How to Get Started as a BA Even if You Have No Experience

If you are looking to start a business analyst career, but don’t yet have any business analyst experience, you might feel caught in a trap. What comes first, the business analyst or the business analyst experience?

Why do so many industry veterans say they just “fell” into business analysis and what can you do to orchestrate your own fall?

That’s the question we are answering in this video.

 

For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:

The Chicken and Egg Problem of Becoming a Business Analyst

Today, I’m going to talk about what I like to call the “chicken and egg” problem in business analysis, which is, almost all roles require business analyst experience, but how do you get that experience if you aren’t a business analyst?

It can feel like the chicken and the egg. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Who knows?

What comes first, the business analyst, or the business analyst experience? It’s frustrating for those of you who are looking to get started in the profession, and just don’t know how to break through that egg.

Let’s talk about it.

Orchestrating Your Fall Into Business Analysis

Here’s the thing. When you start to ask people in the profession how they got started into business analysis, a lot of times those who didn’t go to school for business analysis, those who have been around for a while, before we had programs for business analysis that trained us how to do this, they would just tell you,

“Well, I kind of just fell into the role. Like one day I was on a project and it was kind of cool, and they needed a subject matter expert, and then I learned about this thing called requirements, and I started doing more interviewing and elicitation. I discovered business analysis. It’s this name for the career I’ve been doing all along.”

That’s my story, too. I was a QA engineer before I was a business analyst. I got stopped in the hallway by a senior business analyst who said,

“Hey, there’s a new position opening up on our team. Would you like to apply?”

For so long, I had internalized in my head is like, how do I become a business analyst? I was just walking around in the hallway. But then people, when I started Bridging the Gap nine years ago, started to email me and say, “Well, Laura, how do I get started?” And telling them you just walk around and hope that somebody offered them a business analyst job wasn’t a good answer.

So, we needed a new answer, and then I started doing the interviews and I felt like a lot of people had this same answer I had. It just kind of happened. And, so, I knew that people who were trying to make this happen for themselves, they needed a better answer.

The reality is that you can orchestrate your “fall” into business analysis. You do it by, essentially, following the path that I took, and follow the path that thousands of others have taken into business analysis by just starting to do the work, even if nobody’s asking you to do it.

One opportunity tends to lead to another. You just start doing the work in your current role.

Start By Analyzing a Business Process

Now, this is something we can talk about for hours. We have hours and hours of training programs, teaching new people how to do business analysis, or people who are either newly in a BA role, or who are not even in the BA role yet, how to do business analysis. But I want to give you some quick tips in this video so that you have some takeaways and you can go try and experiment with this for yourself.

One obvious way to look at it is to look for business processes that you can analyze. Business process is just a step-by-step set of activities that happens in a pretty consistent way. You do work again and again in your business, like servicing a customer, or setting up a new account, things that happen pretty similarly time to time, and analyzing that as a process and writing down what that process is. A very easy way to get started.

Then Evaluate Software Requirements

Other ways are to look at the software that you use as a business user. What are the requirements of that software? How does it work?

  • Create a use case or a set of user stories describing the functionality of that software.
  • Or if there’s a change that you want to that software, create a wireframe and annotate, “Hey, I want this here instead of here,” or maybe information’s on two different screens and you want it together on one screen. Create a wireframe mockup of what that would look like and share that with a developer and see if they can maybe help you create that kind of screen or create that for you.

Those are just simple ways to get started.

  • Analyze the data. Data seems more technical, and it can be, but it could be as simple as creating a glossary or a high-level model describing the terminology in your organization so when everybody says account, or customer, or order, those words tend are deceptively simple in that everybody thinks that they’re saying the same thing, but they’re saying something different.

Can you be the person that creates the glossary or clarifies definitions when we’re talking about those things in a meeting? Again, you’re starting to do business analysis work.

And It Never Hurts to Improve Your Communication Skills

So, business process, software requirements. We talked about use cases, wireframes, and data models. A third area to look at is communication. Being a business analyst, a huge part of that role is being a good communicator.

What you want to do, you can practice communication in any role. You could take notes in a meeting so you’re practicing hearing what people have to say. You can practice asking questions and getting feedback. “Hey, what I’m hearing is this. Did I get that right?”

Or, instead of spending a lot of time researching the answer, go and ask somebody the answer. If you’re on the technology side, go ask a business user for input. Present them with a wireframe and ask for their input and feedback before you actually build what you’re building. You’ll be doing a little bit of business analysis if you do that.

Documentation reviews, or any kind of documentation, how can you review that documentation so it’s more clear, more complete, more concise? Again, a large part of the business analysis effort is creating some sort of documentation that’s usable and clearly understood by the whole team.

Those are just some quick ideas to get started. What you’ll find, the cool part of just like starting to do business analysis is that your work, especially if you’ve been frustrated or bored or feeling like you’re kind of at a dead end in your career, the work automatically starts to become more fulfilling. There is salary and other benefits that come with being a formally sanctioned business analyst with the job title and with that level of responsibility assigned to you. But you can get some of the benefits just of having more challenging fulfilling work of making your organization better just by getting started applying those techniques in the role you’re in today.

Start Your Virtuous Cycle of One Business Analyst Opportunity Leading to Another

What we see, I call it the “virtuous cycle of business analysis.” You take just one of these steps and you take that step forward, and that opportunity leads to another opportunity, leads to another opportunity.

The first couple of steps, you’re going to have to do some of the heavy lifting and make them happen. And put more effort in consistent driving forward to get it started. But what starts to happen when you do that is opportunities start to come to you.

People see that you’re contributing to meetings in new ways and asking the tough questions, or you’re taking notes, and everybody needs somebody to take notes. Maybe you get invited to more interesting meetings and problem-solving discussions.

In that meeting, you can volunteer to create a document or to do something extra that would help move that problem or that discussion forward. It’s just like one thing leads to another and all you have to do is take the first step.

That’s my call to action to you. Leave a comment below with what step are you going to take. What one slice of business analysis will you use in your work this week, and how are you going to make that happen?

Leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear about it.

If you’re one of our veterans, we have lots of people with lots of experience that still listen into our videos. Go ahead and just let somebody know something unusual that you did as a business analyst. Or maybe the very first thing you did even before you were a business analyst, and share your story. It can inspire a lot of other people as well.

Again, I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. We help professionals like you get started in business analyst careers. It’s all about just taking that first step and letting the virtuous cycle start to create momentum for you in your career. This is how you do it. This is how you get started as a business analyst with no experience, and you break the egg by creating the experience, and creating the success for yourself.

Again, Laura Brandenburg. Thanks for watching. Talk soon, everyone.

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Comments

  1. Sheila Johnson says:

    I think some proof-reading was in order before posting: ‘”Virtuous” Cycle of Business Analyst Opportunity…’ and it is a bolded header.

    I know the content is good, but proof-reading is critical to gaining and maintaining trust in your brand 🙂

    • Thanks for pointing this out, Sheila, We always appreciate constructive feedback on our content and the occasional typo does slip through from time to time.

      However, in this case, I don’t believe there is a proof-reading error. Check this definition of a “virtuous” cycle / circle
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtuous_circle_and_vicious_circle

      I’ve been talking about this concept as it relates to BA career experiences nearly since I founded Bridging the Gap back in 2008.

      • Correction! There was a transcription error, but it was in the first sentence where “virtual” was used instead of “virtuous”. Thanks for helping us improve our content. We read these things at least a few times, but mis-understood words can still slip in.

  2. Hi Laura

    I’m Elly from Belgium and I have worked in commercial jobs for about 8 years now. I’m at the point that I work fulltime (still in a commercial job), attending courses to become a Business Analyst and searching for a job as a Business Analyst.

    I always point out my commercial experience, being able to listen, knowledge of human nature, being someone who is empathic and who loves to analyse (how my girlfriend hates it that I practically overanalyse everything in life, but without losing a realistic and positive attitude).

    In my spare time I even search for stuff to read about analysis, but can’t satisfy my hunger of knowledge. I’m so enthusiastic and motivated in becoming a BA, but it’s hard to find a job where no experience is required.

    How can I handle this one? I also had a job interview this morning and his comment was that I didn’t had the technical experience (tough no experience was required in the job opening). I hate when the communicate so poorly but yet expect it from you that you have excellent communicational skills.

    Keep up the good work on your website, I really love reading your articles and it also keeps me motivated that someday I will be a BA (however I think I was born a BA 😉 )

    Kind regards

    Elly

    • Hi Elly,

      Love that you were “born” to be a BA! That is such a rock solid foundation to start from – sounds like you are intrinsically wired for this type of work.

      When it comes to job interviews, this will happen, where an unexpected requirement pops up in the initial screen. There really is nothing you can do about that except to anticipate it and not take it personally – meaning don’t let it get you down and sabotage your motivation.

      Keep persisting and the right opportunity will surface.

      It does sound like you could be getting a bit more specific about your commercial experience and how it relates to BA. That could help overcome that experience requirement. Here is a post with more details on identifying transferable BA skills: http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/how-to-discover-your-transferable-business-analyst-skills/

  3. Frank Waldes says:

    I think that one of the ways to get started is to do job shadowing. I don’t see as much of this being discussed generally. One of the concerns is imposing on someone’s time, especially if you don’t know them, in order to learn more about the day to day work that a BA does. A glossary of BA terminology would be useful too, in terms of, say, a sample use case, or typical requirements document, or a list of typical deliverables an analyst produces. Those are some of the things I would find useful at least. I appreciate the information on your site!

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