How Do I Market Myself as a Business Analyst Contractor?

A reader asks the following…

I started off as an IT BA putting together functional specifications and detailing user-interface screens. Later, moving companies, I worked as a Business BA undertaking requirements facilitation, BPMN process mapping as-is, to-be, covering Lean/Six Sigma practice. I then moved into contracting and picked up an IT BA role.

My question is can a contractor market themselves as both an IT and Business BA? So often job descriptions are aimed at only one. I was thinking it might mean having 2 CVs.

Doug’s answer:

A contractor can market himself or herself in whatever way desired. However, marketing is only the forward facing facade. It’s what underneath the surface that you should really pay attention to when delivering a message about yourself. At its root, business analysis is business analysis, right? It’s the same techniques and same core skills, so what’s the difference?

Well, the further you get away from the core skills of a business analyst generalist, the more specialized the knowledge becomes. So when one ponders a jump from business-side analysis to technical-side analysis, the core skills only take you to a certain point. For instance, an analyst can elicit requirements for a business process and do the same for a new screen in the IT department. Core skills don’t include knowledge of the software development life-cycle (SDLC) and how different roles work together in it. Nor does a core skill help an analyst out with a SQL query to validate data or UML modeling of a set of domain objects. It certainly doesn’t help an analyst code, either.

This is where a lot of analysts begin to ask about what knowledge is necessary to make a move like this, and the answer is that the more you know, the better. However, no one (ok, almost no one) is asking that an analyst code; they are seeking the ability of an analyst to have an intelligent conversation with the development team. They are seeking someone to collaborate with designers and developers to help fulfill the solution via knowledge transfer. If you can model what you are trying to articulate in verbiage, that is a great asset. If you can follow data and query a database to analyze data as well as deliver functional specifications, even better.

So you see that you can tell anyone that you are an IT analyst, a janitor, or an astronaut, but you never want to put your own reputation at stake once you get put in that role and can’t perform in it. How do you get to the point that you can? I would recommend lots of reading on lots of different venues. Review books, blogs, forums, case studies, tools, etc. Join professional groups to immerse yourself in the culture and the lingo, as well as socialize with people who might be able to help you make the transition. If you are currently working in an organization, take the manager of the department you wish to work in out for a coffee and ask for some guidance on making the jump. When asked, most people are willing to help to one degree or another. One thing most people do not tolerate though, is an individual selling himself as something he is not.

To the reader that posted this question specifically, you have a lot of quality skills that are marketable for both business and IT. The focus of your education might be to select powerful skills that go a long way, like SQL or OOAD or Relational database comprehension. Bit by bit, add to your toolbelt and you will become more marketable each step of the way.

>>Learn More About Marketing Yourself for BA Roles

Click on one of the links below to learn more about how to market yourself:

The Business Analyst Job Search Process: 5 Steps to Getting Hired

8 Business Analyst Resume Secrets You Need To Know (Especially If You Don’t Have the BA Job Title)

What To Expect in a Business Analyst Job Interview

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  1. Yea man that was a great post. I am soon looking to do some BA contracted work with small businesses. I just graduated with MSE Engineering management + BA Information systems.
    I have been a CNC worker for almost 7 years and a general blue-collar worker for 27 years. Having some trouble getting internships or a chance to be trained to do whatever, so I might have to strike out on my own and figure it out. But your post really gave me more insight on focusing on the thing your good at while being able to transfer information verbally. I have been studying six sigma as well and lean processes.

  2. Doug Goldberg says

    Excellent ideas Michelle! Thanks!

  3. Michelle Swoboda says

    Doug – great post!
    I would offer two additional ideas – job shadow or work with the person in the role that you want to be in. Try to actually be on the project with them as a developmental learning opportunity.
    Also, if you volunteer your time in the role that you want – many people are open to having you test your skills on their project for free! As Doug says, our reputation is everything so ensure that you remember that in all your roles.



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