You’ve just graduated from your degree at university and after 2 months of job search you’ve finally landed your first gig as a team member in an IT team! After settling into the role, you start to notice all the IT jobs you read about during your degree on display at your company and start putting the pieces together on where these roles fit in the IT department: Software Developer, Database Administrator, Quality Assurance Tester, the list goes on.
You then notice there is someone with the title of “Business Analyst”. They seem to know quite a few people, understand what the company does, have a logical explanation for most things and just generally seem to know what they are talking about. This intrigues you. What exactly does a Business Analyst do?
You think back about what your IT degree course covered and don’t remember any specific subjects that thoroughly covered business analysis or being a business analyst and when your lecturer or tutor mentioned it, it was abstract at best. You figure you have to do a bit more research about this role and do some light reading on what the responsibilities of a business analyst are and characteristics they need to possess:
- Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Behavioural Characteristics (Ethics, Personal Organization, Trustworthiness)
- Business Knowledge
- Communication Skills
- Interaction Skills
- Software Applications
After a self-assessment you feel you have a reasonable fit and potential in terms of underlying competencies. There are some obvious areas for improvement and gaps that would hopefully be filled over time, but overall, the business analyst role still interested you and made you ponder a little more. What type of work experience does one need to land a business analyst job?
You read through job postings on various sites and a feel little disheartened when you see what the typical requirements are to be considered for a business analyst role.
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· At least 3 years working as a business analyst in project environments
· Experience with Agile, Waterfall and Hybrid methodologies
· Exposure to Scrum and working within Scrum teams
· Exceptional ability to negotiate and influence stakeholders with highly developed interpersonal and written communication skills
· Strong communication skills and ability to negotiate with and influence senior level management
You ask yourself how one would get a look in at such a role with zero direct experience. There must be a way though, otherwise how do people even get these roles in the first place?
Good question. Not a unique question though, in fact the truth is that quite a few career business analysts would have had this challenge in landing their very first business analyst role. There are however some avenues to start from which this article will try to shed some light on.
- Become a subject matter expert
Your current role can be used as a pathway to becoming a business analyst. For example, often in a role you will have an opportunity to be a subject matter expert in a particular system, who uses the system, and maybe also an understanding of the business processes surrounding the system.
When a business analyst role opens up in your organisation either permanently or on a temporary basis you can then use your knowledge as a selling point to the hiring manager. Sometimes projects also do not have the time luxury of going through a hiring process and would prefer to onboard someone who already has subject matter expertise in a process or system and are happy to train up that team member to produce the required deliverables.
- Obtain some project experience
Let your manager or network of contacts within the organisation know that you are interested in working on projects happening in the organisation, particularly those that will allow you to perform activity where you obtain requirements from a user or stakeholder, perform requirements analysis, document the requirements and deliver a solution to meet the requirement. You might not have an opportunity to do all, but each activity alone will display your application of essential business analysis skills so it’s a start and resume-worthy. Remember to obtain peer or manager feedback on your work so you also know where you may need to improve in the future.
- Spend time doing further study
Commit time outside of work to build upon your skillset and establish a foundation to be a great business analyst:
- Attend training courses to help develop your soft skills – for example, Presentation Skills, Influencing, Negotiation, Conflict Resolution
- Learn about Business Process Modelling, User Story and Document Writing
- Gain an understanding of methodologies and frameworks and when and where they are best applied – e.g., Scrum, Agile, Waterfall, Hybrid
- Seek out business analyst and project management journals on the internet which have a wealth of articles on topics related to the business analysis profession. Many are written by business analysts so are also a great way to gain an insight to what type of work business analysts can be involved in and how they approach it
- Read about current and emerging technology trends via business and technology journals/newspapers. Some examples are:
- Formalise your business analysis skills
If you are spending a reasonable amount of time studying topics related to the business analyst profession why not go that one step further and formalise your learnings by obtaining a recognized certification that can be added to your resume?
Certifications recommended here are offered by leading examination bodies, will not need hundreds of hours of prior experience, and can be prepared for via self-study only (no expensive courses required). Exam fees are approximate as at time of the writing of this article.
- IIBA, Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA):
- Prerequisites: 21 professional development hours within last four years
- Approximate cost: USD$295, non-member
- BCS, Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis
- Prerequisites: No entry requirements for this certification
- Approximate cost: USD $270
Don’t underestimate the power of networking – a majority of jobs in the industry are obtained via who you know!
- Speak to hiring managers/recruiters inside or outside your organisation and express interest in taking on a business analyst role. You might not get anything out of this, but at least you are getting your name out there and making your interest known.
- Speak to your friends or colleagues and find out if they know of anybody in their network looking for business analysts. You never know, they might be able to refer you to someone in their network and, there you go, you’ve created an opportunity for yourself.
- Attend local or remotely hosted networking events to not only make contacts but also learn about current and emerging technology trends and topics. Some examples are:
- IT meetup groups on specific topics
- Your local IIBA chapter which hosts regular presentations by working business analysts or other technology leaders
- Technology and business analyst conferences
And last but not least…
- Do your current job well
There is no better opportunity to display your current skillset and potential by showing how well you perform in your current role. Even though you might not have a business analyst job title you might catch the interest of hiring managers in your organisation who you think you are doing a great job and have skills transferrable to a business analyst role. Managers are looking for business analyst team members who have excellent verbal and written communication skills, are adaptable and approachable, willing to learn, and have good attention to detail but can also step back and see the bigger picture.
As you can see there are more than a few ways to build a pathway to become a business analyst. Be persistent and try to create your own opportunities, you have nothing to lose!