For more than two decades, Cynthia Gray has worked as a business analyst, collaborating with companies to solve complex problems. As demand for her services grows, she is recruiting young people into the industry.
What exactly does your business do?
I’m almost like the fixer-upper. A lot of these companies hire me to fix up a mess. They issue recalls, and they bring me on to figure out what is going wrong. It is also companies trying to figure out who they are.
When CVS completed an acquisition for a pharmacy benefits management company, CVS hired me to help with the transition and the branding efforts. Motorola wanted to be more efficient in implementing third-party software, and I designed and implemented a global program for them. All companies, big and small, are trying to be more efficient, and I help with that.
For 10 years, my focus has been big pharma, trying to get them to move to a more efficient digital system. Big pharma has been all about acquisitions, which involves integrating different systems. I move them to the same and more efficient platforms, while making sure they don’t kill their product.
How do you help them?
My core is Six Sigma and lean manufacturing. It is a combination of business analysis work, along with a very strong process improvement background.
When I’m brought in to fix a problem, I find companies will often blame their employees – the people. Usually, I find it is the system causing the problems. Sometimes, it is the leadership as well. I can fix the system and train the leadership.
On the technical side of things, companies typically build products in a very linear fashion. They build it, they test it, and they release it; and then they find out it is not what the customers want. I have developed ways so they do product development in chunks, rather than this waterfall linear method.
I get daily calls from people who want to hire me.
What is the demand for this type of consulting work?
It is rampant. If you look at LinkedIn, there are postings for business analysts all over. These types of professionals are very hard to find and very in demand.
I have more demand than I can fill right now. I’m balancing three clients at the moment. Companies who call me ask me if I know anyone else who can do this, and everyone I know who does business analysis, they are swamped right now, too.
Are you looking to expand?
I am looking for talent now. I’m realizing I can’t do all this on my own. I’m looking to get more people who can do what I do. The basic requirements are people who question the ways things are and try to get it done in a better way. I call these people system thinkers. I want people who have a thirst to learn and who are willing to take risks. They have to be willing to stand up for what they believe in, even when everyone else tells them they are wrong. They can’t be shy. I need people who accept that they don’t know everything.
Those are special kinds of people. There aren’t many folks like that. It is hard to find those people.
I’m looking to hire people into my company. Maybe they start as paid interns who work for my company, and I pay for their training on certain hot platforms. Hopefully, they can get to my level, although that would take many years of experience.
How do you get people interested in this work?
The seminars I’ve done have been centered around getting young women interested in the sciences. I want to dispel the notion the sciences are all about chemistry or being a computer coder. The science I do, though, is more about being on the front end of product development.
Where are you looking for people?
Places like Worcester State or Clark universities, which have really good populations of people of color. I’m also looking to get them at a younger age, like in high school. I’ve worked with people who’ve gone to Harvard or other Ivy League schools, and the problem is they come in wearing their degree on their sleeve. Then, they think they don’t need to learn anything, which creates problems. I prefer people who go to local colleges and have a thirst for knowledge. They understand they always need to learn.
This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.