As many BAs can testify, this is a profession where you have to find your own way in. I think this will change with time as the BA profession becomes more common but for now this is the challenge that many aspiring BAs face.
Going to university and studying information systems is a good start but unfortunately it does not grant you an entry into the BA field right away (unless of course you are able to find a good graduate program).
There are many discussions online about the different paths one can take to end with the illustrious title of Business Analyst.
Today I’d like to focus on the skills. There are many ways in which you can get into the BA world but if you don’t have the skills, then you probably won’t stay there for long or perhaps you will change your mind about the profession altogether.
Here are some traits that are useful in the BA role.
- Strong attention to detail
- Insistence on consistency (in everything)
- Writing style that is relevant and informative
- Discipline with time
- Great listening skills
- Adept at asking few questions, but the right questions
- Passion for solving problems
- Someone who likes expressing their ideas and opinions
- Respect for others despite their learning style, behaviour or personality
This list isn’t exhaustive but I think the 9 points above outline key attributes for you to perform the role well.
The next step would be to enter the workforce as BA or Junior BA.
This is where a lot of people face problems and become frustrated – myself included! Finding a BA job when you are at entry-level can be difficult.
While I was finishing my university studies, I managed to find work on a large scale IT project. The problem was that the non-IT role I was performing did not require any IT knowledge nor did it develop any recognisable IT skills. However, I believe it is not possible to work on a project and not learn invaluable amounts of information. So I took advantage of my surroundings as a learning experience. Being exposed to Project Management as it happens is enough to enrich your experience.
Back to the point. It may take you years before you work with a BA title but it does not mean that you are not a business analyst already. In my view, you can be a BA well before you are paid as a BA. It’s about patience but it’s also about recognising your existing skills that you bring to the table.
If you are in a job that requires you to interact with others, then you are directly enhancing your communication skills that are vital in a BA role. If you have to write reports, summaries, manuals or any other forms of documentation, then you are developing your writing skills.
Rather than wait for that entry level BA role to emerge on your job search results, you should go out there and try things that are not BA related.
Well, anything related with customer relations, public relations or communications will grant you a great important experience in communication that you will no doubt rely upon later.
If you are able to get a job in any other IT field then don’t hesitate to take it on. Information Technology is so broad. Databases, Information Security, Quality Assurance, Software Development, Infrastructure, Telephony. Working in any IT field will give you valuable exposure to the IT industry and hopefully show you where the weaknesses are in every aspect of IT. As a BA, you will be grateful for all the previous experience you have. It will give you the confidence to take risks but the consideration of adequate planning.
In summary, you should focus on building the qualities and personal attributes that are required in the BA profession while you transition to the role. You should also be open to different jobs that will teach you things until the chance arrives. One characteristic I haven’t mentioned above is resilience. It took me 6 years since deciding to become a BA to eventually work as one. If you are willing to wait this long and perhaps further, then you probably have enough resilience to take on any challenge that is presented to you when you finally are serving as a BA.
For aspiring BAs, don’t give up on your dreams. Cultivate your current strengths, look for ways to acquire new ones, and be willing to take on different roles until you land the coveted Business Analyst job title.