Want to know how to land a job as an IT Business Analyst?
I’ve helped many clients secure top BA roles through IT career coaching services, CV and LinkedIn writing. I’ve also helped clients break into the field, using transferable skills and career planning to gain an entry to this rewarding and varied profession.
In this three-part series, I’m sharing IT career coaching tips for anyone aspiring to become a BA. In the last post we covered – what do BAs in IT actually do? This post provides career coaching tips on how to secure a role for those getting started in the field.
Top Transferable Skills for BAs
It’s a universal challenge when you are changing careers or trying to break into a new field – you can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience without a job. But before you give up, remind yourself that everyone started at the same point – every business analyst had to land their first BA role without being a BA before. Luckily, there are core skills you may already have which are transferable skills for business analysis. These need to be showcased in your professional CV and LinkedIn profile.
Project Delivery Methodology
Have you worked on a project? Well congratulations, you understand something about project methodology. From a project coordinator to a software tester, you’ve no doubt worked with project requirements and project scope. You’ve also participated in project stages and rituals (e.g. risk workshops, stand-ups or retrospectives).
- Highlight your project delivery experience in your CV and on LinkedIn – methods used, size and scope of projects, your contributions and the stages of the project you worked in. Describe experience within the SDLC. Be clear about what project methods and techniques you’ve used.
- Learn and get certified – there is an abundance of free and cheap online training that you can complete. Build skills and knowledge and add certifications to your profile. BAs work end-to-end on most projects, so you need to understand the entire project delivery lifecycle.
Facilitation and Stakeholder Engagement
Good BAs run effective meetings and workshops, they achieve objectives, drive decisions, and accurately document outcomes. They don’t waste people’s time and they make sure the right people are in the room and everyone gets a say. Don’t underestimate this – it’s an art and many people (at all levels) fail on the basics…
- Your CV and LinkedIn profile should articulate the types of stakeholder groups you’ve worked with, what you achieved and how many years of experience you have. Include achievements in delivering outcomes working with stakeholder groups.
- Learn about the types of outcomes BAs deliver and how that takes shape with stakeholders. In your current role, put yourself forward to chair meetings and engage with stakeholders to the most senior level your position allows. Learn from a mentor – watch those who run meetings well and learn from the bad ones (there will be plenty to choose from).
Problem Solving and Critical Thinking
Great BAs solve problems and know the right questions to ask. They think about the big picture but can zoom into the finest details. They investigate, uncover, and dissect issues. They can collect and analyse data effectively and they think two steps ahead to predict problems. Great BAs can deal with ambiguity when required as well as following detailed processes, policies and standards.
- Your CV and LinkedIn profile should demonstrate your natural ability to analyse situations, data, and problems to determine the correct course of action. Describe achievements in creating innovative solutions to solve problems or improve performance. Any analytical experience and skills should be clearly highlighted.
- Study (and add to your CV) techniques of analysis such as MOST, PESTLE and SWOT and formal techniques for brainstorming and mind mapping sessions. Volunteer to run sessions in your current role to put techniques into practice, adding experiences to your CV. Seek opportunities to understand your business from end-to-end including systems, processes, data flows, roles and responsibilities and customer interaction points.
There are many other transferable skills that apply to BA roles including documentation, ITIL, change management, testing, training and of course experience in specific domains or industries. Find some IT BA job ads and see what criteria they’re looking for – you might be pleasantly surprised. Career coaching sessions are invaluable to draw out the most relevant skills, achievements, and experiences that you already have, and help you confidently articulate them in your CV, LinkedIn and during interviews.
Shortcuts to Gaining Experience
It’s easier than you think to gain experience relevant to BA roles.
In your current role, look for opportunities to secure a secondment as a junior BA, or talk to your line manager or project manager about taking on some additional duties to gain experience. Build it into your performance plan. Make your intentions clear. Don’t just ask in annual performance and remuneration reviews, keep reinforcing your commitment to this new path so your boss knows you’re serious.
In many situations, a manager will be willing to give you additional opportunities for professional development – it’s something they can make happen relatively easily (as opposed to a big pay rise!). Before you ask, think it through and present the request as a solution, not a problem. For example: “I’ve asked the project manager if I could spend four hours a week shadowing their Senior BA Linda – they both said it would be OK if you approved. I know Mondays are our quietest days on the service desk, I could do it Monday afternoon but if someone’s sick or we have an incident I would be available to come back”.
If you’re a student, volunteer on projects as a BA and make sure you include academic projects on your CV – demonstrate you’ve put techniques studied into practice and delivered outcomes.
The Old One-Two
Many positions will give you direct access to BA roles as a next step. Roles in software development, support, testing, project coordination or administration, data analysis, or even marketing, HR and finance can all lead naturally to BA positions, provided it’s a role that gives you relevant exposure and experience.
Leverage your specific experience to take a step closer to your end goal. Want to work as a BA in a software development company? If you’ve worked in manufacturing for the last four years, find a manufacturing software company. If your background is HR, find an HR software company. Use domain knowledge and industry sector experience to take you one step closer.
Nail your “step one” role and your employer will be happy to support your next career move. Stay focused on your goal by gaining experience and skills against a development plan – make notes for your CV as you go.
Career planning with a professional career coach will help identify the next step to reach your goal – your dream job may be just two steps away, and sometimes taking a sideways or backward move in the short-term can deliver big long-term gains.
Education & Certifications
Ideal tertiary qualifications for an IT Business Analyst are a Masters or Bachelor of Information Technology or Business Information Systems, however degrees in accounting, finance and business administration also demonstrate competencies relevant to BA roles.
The most reputable certification track for BAs is from the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), with an accessible entry point certification called the Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA). The certification path is respected in the industry because participants must demonstrate many thousands of hours of work experience in order to qualify for progression. Another noteworthy certification path is from the Project Management Institute (PMI). This excellent article will help you learn more and choose the certification path that’s right for you.
Highly desirable are certifications in project delivery methodology including Scrum Master, Product Owner, PRINCE2, Agile PM. If you’re starting from a limited exposure to project delivery, take some time to consider if Agile or Waterfall is best aligned with the industry and companies you want to work for. While newer, Agile is not necessarily better in many circumstances – many project types and industries are still primarily Waterfall.
ITIL certifications also demonstrate important core knowledge for many BA roles, especially in larger organisations. Exposure to IT Service Management (ITSM) practices is a must for many roles.
In summary, many roles entail experience and skills that are applicable to the BA profession, and gaining project delivery experience is accessible for everyone – creating a development and career path plan is essential to set you on the right track.
In the next post, I’ll be covering career coaching advice on how to take your BA career to the next level including career planning and how (and what) skills and experiences are essential for taking that next step.
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