In this interview, Tracy Smitheram shares her story of moving from a finance career to business analysis. One limiting belief that a lot of aspiring BAs get caught up in is the idea that in order to be a BA you have to break ties with your past career, or switch industries, or become an expert in many different types of domains early on. Tracy shows us that the reverse is true – you can leverage your past experience to expand your business analysis skills and experience, and even continue to leverage it to find a business analyst role in a new country.
Laura: Why did you decide to pursue a business analysis career?
Tracy: I started my professional career in finance. Initially more traditional roles but over time I was gravitating towards more challenging finance roles such as process improvement, and working closely with the technology areas of the business.
A key change occurred when a friend encouraged me to apply for a role as a functional analyst for a financial reporting tool. I absolutely loved working as a functional analyst and the role introduced me to business analysis. Suddenly I realised that there was a whole world out there that involved everything that I loved to do. I was sold and have been pursuing a career in business analysis ever since.
Laura: What was your job search process like? What challenges did you face along the way and how did you overcome them?
Tracy: I had hoped to move from my functional analyst role into a business analyst role but as the best advice suggested, my first opportunity came via the company that I was already working for.
Major changes in the company I worked for provided the opportunity to work on an ERP project and lead three streams of work. Working on an ERP project has made a huge difference. Not only was I working as a business analyst but IT Recruitment agencies were starting to contact me via LinkedIn about roles.
The biggest challenge I encountered is that I don’t fit the typical mould for a technology business analyst. In Australia and New Zealand, IT recruitment tends to be about ticking boxes – quite a different experience to finance recruitment where the recruiter gets to know the candidate, which gives you more of an opportunity to sell your point of difference.
The only way to overcome this obstacle has been to persevere and be patient and realise that I was more likely to find hybrid BA roles with employers who were looking for business analysts with a finance background.
Laura: How did you end up in your first BA position? And what’s it been like so far?
Tracy: My first unofficial BA position was through the company I was working for but to make things interesting I had decided to move from Australia back home to New Zealand. This meant I was faced with finding a BA position in a country I hadn’t worked in for 9.5 years.
As I am still transitioning from finance to business analysis and I had arrived back in a typically quiet recruitment time, I was preparing myself for a lengthy job search.
But timing was very much on my side as the first recruitment company I spoke to had the perfect role. A company was looking for a business analyst with a finance background for an immediate start short-term contract. I was successful in securing the BA position and in just over a week I will be starting my first official BA role.
Laura: What do you consider as the keys to your success?
Tracy: One factor in my success was working with a career coach, who had extensive experience as a senior BA, to both rewrite my CV and ensure that my LindedIn profile resonated with my CV. He also helped me to feel more confident and to believe in myself, that I would be a brilliant business analyst.
Reading about business analysis, whether in books or online forums and asking lots of questions of my colleagues was important. Coming from a finance background, I needed to learn business analysis terminology to be able to convey my transferable experience in a more appropriate way.
Another important factor was doing an introductory course for business analysis. I had completed the first two lessons of Bridging the Gap’s BA Essentials Master Class when I interviewed for my business analyst position. The course helped me to answer questions in my job interview about how I would approach the initial phases of BA work.
Laura: What recommendations would you make to others looking to follow a path like yours?
Tracy: Join the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). They offer a lot of resources and the local chapters are an excellent way to meet and network with other business analysts.
Utilise all the great resources online. A lot of it is free so you can increase your business analysis knowledge before you start investing in your BA career and more expensive courses.
With a finance background, I have found that I am better off working with those recruitment agencies that cover both finance and IT roles as they may have a hybrid finance/business analyst role coming through the finance or IT recruitment areas.
Be open to opportunities – you never know when they make take you closer to your dream role.
>>Read More Success Stories
Tracy’s story is one of many BA career transition success stories here at Bridging the Gap. We’re honored to have had many readers tell us more about how they leveraged their professional experience to get started in business analyst job roles.