As a young professional, Naomi Hill already sees herself as becoming a lifelong business continuity professional. In fact, she can’t imagine doing anything else. She says this particular field allows her to put some of her strongest skills into practice.
“I enjoy the fact that every day is a new challenge,” Hill says.
Hill has been a business continuity analyst for two years with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). She previously worked as a special projects fellow for the Washington Regional Threat Analysis Center, the National Capital Region’s fusion center housed within Washington, D.C.’s Homeland and Security and Emergency Management Agency.
“Working there really strengthened my critical thinking, threat analysis and mitigation, and stakeholder engagement abilities,” she says, “and those skills ultimately aligned with the function and needs of AARP’s preparedness program where I now work.”
Hill faces many challenges as a young professional. One issue that seems to be daunting for many in this area of the profession is generating buy-in from key personnel and breaking down well-established silos.
“As a young professional leading a business continuity project in a multi-generational workplace, it is no surprise that most of my peers have been in their positions much longer than I have,” she says, “and they may not always understand or acknowledge the value of my work.” At its core, business continuity and disaster recovery planning is all about the people and processes. Hill has largely been able to overcome these challenges by being intentional about building and strengthening relationships and communication with and between stakeholders.
Hill adds that a great deal of this pulls on her prior education in conflict resolution, but overall, the relational aspect involves several things:
- networking and getting to know staff individually, beyond their work
- having straightforward conversations about what the BC/DR program is and how they fit into it
- providing an open space to explore concerns
- being knowledgeable and available to educate when needed
- being respectfully assertive about what she is doing, why she is doing it, and how it serves the larger enterprise
By utilizing this approach, Hill feels she is not only able to show respect for her colleagues’ work, and potentially “how they’ve always done it,” but also introduce new ideas and solicit feedback to improve the BC/DR program.
“When it’s all said and done, I find it helpful to remind stakeholders the hardest part about BC/DR planning is explaining ‘why you didn’t’ and that strengthening the resilience of our organization is beneficial for us all,” says Hill.
Hill fully embraces technology when it comes to communication, whether it’s email or Skype, but finds that she is most effective when she talks to peers in person.
She offers important advice to other young professionals: stay on top of your game when it comes to best practices and gaining industry knowledge. Also, she says they should not be afraid to sincerely question why a particular process is being executed in one way or another and offer ways to be more efficient.
“You will most likely be tasked with the reformation of the process, but it shows your investment in the project and program.”
Hill gets excited when it comes to the problem-solving and contingency planning aspect of her career. She naturally thinks of alternative execution methods and back-up plans for everything, so being able to do it as her day job gives her great joy.
As for improvements in the business continuity profession, she would like to see all personnel in an organization have a role in supporting BC, and not just the critical staff who control or execute major processes; to emphasize educating general employee populations about what BC really is, what it means for their organization, and how it underscores their job security. “I think this could help generate even more buy-in.”
“Business continuity professionals keep institutions, businesses, and communities up and running in the face of a rapidly-changing world,” says Hill.
Even as a young professional, Hill is eager to increase her knowledge in the BC area. Her ideal conference session would be an in-depth session on vendor management and working with IT departments post-BIA.
Hill has attended past DRJ conferences. She liked the variety of session topics, general session speakers, and both the structured and organic networking opportunities. She would like to participate in more local chapter events or regional gatherings to network with other professionals. Additional learning opportunities such as weekend institutes or case study teams are also of interest.
Previous training Hill has attended includes negotiation analysis and skills, project management, strategic analytic techniques, and policy briefing. She is currently pursuing BC/DR certifications.