interview. And then this is, again, we can be critical of ourselves, right? So I put a lot of pressure on myself. It's like pollen is rare. You ever see a job description written, where they're not looking for formal manager, this is the only shot, you got to knock out every interview, you got to do everything right. And I nailed it. I did, I worked really hard and prepared really hard. And I nailed that the last interview I had with the panel, an hour later, I got the job. And so that's the say to managers out there are those who are writing job descriptions, whether you're a recruiter or an HR, to your point, Joe, you have to use terminology and language that will get the diversity in the door that you want. Because if you make it too rigid, you're knocking out a ton of talent. That could be a great fit, but because of how you've written the job description, you'll never say, Never know, because they're going to knock themselves out.

Joe Newbert 40:57
Yeah, they won't get through. And then so so that mold was one word you use. The other word that you dropped in, there was bias as well. So one of the biases that we have, particularly when we recruit people, so even now now I've maybe opened the gates a little bit wider to allow a bit more diversity in one of the biases that we have is that we tend to hire people who remind us of ourselves, right? And so then we've got a team of 10 chose and I mean, that's not very good for anyone, right? What can we do about some of those biases? How can we be more aware of them, so that we don't just do that familiarity? Safe kind of thing?

Paula Bell 41:42
So first of all, you answered the question right there where you said, how can you be aware of them? First of all, you have to be aware of them. So number one is understanding what biases are out there. So you did that assimilation bias, right, which a lot of us are guilty of, I want to hire somebody who's just like me, because then I know how to manage them or how to work them. They'll they'll agree with everything. I say, I don't have any issues, I can get work done. And I can do it the way I want to do it. Right. Okay. Yeah, that's the worst person to hire, actually. But that's how some of us think, right? So you have to be aware of what those biases are. And there are a lot of biases out there. Once you're aware of them, you have to figure out some strategies to counter them. But you also need this is the key, somebody to hold you accountable. So if I see you in a meeting, and I see you either treating someone a certain way, or if I see that you're hiring, and I'm a part of your team that's helping with the hiring, and I feel that you are not being as open as you should be, I should be able to challenge you on that. Right in a nice way. It doesn't have to be rude or anything just challenge you on that. Well, are you aware of that? Because you said this that could actually produce this action or behavior? Right. So you need to know that. But I do think the most important part is call people out. Now when it comes to hiring, like when you talked about hiring, this is where panels are very, very important. Okay, I actually would not ever hire without doing one panel. And the reason being is because the other people are going to call me out on my stuff, right? So there have been people that I've really liked in an interview. And my blinders go on, I'd be like, No, this is the person I want, right? I want this person. And then you sit down in a panel of three or four of you. And you hear the the feedback from the panelists. You're like, Yeah, I saw that. I didn't see that at all. That's a concern that never would have came up to me as a concern. And then you start to reevaluate. Okay, so did I have some biases coming in there, because I was so bad, and this is the person I want, that I missed some of the most obvious things that I shouldn't have missed. So anytime I did hiring, I'd have a panel, because the panel is what sort of balanced me out and kept me from not allowing my biases to potentially overlook someone. That's really great. Yeah, I remember hiring someone on my team that was over 60. Yeah. They were shocked. Yeah, I mean, I just this you know, once we thought about it, yeah, you might retire soon. So yeah, I might be doing this again in another two to three years. But imagine the knowledge I can get out of you. And those two, three years that can go to the team, make the team stronger, and then we'll deal with whenever you decide to head out, we'll decide we'll deal with that then. Right. But those are the sorts of things you have to look at. So I think a panel is key. When you're doing hiring, they keep you balanced,

Joe Newbert 44:29
keep you accountable, keep you honest. And as you say, you know, I do think he sort of just added a nice, have a little thing now often we seem to like hire for permanent, like they're going to stay 2025 years like hire for life. And that's not how jobs go. People don't stick around like that, or at least not as many people as they used to. One of the thing that just just to end off on here, really that I think you're sort of bringing through in a couple of different ways. Is that we're a global citizen these days where a citizen of the world, right, it's beyond the the organization boundaries, it's beyond the boundaries of the country. Do you feel that sort of community that sense of extension across across the world? Now?

Paula Bell 45:21
I do. You know, there's a lot of things that are going on, right. I mean, you've got Adrian Reed, and Christina, doing all these amazing things that are putting us together, you had Adrian and Vince, during the serendipity conference that allowed all the BAS to come together at a time that was really rough. You've got our friends out in Belgium, who do the BA Cafe every Friday morning, trying to get people to together and formulate, I do believe there's a lot of things going on globally, that has made the business analysis community even stronger. And we're actually seeing some up and comers and new risers, right. I remember, when I started in the circuit speaking circuit in 2009, it was pretty much the same people that you saw a lot of right now, when I look at some of these conferences, I've seen people who are either brand new, or who have come up through those ranks. And now they're doing a lot of a lot of speaking and things of that nature. And I think that's great, because all of us experience business analysis differently in the organizations that we work in. For example, I'm more in the entrepreneurial space right now. Right, I'm running my own business. I'm the director of operations for another. And it's very different than being in a corporate world is a different way of thinking it's different tasks that you're doing is very different. But I'm still using business analysis day in and day out. But I still feel that I have a voice. I'm still a thought leader in the business analysis community that hasn't left because I shifted different areas. So I do believe that, from what I've been seeing, especially on social, I love it. Another thing I love that people do, and let's keep doing more of this is we're sharing each other's information. We're tagging people in our posts, people know, hey, this was a great article I read. Here's some great articles that I read from, from over the last few months, and they're sharing it and they're tagging us, and we're able to communicate and have conversations and make comments and all of that we need to continue to keep doing that. Because I believe that only makes us stronger. So I love what I'm seeing. I can't respond to all the stuff that's out there. But yeah, there's certain people that I definitely watch. And when I hear I see something post comment, right? You're one of them. Robert DACA is another one of them. There's certain people that I do watch pretty pretty pretty heavily like Adrienne, Christina and, and and Angela wick and you know, individuals like that. But there's also other people that I want you to up and coming because I think is really cool to just watch them. them grow and bring a new a new perspective. The only thing I'll say about that about community, though, is just let's continue to be kind. And we're not always going to agree. It's okay to agree to disagree. We don't have to be mean about it. We don't have to be snarky about it. We don't have to be disrespectful to each other. You don't have to agree. That's the beauty of diversity, equity and inclusion. So I you know, I don't agree with what you just said. But I do appreciate you bringing up this different perspective, even though I haven't bought into it. And I don't agree with it. Some of the comments that I've seen can get a little bit interesting. And so typically, I say out of those posts, because I don't want to fall into that stuff. But let's let's just keep it because at the end of the day, we all add value, whether you agree with it or not. We add value in our own way. So let's just continue to keep doing that and supporting each other

Joe Newbert 48:45
indeed, and it's almost back to your gratuity to your abundance. mindsets. I appreciate you coming on today and sharing the Paul Abell mindset with us. been a great conversation I look forward to next time we catch up Paula.

Paula Bell 49:04
I do as well. Thank you for having me. You

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The Show Notes

Cool stuff mentioned on the show

๐Ÿซ Christina Lovelock and Adrian Reed's BA School Day 

๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿฝ Serendipity Conference (No link: in the deep freeze)

โ˜• IIBA Brussels BA Cafe every Friday

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ Paula's shoutouts: Joe Newbert, Robert Thacker, Adrian Reed, Christina Lovelock, and Angela Wick.

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About Paula Bell

Paula Bell (/in/paulabell44/) is the CEO of Paula A. Bell Consulting, LLC. She is a business analyst, leadership and career development coach, consultant, speaker and author with 21+ years of diverse experience in corporate America. Paula helps individuals find their passion, build their brand, and enhance their skill sets through consultations, coaching and customisable documentation to empower and motivate themselves and others through a structured journey of self-reflection and awareness.

About Joe Newbert

Joe Newbert (/joenewbert) is is a consultant, a writer, a speaker, but above all, a teacher. As Chief Training Officer at Business Change Academy, he delivers some of the best business analysis training on the planet. He co-authored the original IIBAยฎ Business Analysis Competency Model and served as Non-Executive Director on the IIBAยฎ South Africa Strategy Board. Joe is Showrunner at the business analysis podcast network OneSixEight FM and Editor-In-Chief at the Inter-View Report. And he also writes in fits and starts on Newbert's Blog.


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