Paula Rodriguez Bescansa is a Business Continuity consultant at Ozona Consulting in Spain. She holds a Certificate of the Business Continuity Institute and recently passed the ISO/IEC 20000 Foundation exam. She was awarded with the Alan Reed Award 2021 for achieving the highest score in the CBCI examination. She conducts various webinars and has been involved in several volunteering projects.

1. Would you share with us how you became involved in business continuity and resilience field?

I must say it was luck. I graduated with a BA in International Studies. It is a very interesting field, but as it is interdisciplinary, you do not leave university with a clear career path. Instead, it requires some introspection to find your place and specialize, and this may take a while. After some time trying different things, I stumbled upon an opportunity to work for the Business Continuity consultancy department at Ozona Consulting. And that’s how I found my call.

At first, I did not know much about business continuity and what it was all about, but I quickly became familiar with it. Being so lucky to work closely with Uxía Fernández, MBCI, I have had the opportunity to get great insights into the field, not only in consultancy, but also in the normalization activities she performs as a member of the ISO/TC 292 committee. All of this helped to feed my curiosity. I have since obtained my CBCI, and I look forward to continue to gain experience so as to become a MBCI sometime soon.

2. You have recently received the BCI Alan Reed Education Award, how do you think professional bodies such as BCI support young professionals in terms of career development?

Yes. I felt honored to receive such recognition! I believe business continuity is a key discipline that should not be neglected – whoever doubted it, just look at what has happened in these past years to organizations that were ill-prepared to face the disruptions caused by the pandemic! Yet, outside some strategic sectors and, especially in some countries, I have the impression that not many know what business continuity is. How can, then, be given the importance it deserves? How can young people come into contact with it and consider it a potential career path? Here is where organizations such as the BCI come into play, organizing awareness sessions and events, and providing specialized training among other activities aimed at giving visibility to the discipline.

Then, there is networking. I think it is crucial for professional development, regardless of your career path, but I find it especially important in the field of business continuity. As the discipline is widely unknown in many countries and industries, it may be difficult for some to get in contact with other people working in BC. Organizations such as the BCI give young professionals the opportunity to get in touch with other young professionals and with more experienced profiles, contributing to a sense of belonginess and providing a suitable forum to share experiences and ideas. Indeed, seeing how far other BC professionals have gone can serve as reassurance that you’re on the right track, that there are plenty of opportunities for growth.

3. Aside from professional bodies, what other source of guidance do you think young professionals in our industry need to cultivate their career path?

I think it is very important to have a mentor, a person to look up to and from whom to learn the ropes. Yes, it’s crucial to study the standards and good practices guidelines, but there is some kind of knowledge, some know-how, that is transmitted on-the-job, when you work hand in hand with a person who has been there before and knows how to approach a particular situation. I believe this invaluable knowledge can only be acquired from a mentor. As I mentioned earlier, I believe I am very lucky to work with Uxía Fernández, MBCI. She fulfills this role for me.

4. What do you do to advance your professional growth?

Well, I try to do several things. On the one hand, my supervisor and I set clear annual objectives, aimed not only at the betterment of the company and our department, but also at my own growth. For example, I am to conduct several webinars and attend a given number of industry-related events.

On the other hand, the last few projects in which I participated had a strong ICT component. I do not have an IT background, so, supported by my company, I decided to take APMG’s ISO 20000 Foundation exam, and I am now qualified to participate in some ITSM projects. I hope to explore the synergies between both disciplines in order to advance in my career.

5. Could you give us top 3 professional skills that are relevant to the industry?

I believe there are many skills that could be relevant for business continuity professionals. After all, different profiles are needed within the discipline to perform different activities. But if I have to mention three that I personally consider critical, they would be the following:

  1. Being organized: Business continuity is much about anticipating and planning, so I think it helps to keep this mantra in all aspects of your work. Organizing your work and planning your schedule as much as possible gives you a sense of control, and, especially as a consultant, I think one should convey the idea to clients that keeping work well-planned and organized provides a structure that can help streamline both business-as-usual activities, and response and recovery activities when facing a disruption.
  2. Analytical thinking: It is also important to quickly absorb and comprehend information related to a variety of processes and how they intertwine. After all, understanding the context of an organization is key to identifying the most appropriate business continuity strategies and solutions. The same does not work for a multinational gas company and a local government agency, and yet, as a consultant, you may find yourself working in such varied projects. You will need an analytical mind to work out the important bits in each case and help the client establish continuity priorities.
  3. Being creative: Business continuity good practices guidelines and related ISO technical specifications give examples on how to approach different activities within the scope of business continuity management. They provide business continuity professionals and organizations with insightful tips from experts in the field. But one must not think of them as a panacea, but as a starting point. In my humble experience, each organization is different. Even two organizations of the same sector, of similar sizes and operating in the same markets may have very different cultures influencing their approach to business continuity. They may give importance to different aspects of the business and pursue different goals. This will influence the business continuity strategies they will consider. So, as a consultant, one must be able to observe and listen to the client needs and expectations in order to come up with a tailor-made strategy that takes into account such particularities.

6. Any words of wisdom you would like to share with other young professionals in the field? Maybe tips in acing the CBCI exam?

I would tell other young people getting their toes into business continuity to be patient and perseverant. Compared to other professions, I find business continuity to have a flatter learning curve. It takes time and effort to become experienced, and many times projects are long. At first, you may feel that you are not advancing, but you most likely are; just keep going, ask for advice, become involved. Before you realized, you will look back and see how far you’ve gotten. I would not have thought, two years ago –and with the pandemic in between– that I would have been invited to share my insights here!

As for acing the CBCI, there really is no secret. You need to dedicate time to study. For me, it helps synthesizing the information, so first, I underline what’s important and outline these concepts in a separate piece of paper. Then, I add information to them as I study, without writing it down. This way, these concepts serve as a trigger to retrieve my knowledge as I review. In this way, I turned 100 pages of content into a 10-page study guide. Now, I understand this may not work for everyone, so all in all, I would say: do not underestimate the ‘Process’ diagrams and the ‘Outcomes and Review’ sections; I found it was important to know these parts well!

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Author: Lucil Aguada