The Modern Analyst Blog for Business Analysts

Adrian M.
Adrian M.

I want to be a Business Analyst… Raise me, mentor me, and set me free!

“Once upon a time, young people learned a trade through years of apprenticeship.”

Have you noticed an interesting dilemma faced by those wanting to enter the business analysis profession?

There don’t seem to be any “Junior Business Analyst” jobs. Most hiring organizations are looking for practitioners with prior business analysis experience.

Imagine wanting to begin a career as a driver and being told “You can’t drive the car until you know how to drive a car.”

And when you ask for advice on how to learn to drive a car you get answers such as:

  • “Here’s a list of good books about driving cars.”
  • “Talk to other drivers about their experience and how they got started.”
  • “Try first a related career such as car washing, car repair, etc.”
  • “Subscriber to Car and Driver magazine.”
  • Etc.

Sounds silly?

Well –that seems to be how we treat newcomers to our profession:

  • Managers want to hire the experienced Business Analysts for their projects but they don’t seem to want to grow BAs, and
  • Experienced practitioners want to work with and learn from other experienced BAs but they don’t want mentor junior ones.

Is business analysis a really a profession? Are we there yet?

I’m not so sure!

In most mature professions you will find that, in addition to the educational requirements which may exist, there is always a “practical” component to the path to getting started as a newbie:

  • Carpenters, auto mechanics, and plumbers have apprentices who are taught the trade.
  • Medical school graduates go through lengthy residency and fellowship programs where they gain real experience.
  • Law enforcement academy graduates are generally assigned to a training officer with whom they will spend months, if not years, on the street learning the realities of the profession.
  • If you want to learn to drive a car you are allowed to get behind the wheel and learn to drive even before you master the skill enough to pass the driver’s test.

That’s what we need in our profession!

We need managers, practitioners, visionaries, and leaders who are willing to hire newbies and help them start their careers as business analysts.

If you’re a newbie I bet you would love to find an organization who is willing to hire you right out of school/training, get you started as a business analyst, mentor you, and the launch you into a successful business analysis career! Wouldn’t you?

Helpful resources:
In this month’s issue of the Modern Analyst eJournal, you’ll find some great thought leadership on the value of and establishing
Business Analysis Communities of Practice (BA COP) or Business Analysis Centers of Excellence (BA COE) which can act as the starting point of BA apprenticeship and mentoring programs.

Also in this issue you’ll find insightful articles on the Business Analyst Career Progression and the Potholes of Office Politics that new BAs may be faced with.

And in the spirit of providing you with a solid technical background, we continue our SOA series with an introduction of More Confusing SOA Terms.

- Adrian

Adrian Marchis
Editor, ModernAnalyst.com

This entry was published on Jun 07, 2009 / Adrian M.. Posted in Leadership & Management, Career as a Business Systems Analyst, Getting Started as a Business Systems Analyst. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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COMMENTS

savy davis posted on Monday, June 8, 2009 4:48 AM
Thats a wonderful post Sir,.
I was hired as a junior business analyst...and being raised from a novice to a BA, there are still more to learn to become a "Business Analyst"...I should say that its really hard to find a mentor for BA...
vinu posted on Monday, June 8, 2009 9:41 AM
Very good subject brought out in an excellent manner! There are very few companies/ teams who train newbies to BAs. I was raised by my company and of course, there is still a lot to learn in this profession.
jigar posted on Friday, July 17, 2009 9:55 PM
Very True!!. I am a victim of such a situation. However I'm still trying and would not stop my efforts until I find one. I have very keen interest in the business analysis. I have finished my masters in IS with a GPA of 6.56/7.0 and also have a business degree and am still strugling to find one job. When ever I apply or trie to find a place I get only one answer and thts lack of experience. Just really want ask is there anyway I can enhance myself anymore or is there any alternative to experience? How will I get experience if I don't get any opportunity. Its a deadlock for me.
Fareed posted on Wednesday, July 29, 2009 6:15 AM
Hi All,

This is Fareed. Currently working as a Consultant(Software Engineer) and want to move to business analyst role. Could you please guide me regarding this and if possible please provide me your contact details.

Regards,

Fareed.
C Tuohy posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 11:29 PM
Good article - although I would stress that I think it overstates the problem somewhat. All existing BA's began somewhere didn't we?

In answer to the concerns about "lack of experience" I believe that you will find a lot of organisations foster BA talent from within and this is being overlooked. I have seen this firsthand many times in large corporates I have worked for - call it an "environmental apprenticeship" if you will.

Therefore my advice to aspiring BA's is to find roles that allow you to demonstrate your aptitude and skills relevant to BA work. Characteristics such as initiative and persistence, good communication skills and work habits i.e. so called "soft-skills" will get you noticed by management - don't be shy about expressing your interest in a BA role as part of your career development either.

All going well when that next BA vacancy comes around you'll be the one getting hired ahead of someone externally

Cheers CT (NZ)
regan.thomas posted on Saturday, October 10, 2009 1:14 PM
Adrian:

“You can’t drive the car until you know how to drive a car.”, is exactly the type of response I've grown accustomed to in my search for the elusive entry-level BA role.

Your blog does an incredible job of capturing the way that I feel. I graduated in the IT field, and from my experiences and observations as an intern in the telecom-IT world, I felt that a BA role was exactly what I craved for as a career.

Unfortunately its exactly as you say... the "real" world BA roles are all experience-heavy and its difficult to enter the game as a noob.

It is a disappointing realization (@C Tuohy), that the standard way to get into the BA-field, is to enter into another field, and hop-scotch your way across.
Scot Witt posted on Monday, October 26, 2009 4:29 PM
Hi Adrian,

I would suggest that companies are using the current economic slow down to:

1. Lower BA wages
2. Force BAs to either train for ridiculous certifications or require such extensive background that the company, in essence, gets two or three employees for the price of one.
3. Push senior BAs into junior roles.

http://almostasfunny.blogspot.com/2009/08/taking-advantage-of-bas-because-they.html
iServed posted on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 1:14 PM
This is so absolutely true and not overstated. For me, it just opens up more questions ...
The BAs here: how did you get started in the field? It's likely you stumbled into it just like me and in multiple iterations of the analyst role: BSA, OA (Operations Analyst), Reporting Analyst, Project Analyst etc.
Remember that first interview? How did you prove you could do the job?

Have you noticed people who hire a BA know they need one but don't know how to utilize them? They all have to pave their own way ... maybe this is just projection though since I just discovered this site today and I've been doing this work for 10 years :)
eagleofjade posted on Monday, November 23, 2009 5:11 PM
I agree with this article. I have done a lot of the work that is what I see described as the Business Analyst's role.... ellicitation, use case, data discovery and the like, but in organizations that did not have defined Business Analyst positions, or for that matter, Project Manager positions. Not only that, there were no formalized systems in place for documentation that a BA produces. Most of the work I've done has been learned while wearing a Systems Analyst/Developer hat.

I want to formalize my experience within a company that actually has positions that are specified as Business Analyst positions. The problem I am running into is that finding good examples of various documentation, such as use case, HLD, FDD, etc don't seem to be available.

I am currently trying to find someone that can be something of a mentor to me, particularly around the areas of knowing what documentation and deliverables are used in each knowledge area. I am finding that to be a very hard task.
Scot Witt posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 10:19 AM
Being a BA is not a profession- there's no required curriculum nor does it require a license. That being said:

I think there are two or three ways one breaks into the BA title: a Developer who is using a BA line in his/her resume before continuing to a Project Manager role. Then there's the Help Desk/Installer or other 'expert' on a given application that is awarded the title when the business decides it needs a go between to the Development Team. Then there's folks like me who used to be Technical Writers who were watching what the BA did and said to themselves- i could do that and double my salary.

:Look around your current shop and see if there are projects on which you can gain experience, sell yourself as a BA (yeah, the first one's always hard, but there's someone out there that'll hire and mentor you) or eve n volunteer your services to a non-profit (Church, Red Cross, Mosque, Synagogue, Park District, School- you get the idea.

While you're learning, you will identify problem areas in which you'll think you failed. Bring 'em back here and we'll discuss them and what you can do to avoid them in the future (which might be a pretty dang good series for Adrian). Be sure you know how to create requirements from the people that think at the 60,000 foot level and/or the ones who are interested in the tiniest of detail. Hiint: You'll need to abstract the business process to express the functional requirements. VISIO is an excellent tool to help you diagram pseudo-code, abstraction and if you put 'em in color, the team won't be so obvious in ignoring your highly evolved Use Cases/Technical Specifications/Data Maps until you alpha test and start shaking the paper and yelling 'Why didn't you READ this?' and laughing to yourself because the DevTe3am is needless going to spend the couple of nights doing what they should have dome originally.
JHeep posted on Friday, June 25, 2010 2:10 PM
We believe that Business Analysis is without a doubt a profession. We may call it Product Management, Requirements Architecting, Business Analysis, or Requirement Engineers. What we do is extremely demanding and isn’t really that doable for someone who is new to the profession. Even the CBAP requires 5 years of relevant experience. At the company I work, Seilevel, in Austin Texas, we hire new people for the sole purpose of mentoring them to become experts in Requirements. This goes beyond the ‘system shall’ and reaches into the fundamental objectives of the business. We cover the topic of mentoring on one of our blog posts: http://requirements.seilevel.com/blog/2008/10/live-from-baworld-a-ba-mentoring-program.html
Kristin posted on Friday, July 2, 2010 9:54 AM
There’s always the Catch-22 of needing experience to get a job but not having that essential experience if you’re coming directly from college or want a career change. Fortunately, there are some companies that can spot intelligence as well as the ability to learn and apply skills. The company I work for, Seilevel, is setting industry standards by scooping up intelligent grads and training them to become exceptionally skilled BAs through training courses, mentoring, and ensuring the new hires get great experience on various projects. So, if you’re feeling the job experience Catch-22, then try applying with us. (seilevel.com/careers)
Hari posted on Thursday, November 6, 2014 11:23 AM
IMHO
There is a big difference in mentoring and teaching, I personally feel. A business analyst aspirant, or identified by management to be moved into business analysis, needs to have aptitude towards two primary key skill
1. Business
2. Analysis

Mentoring does then help the mentee with truck loads of tools, methods, tricks and all that the mentor would have learnt in his/her term working what they have been working.

BA as a profession - still not sure, but I can certainly say its the most confusing profession and a misunderstood position as the name itself has many meanings and interpretation across companies, across industries, and to make it even more complex within the same organisation everyone has a different opinion.

As normally seen through the years, Business Analysis for a particular set of programs (projects, services, solutions, product, call it anything) is performed by a person who can basically analyse the program's need within the perimeter of the business in which it is going to be initiated. So if we want a newbie to do Business Analysis, what do we start with and where do we start from?
- Business over
- Analytic approach and aptitude
- Need for program

Theoretically, I think any profession can be trained (mentored) in a given time. Difficult questions although arises are
1. How much time to be given to the mentor?
2. How much time to be given to the mentee?
and importantly, how soon and to what level after the specified time does the management want the mentee to start performing as if they do not need any more mentoring?

Quantifying these things always becomes difficult.

When looking at these, would training organisations/department not do better job in mentoring/teaching newbies in a specific profession - rather than professionals expected to teach/mentor while performing their tasks?
And additionally if mentor is expected to teach, are there not high chances of assumed methodology which subjectively works for the mentor may not even remotely apply to the mentee - and thus high chances of a complete disaster when mentee applies the same methods when they start to work?

If I draw an analogy, can we hire newbies and mentor them to become Solution Architect, or Project Managers, or call out any designation - as after all each designation is a profession in itself. Or is it not?

The organisation I work for want a newbie to become an analyst, so that we can start manufacturing analysts with less cost to company. A very good idea.
But the problem starts when the consumers (projects and their managers) of these products (newbie analysts) have expectations of a tested and trusted product (ideal analyst).
The problem I feel lies in the maturity of the projects and their managers as they are very well aware of limitation of a newbie developer, newbie tester - but they have no idea on how to deal with the newbie developer - and to worsen this issue, they would like to expose the newbie analyst unlike that of a developer/tester to their customer/client.
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