I met Eric just last week at the Denver IIBA meeting. He has an amazing BA Career Transition story and I’m proud that we here at Bridging the Gap are a part of his success! Eric was kind enough to answer some questions for me and share what worked and what didn’t. I think even more experienced professionals will find his focus and tenacity inspiring!
Laura: Why did you decide to pursue a business analysis career?
Eric: It was a career path that I was exposed to while still in school. My IT professors would tell us from day one that they were teaching us to fit the role of a BA, meaning that they intended for us to act as the bridge between business and IT. They would constantly harp about the business value of technology and how the business drives the strategic direction of IT (not the other way around).
My major was a mix of technical and non-technical coursework, ranging from web development and database development to project management and business analysis. We were exposed to many business analysis concepts, such as the requirements life cycle and various software development methodologies. I became especially interested in my BA coursework, which is why I decided to pursue that career path.
However, becoming a BA was a secondary choice for me. I really wanted to be an IT consultant, but unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it there. I decided to pursue a BA career because I view a BA as almost like an internal consultant. I hope that someday I will reach my goal of becoming an IT consultant, but in the meantime I intend to learn as much as I can and to be as successful as I can in a BA role.
Laura: How did you end up in your first BA position?
Eric: I graduated from the University of Denver in 2011. However, finding a BA position right out of college proved to be incredibly difficult because entry level BA positions are almost nonexistent, with a few exceptions. As a result, many of my classmates went to work for IT consulting firms, which specifically hire and train college grads for the role.
I also sought an IT consulting position, but I couldn’t find one in the Denver area. I would’ve had to move out of state to work as a consultant (which is what happened to all of my classmates). Instead of leaving Colorado, I decided to pursue a BA role, which I managed to eventually find. Before starting as a BA, I accepted a role performing IT audits for external clients at a public accounting firm. I started my business analysis career as a Junior SharePoint Business Analyst in March of 2012.
Laura: What was the interview process like?
Eric: When I was still in school, I interviewed with 8 or 9 different companies. A few were small, and the role they characterized as a BA role wasn’t a true BA role. Most of the other firms I interviewed with were major IT consulting firms. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive offers from the IT consulting firms because my interview skills weren’t very strong, and the firms were rather selective in their interview process.
I did interview for a true BA role at a large insurance company, which is where I had my last internship, but I didn’t receive an offer there either. My interview with that insurance company was probably the most difficult one I had because they asked me interview questions that essentially required previous BA experience, e.g. “Tell me about a time when you had to facilitate a meeting” or “Tell me about a time when you successfully gathered requirements.”
I eventually settled for my previous job at a public accounting firm, which I thought would involve Information Security consulting. I realized later that I was actually an IT auditor (I had no concept of IT auditing going into the job).
I didn’t learn how to successfully interview for a BA role until after I had an interview for a BA position in January of this year. The interview didn’t go as well as I would have hoped, and I didn’t receive an offer. The disappointment became a catalyst that caused me to seriously reflect on my past interview experiences.
I decided to rethink how I would approach all my interviews going forward. I identified the skills and experiences in my background that would be relevant to a BA role and rewrote my resume so that it would reflect those skills and experiences. I then targeted BA (or similar) positions that didn’t require more than 2 to 3 years of work experience. Although I only had only 7 months of work experience out of college, I was able to persuade my interviewers that I was more than capable of performing the job. I actually ended up with two offers for BA positions.
Laura: What do you consider as the keys to your success?
Eric: The keys to my success were identifying the skills and experiences in my background that were applicable to a BA role, and the posts and stories at Bridging the Gap helped me do that. For example, my role as an IT auditor at a public accounting firm was entirely client facing. As part of each audit, I had to perform interviews with both business process owners and IT process owners to understand the processes around business process controls and IT general controls.
Also, despite the fact that my resume doesn’t have years of work experience, I found a way to leverage my youth to my advantage. I would convince prospective employers that although I lack experience, I am not set in my ways (I can be molded), and I am enthusiastic about learning. That argument worked especially well for roles that candidates were expected to grow into.
Laura: Late in 2012, Eric was able to provide an update for us. It’s interesting to see how a career can progress!
Eric: Since I started my position as a SharePoint Business Analyst earlier this year, my responsibilities have undergone some interesting changes. Although my title includes Business Analyst, in reality I wear many different hats. I take on many roles, including that of business analyst, administrator, help desk and developer, all of which revolve around SharePoint. I guess a better title to describe my position would be Technical Business Analyst because I’m involved in the more technical aspects of the platform while still performing client facing work. Such a role is possible in my organization because it is relatively small, and I’m the only person dedicated full time to SharePoint.
Lately I’ve found myself doing more and more development work, although most of it involves no code solutions and minor front end coding. However, I’m slowly transitioning into heavier coding, which may include developing custom solutions using C#. I don’t know if that means I may become more of a developer than a business analyst. Nevertheless, my company intends for me to continue juggling my multiple roles for the foreseeable future.
Thanks Eric for sharing your story! Please join me in congratulating Eric on his new BA role and wishing him a long, exciting career in business analysis and, eventually, IT consulting!