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Luke Bird reflects on career progression opportunities in business continuity and how the profession could improve in this area.

As a kid growing up all I ever wanted to be was a sailor in the navy and once I got to the right age there was no one going to tell me otherwise. So off I went, hell bent on passing through basic training and finally getting to wear that shiny uniform. Well done me I thought to myself…

However, it wasn’t until the Monday morning after my big passing in parade and following a weekend of celebrations with my family and friends that it finally hit me. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my career beyond that point.

It’s really only now at this stage of my career in business continuity and over 10 years later that I can draw some interesting parallels. Much like my experience during basic training in the Navy, my career as a junior professional in business continuity has often involved those long 18-hour days, those difficult superiors (occasionally) and that regular feeling of being a deer in the headlights. However, the greatest parallel I can draw from this collective experience is the way I’m feeling right now: trying to decide on my future.

In November 2014, after a year or two of fighting my way into the industry I found myself walking proudly to a stage in London being applauded for winning the Business Continuity Institute’s Global Best Newcomer Award. As I sat down, elated after collecting my trophy, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. It was a message from a close friend who had been monitoring the results from Twitter and it simply said:

“That difficult second album…”

At the time I was so delighted at being recognised and rewarded that I just put the message down to him trying to be witty; although, now I think about it, he was making a very good point: What do I do next?

I think very few of my colleagues in the industry would disagree with me when I say that professionally, the previous 18 months for me have been blessed. In brief summary, during this time I have passed my CBCI with merit and ISO 22301 Lead Auditor’s course, achieved MBCI status, awarded a Masters scholarship, created a junior professional brand, shared 25000 words via my blog, self-published a book to share with my peers, featured in the BCI’s 2020 vision paper and was selected for a prestigious global award from my industry. It was intense to say the least and I’m very grateful. Unfortunately though, the subsequent few months I have found to be some of my most challenging.

Oddly enough, in terms of career planning, I have achieved virtually all and more of the five-year objectives I have set and it feels like almost everyone including myself is expecting me to capitalise on all this effort. As you’d expect from being suddenly recognised by your industry I received a couple of potential opportunities: which always confuses things at the best of times. To add to this confusion I received the following pieces of advice from different individuals:

“If you want to get on in business continuity – get out. You have no experience in business so go and work for a profit centre and really understand how it works: then come back.”

“Don’t make any decisions this year - stay where you are just now and enjoy the career that you’ve forged out for yourself, work on some projects that can help you really develop long-term.”

“You need to look at taking on additional responsibility in other similar areas of the business, information/physical security, operational risk etc.”

“Come work for me for more money but doing what you do now.”

All individually valid points but collectively they added to my confusion. Furthermore I came across an article on Continuity Central written by Nathanial Forbes from 2010 which perfectly summarised my current though process. In the article Nathanial discusses the options for the next steps for the likes of me in this rapidly evolving profession. In summary he suggests the following options:

  • Get out of the industry;
  • Stick it out and over time you might get one of the very few regional/global head kind of roles;
  • Evolve – try to take on some of the other disciplines that are quickly moving into the hybrid realm of organizational resilience e.g. information security, cyber threats etc.

I think considering that this piece was written nearly five years ago it is fairly on point even now. It seems to me we can’t keep up with the pace of change and as an industry we are always half a yard behind. The BCI 2020 strategy is a really good start but we can’t stop there and just wait to see how these individuals get on: we need a solid strategy for development (and if one already exists then it needs to be better communicated).

If as a junior professional (and I suspect I’m not the only one here) I can be so void of any idea of how to develop next, then naturally as a profession we are going to lose some of our best talent after five-ten years of exposure. I still feel that despite our recent efforts in the industry to mentor and develop talent and set professional benchmarks, we are still in our infancy and there is so much more to be done to mature our professional development process. If you compare our current practices to the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) or the Institute of International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) we are still so far behind.

I really believe it’s time that as a profession we put our heads together to come up with a more mature system of learning and development which focuses on continuous improvement.

As always folks the floor is now yours to kindly agree/disagree with the above or point me in the right direction…

Make a comment or provide feedback

The author

Luke Bird MBCI can be contacted at

Reader comments

Luke: I just read your piece on continuitycentral. I am grateful for your mention of, and link to, my 2010 piece, "Is business continuity a dead-end?"

As a writer, I am very happy to know that the piece resonated with you years later.

As a BCM practitioner in the twilight of my career, I very much hope that you decide that you are not in a dead-end, but at a fork in your professional road. If we cannot keep an obviously bright spark like you motivated, rewarded and devoted, there is no way BCM can ever become a profession.

Nathaniel L. Forbes, MBCI CBCP

If you go for a walk in the country with any rambler, you will have a great walk, get from A to B in fairly short measure and maybe have a beer along the way, (nothing wrong with that).

If you take the same walk with a botanist it will take a lot longer, you will make the same journey but at the end you will be much more informed about the content of the route than you would otherwise have been.

What has this got to do with BC? Well, I think that after training and education in our subject to the relevant standard, we produce plans that take our organisations on a journey, which, with a bit of luck, assuming the plans are read, they survive and live to trade another day. Well done one might say.

When we are at this stage I believe the real work of developing a quality BC manager begins. Education and diligent application will produce good capable people, but ‘experience’ is what turns those qualities into reliable, bankable assets that deliver for an organisation when it counts.

I accept that this may be seen as an old fashioned view, and may not work for those interested in accelerated advancement, however it does produce a quality product and is worth considering at any stage of a career.

I would offer this advice - If you arrive at a point where you are happy with the wages, then take a bit of time to get better at it and be a botanist not a rambler.

John Ball, MBCI

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