How to Leverage Your Business Experience to Get an IT BA Job

Do you have a business background? Are interested in pursuing a business analyst career (even though it seems like a whole lot of BA roles require IT experience)? Would you like to learn how to leverage the business experience you already have to qualify yourself for a business analyst job?

Of course, to succeed as a business analyst it’s important to have the core business analyst skills. Most new business analysts are strong communicators and problem-solvers and many even have a bit of informal business analysis experience under their belt. But for many, their first positions, their “chance” so to speak, comes from leveraging a qualification that’s specific and unique.

What Can I Leverage?

Potential areas of expertise that are important include the following:

  • Industry experience
  • Functional / domain experience
  • Application expertise
  • Organization expertise

You might think of expertise as “know how.” It’s something that probably took you a few years to build and sums up a good part of your on-the-job experience.

For example, as I look at my career history, I’ve built some expertise in working on web products and, especially, content-rich web products. I understand search, content organization, and how to bring this together in a way that is a benefit to the customer or user. And more recently, these content products are driving connections. The websites I’ve worked on are trying to connect two parties (candidates and employers; wedding vendors and engaged couples; etc.).

This means that if I had to find a job fast I’d be looking for companies that could leverage this experience. I know my job search would be more effective in these areas. It also means that if I was considering a career change and trying to find a job outside of business analysis, I’d focus in on these types companies because I’d bring a lot of transferable knowledge to the table.

Whether we like it or not, many managers hire BAs for industry experience. As a new BA, you’ll make a much better case for your qualifications if you can mine elements of your career history that give you a leg up on the competition and make you a well-qualified candidate. Employers are simply more likely to overlook your relative weaknesses in business analysis if you have some irresistible expertise to provide.

What Expertise Do I Have?

Expertise comes from experience and it doesn’t necessarily have to be business analysis experience. Although industry expertise is often the most obvious qualification to leverage, other opportunities exist.

Here are some examples:

  • Were you the subject matter expert on a specific tool? Common examples include Enterprise Resource Management tools (such as SAP), Customer Relationship Management Tools (such as Salesforce.com), and Documentation Management Tools (such as SharePoint).
  • Do you have deep experience within a business domain or functional area? Consider marketing, finance, product development as ripe possibilities. Although I had built a team of BA generalists, I brought in a specialist BA for an accounting system migration. She new the accounting application, could talk accounting-speak with our finance team, and was a business analyst.
  • What about the organizations you’ve worked for or are currently working for? This area of expertise that is often overlooked.  It includes what you might know about how an organization works, who the stakeholders are and what the business model is. So many professionals become BAs by moving from one role into another in the same organization. Going back to organization’s you’ve worked for in the past can also yield opportunities. In this case, you can leverage your expertise in that organization and, very likely, your track-record of success in that organization. A close corollary would be focusing on organizations that are direct competitors  to an organization you worked for previously.

Expertise Can Also Help Ensure Your Early Success as a BA

Instead of entering a new job where everything is new, you have an anchor of expertise to rely on. This actually makes it easier for you to consciously build your business analysis skills. If you walk into an industry or domain you know inside and out, you won’t need to spend as much time learning the language. Instead you can invest your time learning new business analyst techniques and preparing to use them in your projects.

>>Get Hired as a BA

Our 5-step business analyst job search process will walk you through what you need to do to get hired as a business analyst.

Click here to learn more about the BA job search process

Stay informed about new articles and course offerings.

(You'll get a free step-by-step BA career planning course too).

Click here to learn more

Comments

  1. Dave Schrenk says:

    When I applied for my first BA position back in 1998, I did everything I could to leverage my experience and expertise which, since I had alreadt been with the organization for 14 years, included the following:

    1. Industry experience – 14+ years in the insurance industry plus a significant amount of continuous education through the Insurance Institute of America.
    2. Functional / domain experience – my previous 14 years involved working exclusively with the personal auto line of insurance and the underwriters and processors that supported that product. I had deep knowledge of the architecture – the people, the processes, and the tools – of that domain.
    3. Application expertise – through most of those 14 years, I had developed a deep understanding of the functionality and some of the technical aspects of our core policy administration system and our agency front-end system.
    4. Organization expertise – I was a little weak in this area because of my strong focus on the personal auto product but, if it had to do with personal auto, I was one of the experts.

    Anyway, I didn’t get the job the first time that I tried as they were looking for someone more technical. But, I did get the position the next time and haven’t looked back.

    • Thanks for sharing your story Dave. I am sure this will inspire other subject matter experts out there who are trying to become BAs…as it can seem like it’s necessary to come from an IT background to become a BA when SMEs have just as much value to bring.

      • Dave Schrenk says:

        Yes, SMEs do have just as much value to bring. But, you have to be careful after hiring them or else you might create a different problem. If not enough is done to develop their BA competencies, it can result in them not knowing how to go about eliciting, documenting, analyzing, verifying, validating, and / or managing requirements. While they can still add value, it becomes limited to specific types of projects.

      • 100% agree Dave. Long-term I think too much industry-specific focus can actually be a career liability for a BA….but it sure does help with getting started and job search!

  2. Such great inspiration for those looking to make the jump from business to IT! I am currently working with a mentee who is looking to make the jump herself. She has even received initial feedback that they would provide training for her in business analysis but her business and systems knowledge was equally (if not more) valuable.

    In addition to bringing industry and system knowledge, she actually had a lot of BA skills/experience within her current and past positions that she wasn’t aware of. By helping to draw out both, she is well on her way to launching her “official” BA career.

    I always struggled with this personally – as I’ve generally worked in the financial services industries, but never really for the exact same industry over time. I feel like I bring the skills and ability to learn quickly (and have thankfully had great success doing so), but yes, employers do look for industry-specific knowledge. This just goes to show that there is no “one way” to build a BA career. You can come at it from a variety of angles.

    • Thanks for sharing you and your mentee’s story Karie! It sounds like your mentee had a nearly ideal situation to become a BA…that is very close to my transition path. I became a BA based on my system and organizational knowledge and was allowed to learn BA on the first job.

      I think as you become a senior BA, industry experience is less of a limiting factor. I am sure there are large numbers of jobs that neither of us would qualify for based on the industry experience requirements and a relatively small number that any specific industry experience would break open for us.

  3. My current position was leveraged by my experience in web content management, content management systems, web development and the infusion of those skills in marketing.

    During my interview process I focused on how technology and marketing are becoming increasingly more and more integrated. I focused on how technology reflects business processes and the actual process to apply the solutions.