Getting Started as a Business Analyst

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

Many people write to me to ask how they can get started as a Business Analyst. Here are my thoughts on what you can do to get started in that career.

An Analyst (Business or System) is typically in a leadership role on a project team. So the hiring manager often wants someone with some years of experience for the job. This does not necessarily mean experience as an Analyst, but some years of experience and maturity.

I started out as a Senior Scientific Programmer, then worked as a Field Engineer in a sales organization, then became a Business Analyst. This gave me technical and communication experience, plus about 12 years of work experience before I started working as a BA.

I know other very fine BAs who started as Project Managers, Newspaper Reporters, or experts in their industry (banking, insurance, etc).

If you do not have years of experience, you can look for jobs that are related or that help you develop the skills you will need for an Analyst position. Skills that are important include:

  • Soft skills – listening, writing, meeting facilitation, communication skills in general, negotiation
  • Domain knowledge – knowing a particular industry such as insurance, banking, or retail
  • Technical skills – understanding software architecture, design, and development
  • Leadership skills – project management, chairman or president of an organization

You do not necessarily need all of these skills to work as an Analyst. My own background is weak in any one domain (I know a little about a lot of domains, not a lot of one), but I have the soft skills, technical skills and leadership skills to be successful.

Some jobs you can look for include: junior analyst, reporter, sales person, marketing, technical writer, field engineer. These jobs involve a lot of the soft skills. You can work as a programmer and develop your career through the technical ranks (programmer, designer, architect). You can volunteer to lead an organization in your community to gain leadership experience. Take a junior job in an industry and work your way up. For example, if banking is your interest, take a job as a branch teller and work your way up through the ranks of the bank, taking on different roles, and really learning the business.

Definitely work with contacts, people you know in the business. Sometimes a project can use a junior analyst, but the position is not really advertised. If you know the senior analyst on the project, that person may be willing to bring you in to work with you personally.

Look for internships. For example, Safeway Inc. used to offer internships for Business Analysts at their corporate headquarters in Walnut Creek, California. I do not know if that program still exists. You may also find professional development programs at some companies. For example, Johnson and Johnson hires promising college grads into a 2 year professional development program where you work in 4 different parts of the company for 6 months at a time, learning the business. The goal is to put you into a leadership position at the company.

Look for large companies, and explore what options they have available. Check their websites and talk to people in their human resources department. Analysts work on larger projects, which are usually at larger companies. Banks and Insurance companies typically hire quite a number of analysts, but so do big retail companies (WalMart, Safeway, etc.) and companies in the defense industry (BAE Systems, Lockheed, Boeing).

Are you looking for a position as a Business Analyst? What have you done to prepare yourself to do that job?

Are you an experienced Business Analyst? What would you recommend to someone just starting out?

 

11 thoughts on “Getting Started as a Business Analyst

  1. Ira Strange

    Hi Geri,

    Thanks for your article which I found helpful. I am looking for an opportunity to break into a Business Analyst of Project Management role with my current employer now (Deloitte Services). Do you recommend any specific certifications or training which might help get into the field? Thanks!

    Ira

  2. Skootzu

    Hi Geri,
    Excellant article! I been in the position of systems analyst for the last 10 years and hold the sole responsibility for all of I.T. In the 25 yrs I have been at this company(mfg)I have worked in nearly every position ground up so I have grown my knowledge from experience. This has given me a good foundation for success. I would like to add some certs behind me to go along with the experience however, my company is not big on funding and being responsible for all I.T. (yes ALL) I feel many hats means guru of none and no time to persue classes. Everything has been hands on. May not be a bad way to learn except I don’t get the benefit of papers. I really enjoy my job and I am looking to getting the IIBA cert but lack funding. Do you have recommendations for people like me? It can be quite expensive. I have taken a number of classes at the local college as needed for a specific task at my job Unfortunately everything crosses certs offered and are not BA focused. Thus I believe it would be better to go for the IIBA cert. I really love what I do and would like to focus on a BA career. Any tips or advice for someone like me?

  3. Jack Murtthy

    Thanks Geri,
    Your article gives me significant hope. I have over 15 years of Software experience — Senior Programmer Analyst – Mainframe Projects, project Management for Decommissioning Applications and retiring of Mainframe, Disaster Recovery as well as end to end testing for System Upgrades. I have been out of work since March 2009. Completed courses in Software Testing as well as Intro BA. I am volunteering for the local IIBA Chapter and also reading a lot on BA – especially BABOK. Currently I am working with Laura on the mentoring program. I will try to look for Volunteer BA intern positions.

    Jack Murthy

  4. Marat

    Hi guys
    hi Geri,

    This article is really helpful…. thank you.
    I would like to share my own case. I started my IT career as a junior Software Quality Engineer at a big software development company. My first project was really tough and I had to face many challenges at a time: hard workload, overtimes, tight deadlines. I also had to combine some responsibilities together as there were lack of recourses at that time for the project. Well, you might think…terrible…but aftearall it is what prepared me and professionally matured.

    So everything started when the customer asked me to develop a user’s guide for his key staff. It was welcomed greatly and I started my way of good technical writer still performing as QA. Then I was rated as a Senior QA at a telecom company I moved to afterward. And it is there I realized my real hunger for IT career… to become a business analyst for telecom. To meet the customers, to interview them, to hold hot discussions, kick of meeting, to help people understand the work they do and to be a great communicator and finally to draw, write, train and analyse the overall picture.

    Well, seems I succeeded for my start 🙂 but still much to learn and to develop as a professional. I think the start point is very important to one, to understand all the aspects of the job and to decide whether it is for you.

    My advice is… keep an eye of your little chance out there… when you are asked to do something You had never done before, do not hurry to turn it down, try to feel your willingness and hunger for that new challenge… and if there is a shimmering light, then head for it.

    Good Luck!

  5. Osa

    Hello Geri,

    I cannot thank you enough for your weekly newsletters and blogs on BA info,my antenna is at an alert to pick any useful info on this career. I am truly heading for a role in BA and working towards it, I have had leadership positions in the past which I believe will help my communication and other soft skils. Where do I start from in terms of gathering technical skills/experience?
    Osa

  6. admin

    Hello Osa –

    I know you took the class too, so you are working hard to change careers! As part of the class, look for the role play recordings I posted recently in the class are to get an idea of how a BA works.

    When you say technical skills, do you mean software development skills or do you mean things such as conducting interviews, leading JAD sessions, and producing requirements documentation?

  7. Osa

    Hi Gerri,

    I would say both software development skills and leaading JAD sessions. I would look at the role play recordings.

    Thanks

  8. Shilpa

    Hi Geri
    i m working as associate manager in my co(its a small pvt lts co). no they have upgraded my role to a business analyst due the need of my co. so i m the sole person availble who has experience in IT as well as a mba degree in marketing so i would like you to guide me how to start off with this role and should i start of with and give a description on my roles and responsibilities

  9. Tony

    Can someone please help me on how to get experiences in Business Analyst, I really want to enter BA role, maybe as junior or whatever, I have good customer skills as well as writing, listening, communication and facilitating skills, I do not mind doing volunteer work, just want to gain experiences and start from somewhere really. Any tips or ideal are much appreciated. Email address “woleosho1@gmail.com”

  10. Tanushree

    Hi

    I have retail sales and service experience of four years. Is this experience going to help me in getting into Business Analyst. Is it necessary to have technical background as I have Management background only. I don’t have any IT Experience or knowledge.How to go about it? Is there any course which will help me for this transition? IIBA Certification is only for experience holder in Business Analysis. Please Reply me on this..

    Thanks

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