Nearing the end of his junior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, James Heath was looking for an internship in risk management. Even though he had never heard of business continuity he recognized the parallels with his risk management and finance major and the job description for a business continuity management internship at Thrivent Financial.

He admittedly “bumped into” the internship but it was still a good fit. He also took a full-time job with Thrivent when it was offered after graduation.

“As I was evaluating my opportunities during my last semester in college, I saw some unique benefits of working in a business continuity career versus other risk management careers,” said Heath. “Working on smaller teams enabled me to have ownership of program elements rights away. I also enjoyed doing varied work across the entire organization instead of process, siloed work. Getting executive exposure early on in my career is also an added benefit of working in business continuity.”

Heath has been part of the business continuity team at Thrivent Financial for more than two years.

Young professionals like Heath face a few different challenges with so many first-generation business continuity professionals still in place.

“A challenge I see across the industry is a lack of advancement opportunities in some BC/DR roles,” said Heath. “I would encourage program managers to consider building a structure that would allow young professionals the ability to advance and be promoted within the BC/DR discipline of their organizations. Knowing there is potential for advancement or promotion can go a long way in recruiting and retaining high performing young professionals.”

Older professionals often worry about learning new technology every few years just to communicate with colleagues. While Heath admits he prefers Skype or email when scheduling meetings, he prefers his ad-hoc collaborations to take place face-to-face.

Things may change but Heath hopes to remain on this same general career path.

“At this point I see myself as a risk management professional practicing in the business continuity space,” said Heath. “I am not sure if I plan to spend my entire career working in BC/DR, but I know I have an interest in identifying and mitigating risk. I plan on that being a focus for my entire career.”

Part of that career plan includes learning from Disaster Recovery Journal.

“I have attended the past three DRJ conferences, I think they are a great way for a business continuity newbie or a seasoned BC professional to learn about or keep up with the industry” said Heath. “I like the individual breakout sessions that focus on hot topics and I always go back to work with ideas on how to enhance our programs.”