From Desktop Support Technician to Business Analyst: A Journey-in-Progress

I’m very excited to share an “in progress” success story this week. Rob Jowaises has been very active in our Grow Your BA Career LinkedIn group and has graciously shared the ups and downs of his journey so far. I think an important take-away is that you don’t have to make this transition all at once and that success comes in many forms. I look forward to reading the future installments of Rob’s story!

Laura reached out to me to see if I would create a blog about my ongoing journey to become a Business Analyst.

First a little bit about me. I graduated high school in 1996 and went to a small private college in St. Augustine, Florida called Flagler College. As I entered college I first wanted to be a History major so that was my declared field of study upon enrolling in classes. I then decided that no, while I loved History, I wanted to do something that might lead to better job opportunities. I kind of became a Business/Spanish major. After struggling to focus on what exactly I wanted to do, I decided I wanted to remain closer to home.

I returned to my hometown of Richmond, VA and for a time worked  part-time and took classes at a community college. I took some time off from school in 1999 and that was when I decided to get into IT. I initially wanted to go in to network management as I frequently heard radio pitches like, “Learn Microsoft Windows NT! Become a MCSE! Make $80K a year!” I eventually decided I wanted to go back to school and get an IT-related degree. In May 2001 I finished a 2-year Associate’s degree in Business Administration at a local community college. I then transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business to study Information Systems. I still thought I wanted to be a Network Admin/Engineer so that was going to be my focus.

I knew right away that the programming classes were going to be a challenge for me. One class I found interesting, however, was Systems Analysis and Design. That was the first time I thought, “If only there were a position out there where I could be a part of the SDLC but not have to do any coding.”

Although I made progress towards my degree, I needed to move towards working full-time.  In the summer of 2003 I studied for and passed two entry level technician certifications, A+ and Network+ , to help make up for my lack of overall work experience. I started getting some short-term desktop support related positions. By the end of 2005, I had a full-time position making decent money. School had been pushed to the side.

In the course of looking for work, I did see postings for “Business Analyst” positions, but didn’t understand the exact job function. My Information Systems program at VCU even started a BA track but I had already taken my Network Management classes so I didn’t want to go back and take any extraneous classes that wouldn’t count towards earning my degree. After several years of working various desktop support positions I knew I didn’t want to be in this field forever. I also came to the realization that computer networking didn’t interest me anymore. In Fall 2010, my mind turned to Business Analysis again and I purchased Laura’s book, How To Start A Business Analyst Career. I eventually read through it over the next year and it struck me how nebulous the path to becoming a BA was.

I became unemployed in July, 2011 and thought that this might be a good time to try a switch from desktop support to a new career. Unfortunately, that would prove to be difficult as my work history was firmly in desktop support, with few transferable skills. That fall I did take Laura’s free BA career planning course and in January 2012 I took part in one of her webinars. This course was effective in allowing me to look at my current career in a different light.

I finally obtained employment in late spring 2012, again in the field of desktop support.

Now that I’m employed again, I’ve still been wondering about how best to “bend” my current career towards a path that might ultimately lead to a BA role. In perusing various message boards, I’ve seen some people say that an IT-related degree isn’t that important. I only have three classes left so I’m still intent, both for professional and personal reasons, to complete my Bachelor’s degree. So that still remains an important goal for me. One of the classes I did take was in Project Management. This class qualified me to take the Certified Associate in Project Management, so taking and passing that certification is also a goal of mine.

More immediately, and before I resume taking classes in January, I’d like to study and take the ITIL 2011 Foundation exam. One of the common terms I discovered while looking for employment on job boards was ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library). I was not very familiar with the subject but I’ve discovered that it might be just the ticket for me to transition from desktop support to BA. ITIL uses a set of best practices to implement and integrate IT service management into the overall business. It’s steeped in various processes, process analysis, and specific types of inputs and outputs, not unlike Project Management and Business Analysis.

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Comments

  1. I also started out in desktop support and was fortunate in that my company allowed me to transition into a BA role. However, while in desktop support I had some special projects that qualified as BA type work. In particular, IT equipment cost cutting initiatives. Developing customer training/documentation and root cause analysis could also qualify. Hopefully, this helps you tailor your resume.

    Due to relocation, I am now searching for a new job and torn between waiting to find a BA position with a knowledgeable mentor or accepting something similar and hoping I can move into the role I love. Any suggestions?

  2. Well, I have a 2005 Master’s in an IT field from a respected local school, am almost done with a graduate-level certificate in Information Assurance, have ITIL v3 Foundation, Project+, over 15 years of support experience, over 8 as a manager, and over a year of semester hours in Accounting. And I am stuck in either desktop support or helpdesk jobs in this economy. I will be spending a lot of time going over what I did and trying to transition. I was laid off (along with others) in early 2010 as a new CIO came in. Recruiters are no help, they want to place me in the low-level jobs as quickly as they can and be done. Things seem to be picking up and I’m looking to figure out how to remake myself somehow. BA sounds like much of what I was really doing all along (and still do to some extent) and I would enjoy it a lot.

  3. The trick is to successfully extract from your previous experience the BA skills you have already demonstrated and get them down on your resume. Getting the CAPM can’t hurt. Don’t know anything about the ITIL exam though. A bachelors degree in anything is often needed to get past the hurdle known as “has a degree Y/N”.

  4. Great start to the story of your journey, Rob!

    If you haven’t already, you’ll begin to realize how much analysis you have already used in your past – determining what the user’s problem is and coming up with the appropriate solution is one of the roles of a BA (ok, maybe a bit overly simplified but I think you get the point). As for other relevant skills, I’m guessing to be successful in desktop support roles, you needed to have a reasonable amount of customer service mindset, be a good communicator and (likely) you’re able to establish a working rapport pretty quickly with someone who is often initiating the contact in an unpleasant mood (computer problems they can’t fix get people heated pretty easily). To me, that’s a whole slew of transferable skills to the BA-space (and many that developers/coders often don’t have)!

    Making the transition to that first role is often about realizing what you’ve already done and framing it differently (think maybe a functional resume instead of a chronological one?) – as a BA, you need to be able to model / explain / communicate information in various ways depending on the audience and trying to find out what is best for each is where your existing communications skills can come in handy. Also, as you read more BA materials (BABOK, books, Bridging-the-Gap articles, etc), you might find some things (techniques, tools, models, etc) you already did have a name, you just didn’t know it at the time… this is what I experienced the first time I read the BABOK.

    Cheers and good luck in the continuation of your journey!
    Steve the Tie Guy