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?