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From Cop Car to the Classroom

Fall 2017

Kevin Watson believes in breaking out and exploring many roles in life.

“Don't get stuck in your bubble,” Kevin Watson says. It's a theme he jotted down for his keynote speech at the annual Division of Continuing Education Certificate Awards Ceremony in June, and it pretty much defines his approach to life.

Always eager to explore new roles, Watson — a DCE Business Analysis instructor and former student — has worked extensively abroad, discovering different cultures, seeking new skills and even wildly divergent careers. He's been a sailor and a cop, served as IT consultant and business analyst, lived in Singapore and traveled through India, Saudi Arabia and Southeast Asia.

“One thing I stress is the need to break out of your current role, strive to learn more about your organization, explore everything you can and see all the moving parts,” he said. “It's the only way to completely understand how the whole system works. For instance, if you're working in IT at a hospital, you have no idea what a patient actually goes through.”

Watson made a point of finding out. While leading a hospital-wide drill at Hoag Hospital in Irvine, he posed as a patient actor. The idea was to train the staff for opening day at the new hospital, and Watson, Senior Manager of Quality and Performance, oversaw drills to determine what worked efficiently and what needed fine-tuning.

True to form, he wasn't content to simply direct the massive operation. Watson wanted to pose as a stricken hospital visitor, to see exactly how the emergency situation would be handled in real life.

“I acted as a visitor who collapsed outside the elevators, so the staff could practice what to do in such an emergency,” he said. “It was a fantastic experience. Our staff of about 300 people had to act out a typical day for the first time. We worked on scripts, used stopwatches and brought in actors as patients. We needed to know if the elevators were too small, if the equipment was in the right place during surgeries.”

Striving to understand all the moving parts comes naturally to Watson. It's a key to his success as Global Integration Manager at a major software provider, and it's a philosophy that informs his online Business Analysis certificate courses.

Kevin Watson has played many roles, trekked to far-off lands, all within his brief 49 years on Earth. Most of us would find the adventure breathtaking, but he takes it entirely in stride, whether haggling for deals on the streets of Singapore with his wife Yvonne or navigating meetings with translators in Japan.

Along the way he learned much about various customs and cultures. “It's important to follow proper business etiquette,” Watson said. “For instance, in Japan you hand your business card to someone with both hands. One hand is considered rude. And when someone hands you a card, you need to look at it for several seconds, never put it away immediately.”

While living in Singapore, he discovered what he jokingly calls the “Remora Effect” — the way salespeople attach themselves to customers the moment they walk into a store, following closely and barely leaving a foot of space while they're shopping.

“Have you ever seen Shark Week on the Discovery Channel and noticed those small fish attached to the shark? Those suckerfish are called Remora,” he said. “You can say that you're browsing, but the salesperson will follow you, often within striking distance for a good shot to the face. In the U.S., it's almost the opposite.”

To think his journey began in a most inauspicious way: His grades at Burroughs High in Burbank were terrible, so he had to figure out a backup plan that, at the time, didn't include university.

“I wasn't motivated to do homework,” he said. “I would have been heading to Glendale Community College as a next step. Instead, I joined the Navy Reserves and trained as an avionics technician, then served on a P3 sub-hunter and F-18 fighter. I even spent two weeks on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Very exciting experience.”

When he returned home, Watson earned an associate degree and joined the Santa Monica Police Department. After a stint as dispatcher, he became a Community Service Officer, driving a cop car and visiting crime scenes to fill out paperwork for crimes and situations that didn't require a gun-toting officer.

“I specialized in traffic accidents but also handled burglaries, vandalism, robberies and much more,” he said. “My last two years there, I switched to an IT role and started down my now 20-year path in roles most often related to information technology.”

That led to a job working on IT systems at UCLA, later as a computer consultant traveling the U.S. serving mostly healthcare and public sector clients. Just like that, the unmotivated high school student found his calling.

Watson got his bachelor's in IT from University of Phoenix and, two years later, an MBA. That's when he decided to attend UCI Extension (now Division of Continuing Education), taking the Business Analysis and Project Management certificate courses concurrently.

He was encouraged to join the International Institute of Business Analysis, so he did. It was a turning point that led to his position as Senior Business Analyst at Hoag Newport Beach.

“I found the job through a woman at a local IIBA chapter dinner!” Watson said. “She mentioned she was about to have open BA positions at Hoag. I was carrying a resume and told her I was interested. I got the job, and that was a direct result of me taking the BA certificate program at UCI.”

That new role — and his subsequent experience in hospital administration there — led to his third degree, a Master's in Healthcare Administration from Cal State Long Beach.

Now Watson is a part-time DCE instructor and serves on the Advisory Committee for the Business Analysis program. Becoming a teacher seemed like a logical step, since he's been teaching for much of his career anyway.

“Teaching is challenging and keeps me up-to-date with the latest techniques,” Watson said. “I get as much from the classes as my students do. I realized that it's something I've done my entire career, all the roles I've played in healthcare and with the police department, teaching four-hour classes for nurses and senior managers. I definitely enjoy sharing my knowledge.”

As an Advisory Committee member, he's sharing ideas on shaping the future of the Business Analysis program, seeking new ways to “focus on the next step, continue to develop the curriculum and keep it relevant.”

Most recently, Watson's thoughts were focused on his DCE Certificate Awards Ceremony keynote speech, delivered on June 19th to hundreds of new program graduates and the family and friends in attendance to help celebrate their achievement. As he prepared to address the certificate awardees, one theme kept coming to mind: “Now that you've got your certificate, what are you going to do with it?”

One of the things Watson emphasized is how beneficial it is to join a professional association like the IIBA. “It's a great way to network and meet people in the industry. After all, that's how I got my position at Hoag.”