The Community Blog for Business Analysts

Laura Brandenburg
Laura Brandenburg

Exploring progressions into BA careers

I know. You recently read Adrian’s latest post and said: “Yes! that’s exactly what I’m looking for! I want an employer to hire me, mentor me as a new business analyst, and then let me blossom in this career.” I wholeheartedly agree with Adrian—as business analysts we need to be mentors for other potential business analysts. I was lucky enough to become a business analyst after a year and a half as a QA engineer. I worked for the first 3 months under the wing of a senior BA and then was set loose on the biggest software project the company had started to-date. I guess they trusted me.
I wish I could say these sorts of opportunities abound but the fact is they don’t. I was lucky. I was in a growing organization that supported professional development. But I was also career-minded, consistently discontent, and always looking to improve something somewhere. I was not a “tell me what to do and I’ll do it employee”, I was a “why can’t I do that?” employee. I faced barriers, but eventually I managed to earn the responsibilities I wanted and work my way a bit up the career ladder.
In recent months, I’ve had the opportunity to hear the stories of many business analysts about how they started their business analyst careers. The stories varied but had a common theme: one step at a time. Career progressions often involved incorporating some business analyst responsibilities into their day-to-day role. Some became “BAs” without a real knowledge of what that meant or that a profession existed. Others were more like me and took a flying leap but often within the same company and with a network of support. A few managed to transition careers and companies in the same job change by selling their "BA" experiences. Darn impressive.
Regretfully, I’m not in a position to hire you, but I am looking to help on the mentoring front, starting with publishing a “how to” guide based on what I’ve learned from people who’ve successfully made the transition in this environment. We are a profession that favors experience. It can be tricky to accumulate but with a little persistance and some proper guidance you can break into this profession. Take a sneak peak to learn a bit more about How to Start a Business Analyst Career and leave your email for a special discount when the book is published in the next month.
About the author:
Laura Brandau is an independent business analyst consultant and hosts Bridging the Gap between Business and IT, a blog for business analysts about solving business problems.
This entry was published on Jun 12, 2009 / Laura Brandenburg. Posted in 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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DougGtheBA posted on Saturday, June 27, 2009 12:36 PM
It's true! One step at a time! I'm one of those souls that has stepped toward business analysis in this fashion over the years. Looking back, as I progressed through each job without a focus of becoming a business analyst in the end (I didn't even know what one was), each one has aligned itself with analysis. I've worked in printing, graphics, communications, technical writing/online help development, application development, and web design. Each has had minor and major contributions to the analyst that I am today.

When I was doing all that, the profession of business analysis existed, but it had nowhere near the focus on it that it does today. Few people actively sought to become a business analyst, as it was more of a stepping stone to another career role. Today, as the profession has matured, it is now a desirable result of one's labor and achievement, just like many other professions. Additionally, organizations have come to realize the true value a good analyst can provide.

Now that it is a more visible role, one that people are actively seeking out as a career profession, remember that analysis is a great career. However, unlike many other professions, an analyst is almost always out in front of one audience or another. This is important, because the practitioner needs to be aware that there are few places to hide as his or her skills grow. This person will be behind a computer much less than a writer or developer. The intimidation factor is very real, and an aspiring analyst needs to pay attention to building certain skills prior to stepping out in front. These can be done while still in school, while in any other job or as an active analyst (because one never stops learning).

Communication skills and comfortableness interacting with others are two areas that should be assessed for competency early and addressed for improvements. Analysts, when communicating and interacting, need to have the ability to get information from people, so paying attention to the various techniques that are necessary is critical. Reading all the available material in the BABOK and other sources is important, but practice makes perfect,as with anything else. As aspiring analysts grow into or toward the position, utilization of a skill or two in each role of ones fledgling career will position this person to succeed. By the time that the new analyst 'becomes the focus of attention in a JAD, these abilities will be honed well and allow the analyst to more comfortably learn the domain material.

As new techniques are practiced and mastered, the analyst should then begin to learn how to know when one technique is better than another and also learn how to switch seamlessly on-the-fly to account for situations that require a different tack.

Is this everything there is to know to be an analyst? Oh heck no!! These skills will get the new analyst on the correct path to building primary skills while at the same time allow for room to build knowledge and grow into an organization or contractual role.

...and if you learn all this and decide not to become an analyst, you will still be well-served.


Laura Brandenburg posted on Monday, July 6, 2009 10:13 AM
Just a quick note to let you know the eBook is published and available on the site. Registration specifically for the discount is closed, but recipients of my eNewsletter will receive access to the discount when the newsletter is sent on Friday, July 10.

Thank you,
Laura Brandenburg
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