This information is from my new book, The Ultimate Business Continuity Success Guide: How to Build Real-World Resilience and Unleash Exciting New Value Streams. I hope you enjoy the chapter and my book.
Business Continuity Career Success Secrets
I have found that great Business Resilience / Business Continuity (BRBC) professionals come from many different walks of life. Often, we begin our careers in a different, but somewhat related discipline. You probably do not know too many people that came right out of school and entered our profession.
My background is in Information Technology (IT) and Operations. Many other successful BRBC professionals I have worked with came from finance, risk, logistics, security and the government.
When I was a little kid I did not say, ‘Mommy, when I grow up I really wanna be a BRBC Pro!’ Although, I do attribute her reading, ‘The Three Little Pigs’ story to me as planting a life long seed in my brain on the importance of preparation, planning, situational awareness, threat identification and risk mitigation…
When I came out of college there was not even a BC profession! I am confident in the future as word spreads about what a great profession BRBC is that will change!
Hopefully, this book will spread the word on how valuable we are for achieving organizational resilience AND producing ‘beyond BC Value $treams’.
Qualities, Mindset and Some Tips:
- The desire to help people
- A passion to learn
- Focus and fortitude to finish what they start
- Attention to detail
- Good communication skills
- Creativity and an innovative mindset
- The ability to envision what the future-state can become – beyond what the current state is
Below I have listed a real world potpourri of qualities, skills and tips I believe contribute to the success of a BRBC professional. These can be built over time and on the job. If you have some or all of these qualities, you may enjoy a BRBC career.
- Enjoy working with people –Unless you are strictly doing IT system disaster recovery (DR) work you will be working with many people at different levels of the organization. If you simply want to ‘hang in your cubicle’ all day – BRBC is not the right career for you. You will not be happy and being happy in your work is so important. Life is too short to be doing something you do not enjoy for 60+ hours a week (my editor suggested a work week is 35 hours – haha – not in our world)
- Be a good listener – Active listening skills are critical in all facets of life. ‘They’ should be talking and you should be listening. You probably heard of the saying, ‘that is why we have two ears and one mouth.’ ‘They’ should be talking more than you talk. You only learn when ‘they’ are talking. While ‘they’ are talking you should not be thinking of the next thing you will say. You should build on what ‘they’ say. It is all about ‘them’
- Ask insightful ‘open-ended’ questions – Rather than asking a question where the person can simply answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, (unless you need a yes or no response) ask probing questions, where the person must elaborate. You can then build on their answers with follow-up questions. The “5 Why’s” works! Ask a question and when they respond just ask ‘Why?’ to their response if you need more information. Keep doing that. By the 5th ‘why’ you will get to the root of the cause. Salespeople use this technique with great success
- Have technology / IT knowledge and skills – This scares some people! I treat this one separately in the following chapter ‘Are you thinking of a career move from IT to BC?’ We have discussed a lot about technology throughout the book so hopefully that has helped you. I grew up in IT and for me it is a passion. It is not critical to be immersed in IT though, so do not stress about it. Just get comfortable and pick up technical knowledge as you progress in your career.
- Expect to be on call at odd hours and weekends – That said, you should also have a backup so you are not on call 7 x 24 x 365. Trust me, disasters have a way of happening Monday morning at 3 am when you are probably sleeping or perhaps on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when you are soaking up the rays and enjoying the surf at the beach. It’s like they know when it will be least convenient for you. During events such as hurricanes Sandy and Katrina I was on conference calls throughout the night and it paid off. So, be ready to dive right in because ‘it goes with the territory’. When disaster strikes all the planning you did comes to the forefront. I always think of it in terms of ‘where the rubber meets the road’. If you thoroughly planned and tested correctly it is likely you will be an unsung (or not so unsung) hero. Don’t hide or stay in the background. Give it 100%. All will work out, you’ll see. I am writing this on a Sunday during some turbulent winter weather. I fully expect to be working tonight, possibly doing mass notifications to keep our employees well informed and doing whatever else helps our team
- Always make it all ‘about them’ – They will love you for it. Be confident, friendly and professional. Be sure to check your ego at the door
- Have the ability to multi-task – I have never seen a BRBC department that is overstaffed. More likely, your department is understaffed but you must ‘find a way’ to get the work done, which often means long days and nights. This is especially true if you are supporting domestic and international locations. Hey, if I am wrong on this one please let me know. I lived it, having supported domestic AND global programs for many years
- Stay calm and focused when those all around you are losing it – and some folks will be losing it – Embrace pressure, or at least accept it because it will come. During a crisis event everything moves at 1,000 miles an hour. Even the best documented plans will most likely need to be adjusted during an event. A culture of resilience will pull your team through any disruption. When preparing plans we can’t plan for every type of disaster scenario. Bringing the right people together and the ability to think on our feet is critical. Believe me, teaming with the right people and focusing on the moment and what has to be done will enable you to respond and recover
- Be honest and straightforward with management and process owners – When RTO’s are misaligned and disaster strikes the s*!t will hit the fan and your butt will rightfully be on the line. I have seen this happen and it is not pretty. So be honest and make sure the process owners are honest on the true RTO requirements even if it will cost more to deliver a shorter recovery time-frame. Let management make the final decisions.
- Have good written communication skills – Hopefully, you are comfortable writing. You don’t have to be Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. If you need to improve your basic writing skills you can read a book or take a class or two. I promise you, you will be writing a lot of emails, newsletter articles, exercises, presentations…so, sharpen your skills. If you already enjoy writing and are are good at it you are way ahead of the game. Here are some writing tips:
- o Know your audience
- o Write simply and straight-forward
- o Let your personality shine through
- o Write from the heart
- o Don’t use big words to impress – you won’t impress, you will only confuse
- o If you want some great advice on writing I suggest you read Stephen King’s book – ‘On Writing‘. It tells you everything you need to know in ‘down to earth’ terms. Check out the hundreds of positive reviews on Amazon. The book is approximately $10 and tells it all. Hey, maybe you even have a book in you! I have had 10 in me, with more to come. I may not be the most talented writer but I love to write and I do my best to deliver valuable information to my readers.
- Have good verbal communication skills – At various times in your career you will be working one-on-one and presenting to small and large groups. Don’t worry, we all get nervous in front of groups of people in the beginning (public speaking is rated scarier than death to many people in some polls) but your jitters will quickly fade away as you get a few presentations under your belt. Relax, you will have fun. A little nervousness is actually good; it means you care. Even successful actors and politicians are nervous before a performance or speech but they do not show it. Never let them see you sweat
By the way, there will come a time when you are giving a presentation and you encounter some sort of technical ‘glitch’. Think of it as a rite of passage. It happens to everyone. Stay cool and keep moving forward. Again, never let them see you sweat.
True story; Early in my career, I did a series of software demo’s with a co-worker who was also a good friend. Of course, the fateful day came when we encountered an audio/video issue in a room with 100+ attendees. Naturally it did not happen when there were two or three attendees. While I was resolving the issue Mike, my co-presenter, started cracking a few jokes and then to everyone’s amusement he hoisted himself onto the presentation table and started tap-dancing like a mad-man. Arms all over the place, going in circles, so bizarre and funny! The attendees loved it! I continued working on the ‘glitch’ and eventually fixed it. By then everyone was in a great mood. We had a great presentation. I think half the people were disappointed when I fixed it and Mike stopped dancing.
Funny, this happened quite a while ago when I was a young technologist on Wall Street. Every time I think about Mike ‘the dancing machine’ doing his thing up on that desk with a big smile on his face, I laugh. Way to go Mike!