Now, I know that lots of roles are very company-specific. They can be highly dependent on the size of your enterprise, how it uses EDI and other eBusiness tools, where your department is located organizationally, and other considerations. Therefore, some of what I’ll say may or may not be relevant to your situation. As I mentioned many times, I was fortunate to have worked for a long time at a pretty big company with a very vibrant eCommerce presence, so I was able to witness the evolution of a lot of careers. I can share with you some insight into the paths chosen by our people. I won’t limit it to analysts, recognizing that many companies don’t have separate positions for production support, analysts, project managers, and technical support/development as we did. Heck, a lot of companies have all of those roles being performed by one person!
Other than your most recent experience in eBusiness, there other factors involved in getting hired, transferred, or promoted into a different role. They include what else you have on your resume’ from previous positions, the relationships you’ve maintained, and what your visibility has been to other hiring managers. We can’t then assume it’s solely your eBusiness experience that will propel you into contention for other roles. It’ll help, though.
Here are a few examples of career choices some of our people have made over the past few years:
- Staying put. Some people really like what they do and want to continue to do it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I totally understand the thinking. Our area was very active, with a lot of challenging work, communication with many different internal groups, and direct customer contact. Some people enjoyed the daily routine and chose to stay where they were, learning more and more each day and putting it to use. These people contributed not only their expanding skill set, but also provided much needed and appreciated stability and continuity for the team and for their projects. We also had people leave the company to do the same role elsewhere.
- Move internally on the team. Since we had multiple clearly defined roles, there was always the potential to transfer into something different and more challenging on the team. With production support, analysts, project managers, and technical staff, a healthy amount of moving between roles on the team was desirable, and we liked to promote from within. Again, we were pretty unique in the way our department was structured, so this may or may not be an option for you.
- Move to a management role. Managing people isn’t for everyone, and a limited number of these positions are normally out there. However, management could also be a career path for the right person. Although dazzling technical or analytical skill would be a ‘nice to have’, other criteria such as leadership traits, interpersonal relationships, and communication are even more important for this level.
- IT. You probably deal with your IT folks on a daily or weekly basis, so you know them and they know you. Your knowledge of how the ERP interacts with your translator and how your maps utilize the functionality of the order management and/or purchasing system makes you a natural for an IT business analyst role or, if you have a somewhat technical background, configuration or development positions. Also, let’s not forget the traits that helped you excel in your current role. EDI folk are generally very detail oriented and thorough, and these qualities are extremely important in IT-related jobs.
- Customer Service. Much of the work we did had a direct impact on our branches, service centers, and distribution centers, so we had a chance to learn a lot about those areas. Although in general we ‘got’ more than we ‘gave’ personnel-wise from those groups, we did have people who leveraged their eBusiness knowledge and prior backgrounds to move into different roles in customer service.
- Sales, Sales Management. Our analysts and project managers deal with customers and sales people at many different levels nearly every day, so they have both the exposure to those roles as well as the experience in working with actual paying customers. Based on the rest of their backgrounds and their personalities, moving into a position in the sales organization could be a solid direction.
- Consulting. We also transitioned several strong performers into our consulting group, which was natural since the analytical work we perform to develop successful solutions for customer eBusiness initiatives was similar conceptually to the type of analysis our consultants do.
- eBusiness Sales. Some companies have ‘demand generators’ for their eCommerce offering, so that area was a good fit for people with strong EDI/project management skills. That team was the ‘front end’ to our customer eProcurement project process, so we interacted with the eBiz sellers on a daily basis and had a good understanding of their role and skill set.
- Supply Chain. Although no one from our team moved into a supply chain position, due to the amount of contact and the understanding we have of their processes this area, especially the purchasing function, would be a natural for an experienced EDI person.
I’m certainly not advocating that you drop everything and turn your focus toward moving out of your current position. I’m sure it’s something you’ve thought about, though. As a manager I always liked having some people who were fine with what they were doing and were continuing to learn and grow, others who were interested in learning about other roles across both our team and in other parts of the company, and a few who had management in their sights. It was the responsibility of me and my managers to both get the most out of the team and to help our people get the most out of their abilities. You manage your own career, so I’m just hoping to open your eyes to some possibilities. As always, I’d encourage you to be open and honest with your manager about your career aspirations. He or she will be highly important in providing the support, training, and exposure to help you move ahead.
So why are people who perform the work you do attractive to other groups within the company? As I’m sure you know, your translator and mapping skills are very specific to the team you’re currently on. So what else could it be? In working with my team and talking to other hiring managers, here are the things typically viewed as most important:
- You are detail oriented and very analytical.
- You’re comfortable talking to customers.
- You know what our capabilities are and are able to translate them into customer-specific solutions.
- You’re an ace in understanding the intersection between our translator and the ERP system’s ecommerce capabilities.
- You communicate well with multiple layers of internal and external contacts.
- You do a great job in understanding processes on your partners’ side and you know how to ask the right questions to get to the level of detail you need.
- You understand how to translate business requirements into technical requirements.
- You’ve been exposed to Continuous Improvement concepts and have participated in CI projects.
- You go the extra mile to satisfy your partners.
- You’re a team player who gets along well with others.
- You manage projects well and always communicate realistic status.
- You are always dressed appropriately and other managers have no problem envisioning you in front of an important customer or executive.
These KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) have been crucial to those people who have wanted to advance their careers with us. You may not have them all, but then again not every one of them is needed by other areas. For example, direct customer communication wouldn’t be as important in an IT role as it would for sales or consulting, but your knowledge of SAP’s eCommerce configuration would be a great capability.
Don’t sell yourself short: you have a lot to offer both in your current role and to other parts of the organization. The work you do and the value you add by doing it provides a path for you to grow a unique set of skills that have shown to be in demand. Plus, there’s no better place to be than EDI/eBusiness from the standpoint of being right in the middle of things across the organization and communicating with all sorts of different partners. Visibility and exposure are important!