In a recent webinar, one of our community members asked this powerful question:
I have been in a BA role for over 8-years and recently changed organizations and I am finding that I am not currently up to date on technology and skills. How can I catch up without overwhelming myself?
Switching business analyst jobs is a huge opportunity, and it also can represent a time of significant professional growth.
In this video, you’ll learn why new jobs in new organizations can feel so overwhelming, how to reframe the challenge of “catching up,” and what skills to invest in to regain your confidence and sense of success.
For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:
Hello. I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap, and we help mid-career professionals start business analyst careers.
Today, I want to talk to you about a question and answer that question that came in from one of our recent webinars. This person said,
“I’ve been in a BA role for over eight years, and I recently changed organizations. I’m finding that I’m not currently up to date on technology and skills. How can I catch up without overwhelming myself?”
This is a really important question. When you start a new organization, it’s a huge opportunity for expansion and growth in your career. It’s also a huge opportunity for overwhelm because what happens when we are in a position, especially in the same organization for eight years or for even just a few years, is we get familiar with how business analysis works in that organization.
It’s easy to get comfortable with the familiar
We’re familiar with the stakeholders, we’re familiar with the technology, we’re familiar with the systems and the business rules, and even the nuances in terminology. Like, when Joe in accounting says, ‘This’ he means ‘This,’ but when Susie in marketing says, ‘This,’ she means, ‘This.’
We have already internalized the variances in terminology; we understand the business of our domain; we understand the technology systems and how they work.
A lot of our confidence and our sense of success is based more on this expertise we have with the stakeholders and the systems and the domain, and we kind of lose track of the core foundational skills of what it takes to be a business analyst. Those don’t feel much like the core to our success.
In a new organization, everything is different and you lose the benefit of your expertise
Then we start a new job, and everything is different. The stakeholders are new, the systems might be new, the business domain. Even if we’re in the same industry, there are always slightly different variations to how those stakeholders speak, how they show up in meetings, what their conflicts are, and what their agendas are.
We are learning everything about the business from scratch, and it can feel overwhelming, and like we’re drinking from a fire hose. That’s a common analogy that’s used by new and experienced business analysts alike for what it’s like when you’re starting a new business analyst job. It feels like you’re drinking from this fire hose of information. That’s where the overwhelm is coming from.
As we’re in that position, doubt and fear can start to creep in. “Can I really do this? I felt so confident in my past job. Why did I leave? Can I go back? Do I really know what I’m doing? Am I really as strong and confident as I thought I was in that past position?”
That doubt and fear, it’s really based on, “Now I’m not the expert. Now I have to ask the questions. How do I do this?” I want to reframe, for this person, this concept of catching up because it’s not probably what’s the root issue here.
NOT being the expert is a very natural place for a business analyst
When you say, “I’m behind on my technology and my skills, and I need to catch up without overwhelm,” what you’re really saying is, “I’m in a new situation now, and I’m no longer the expert.” This is a natural place for business analysts to find themselves in.
As you grow and expand your career, you want it to start to feel second nature so that going in to a meeting and being the least knowledgeable person about the business process, about the technology, about the domain, that’s a natural place to be, instead of the uncomfortable place.
You’re still drinking from a fire hose. You still don’t know as much as anybody else knows about the business domain, but it’s a natural place that you can show up in confidence.
In a new organization core business analyst skills give you confidence
What does it take to show up in confidence in that situation? It takes your core business analyst skills.
- It’s knowing how to analyze a business process.
- It’s knowing how to ask questions to discover what the current state process is, what the problem is we’re solving.
- It’s knowing how to clarify terminology and pick up on nuances of, “Joe said, ‘This,’ and, Susie said, ‘This.’ Is that the same thing?” instead of already knowing that it is the same thing and doing that mental work to reconcile the terminology, which you can do when you’re the expert.
You can’t do it when you’re not yet the expert. It’s about getting everyone on the same page about software requirements, using techniques like use cases and wireframes that help you identify what the software needs to do, now how the software needs to do it.
If you were the expert in the technology before, you probably knew all the things that the software could do, and you knew how to build that, whatever it is you were updating in your project. You could go with more of a technical spec instead of a more functional software requirement driven spec of what you need the system to do.
This means showing up and asking questions of your technology stakeholders, as well, to understand the capabilities of the systems that you have in place as it relates to your projects. That’s how you do it without having to learn everything at once. You’re not going to be the expert in everything at once.
Just to reiterate, it’s also about asking the questions and using the analysis skills that you have, business process modeling, data modeling, software requirements modeling, all of the modeling skills and techniques that you’ve probably used, naturally, in your last job.
Perhaps you need to freshen up and get some core foundation in those again. That’s what we help you do at Bridging the Gap. Using all those skills to analyze the problem, understand the requirements, and ask the right questions, and they’re going to help you do the intellectual work of figuring out what the questions are even when you’re not the expert.
It gets easier from here, even as you move from one new organization to another!
The last thing I want to say about this is that the first shift that you make, the first shift from one organization to another is the hardest. The second shift is a little bit easier, and it gets easier and easier from there.
It’s not easier because you’re no longer drinking from a fire hose. It’s not easier because you’re the expert in every domain. That’s impossible. You’re never going to be the expert in every domain. It gets easier because you’re comfortable showing up in situations where you don’t know what the business process is.
You’re comfortable asking the questions, you’re comfortable clarifying terminology, you’re comfortable standing on the foundation of your business analysis skills and knowing that you add value by asking those questions and doing that analysis, and not by being the expert.
It’s a powerful place to be in your career. It opens up a lot of opportunities for you to grow and expand and take your career to the next level.
That’s my tip for how to get out of the overwhelm of a new job when you feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose and maybe like you’re a little bit behind. You’re really not. You’re just not the expert anymore. You’ve got to rely on those core business analysis skills.
If you’d like to see where you stack up in terms of having those skills, there should be a link below this video that will invite you to download the Business Analyst Skills Assessment. This will allow you to walk through the level of each of the core skills that we talked about here, as well as some of the other skills that are important to be successful as a business analyst, and rank yourself and assess yourself on how you stand against those skills.
So go ahead, take a look at that, download that assessment, figure out where you’re at, and that will give you some ideas for where you might need to strengthen your core business analyst skills so you can succeed in multiple business domains as a business analyst.
Again, happy to have you here. My name is Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap, and we help you start your business analyst career.
>> Download Your BA Skills Assessment
When you download our Business Analyst Skills Assessment, you’ll figure out exactly where you stand as a business analyst and know what core business analyst skills to invest in improving.