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NAU Department of Business and Administration Alumni Career Insights: Barbara Atkinson

BarbBarbaraAtkinsonara Atkinson is our featured alumna for this edition of the NAU B & A Alumni Career Insights blog. Barbara graduated from NAU-Extended Campuses with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree.  In her own words, following is Barbara’s career story and insights.

I am currently employed as a contractor “Business Analyst” for an Arizona municipality. I left the information technology field in 2004, when my youngest child, then age 19, moved away from home. I left as a Senior Manager and Enterprise Oracle Database Administrator managing database administrators in 6 data centers in 5 countries. I could not be promoted above Senior Manager because I didn’t have an undergraduate degree. That added significant pain to the excessive unpaid overtime.

When my youngest moved away from home, I didn’t need to make that kind of money anymore, and I wanted a life, so I left. Flash forward to 2008. I had been working in alternative asset investments, which was an education into the bowels of finance and economics that you can’t get in any school. When the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy brought economic activity to a screeching halt, my business dissolved. Plan B was to return to IT, but the rules had changed.

In 2006 when I needed a paycheck, I had a well-paying consulting job in 11 days. In 2008, in 6 months of submitting resumes, I only had 2 telephone interviews. In both interviews, the interviewer said that my experience was exceptional; however, without at least an undergraduate degree I couldn’t be considered. So now I have an undergraduate degree in business administration from NAU.  Although I had been out of the IT arena for more than a decade, armed with my undergrad I was able to secure a well-paying consulting position.

My formal title is Lead Business Systems Analyst. I was originally brought on board to facilitate resolution of a very poorly implemented mission critical system. It didn’t take long to realize that the project I was brought on to complete would be completed in a fraction of my contracted time. More projects were added to my workload, and I am typically quite busy with a wide array of tasks that exercise my knowledge and skill sets well. My current workload encompasses a procurement system, a customer service delivery system, business intelligence implementation, and organizational process improvement.

I don’t really have typical days. Today I am working on completing the business requirements and design for an enterprise-wide procurement analytics cube. This will allow users to analyze spend against contract, spend by product category by department by vendor to potentially consolidate vendors, identify vendors with contracts with multiple departments so contracts can be consolidated for optimized pricing, and identify vendor names with multiple vendor numbers for cleanup.

Most days have meetings of some kind. Today there was a meeting with the core IT group to resolve production deployment process problems. Tomorrow morning I’ll be facilitating a meeting between users and developers that uses constructs of the Rapid Application Development (RAD) model that was prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s. I was able to get buy-in from stakeholders that this would be a worthwhile exercise. As the facilitator, I will document the changes and the change priority agreed upon by the developers and the users. I expect the exercise to be very successful.

There is somewhat of an expectation that I will apply for a permanent employment opportunity that is being created. Should I receive an offer for permanent employment, I will have to get an MBA to move up. The thought of going back to school again kind of makes me want to cry, but the municipality footing the bill helps ease the pain. If I do return to school to pursue my MBA, I hope that I can do so at NAU.

Regarding insights about resume writing, it is important to match verbiage and keywords in job requirements. Most employers, including contracting agencies, retrieve stored resumes using keywords. In the technical arena, most recruiters, whether they are in-house or agencies, don’t understand technology and technical skills. When they select a resume to be forwarded to a hiring manager, they do so based on the resume skills and experience matching the skills and experience in the job requirement.

When I begin a job search, I always like to interview for a few positions I would likely never accept. This takes the pressure off me while I re-sharpen my interviewing skills so when I do interview for a job I do want, the interview is relatively flawless. It’s also important to remember that an interview goes both ways.

Congratulations Barbara on earning your BBA degree, your career success and on being our featured NAU B & A alumna.

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