Patience & Persistence Part 2: How I Got Hired as a Virtual Business Analyst Consultant

The purposeful development of relevant skills doesn’t stop when you’re hired as a Business Analyst – it’s really just the beginning.  The competencies you develop on the job teach you how to assess a situation, evaluate the benefit and risk of various options, and make recommendations that, if implemented, will bring the highest value.  And there’s one more benefit to mastering the essential BA skills of balancing business needs with time, resource, and technical constraints:  you can unleash these skills on your own career vision to analyze where and how you can deliver value.

a bright new day revealed

An Analyst’s Evolution

In my last article, I encouraged Patience and Persistence in communicating your professional vision, making a point to expand your network; find ways to help them; and demonstrate your capabilities, and shared how I got my start as a Business Analyst. Over the subsequent decade I gained experience in as many BA specialties as possible – data, process, scope definition, business case, project management, implementation – learning new skills to constantly increase my professional value while fine tuning a career vision.  Eventually, facilitation and modeling the enterprise architecture became my chosen forte and the emphasis of my work.

That evolutionary process rekindled when my vision was drawn in a new direction toward working virtually with distributed teams and deciding to become a web warrior.

  • The “Learn/Observe/Do” mantra developed into a specialized knowledge.  Rather than hording that information, I found channels to communicate what I learned in public forums like this. Collaborating with others on a similar journey brought about an elevation in status to Subject Matter Expert and Advisor.
  • Volunteer work steadied my feet with a solid foundation of experience. As prospects gained trust in my counsel and capabilities, my projects evolved into short contracts to support virtual meetings and webinar presenters.
  • Along the way I found Doreen Evans Associates, Inc. (DEA), a small company dedicated to advancing expertise in business analysis services and developing process best practices.  The neat thing about a firm this size is an entrepreneurial spirit that encourages finding new ways to succeed.

I have started a new chapter, employed as a Virtual BA.

How to get a potential employer’s attention?  Be a Business Analyst

Persistence & Patience are the roots of this current success as well.  Once again, one of the biggest obstacles was that this position didn’t exist (yet).  If I was going to succeed I would need to define how this new remote internal role might interact and support the business domain. When a great opportunity with DEA came my way, I overcame the potential roadblocks by emulating what an internal business analyst would do:

  • learning about the firm’s business;
  • listening carefully during interviews to the questions and implications; and
  • repeatedly asking why to understand the business better.

I stayed connected even after they chose someone that could work on-site, and started periodically delivering a positive impact on their day, sharing a reference or suggestion that would help their current situation.  My message was consistent:

I understand the concerns that are in front of you and the implications.”

Not bad for a new connection, but even better …

I have some ideas about how to bring about improvements.”

Communicating Ideas

To demonstrate my tool use and analysis capabilities I chose to diagram myself into their business model – that’s me with the bald head on the left labeled “Distributed Analysis and Education”; the diagram is a “collaboration” Use Case Diagram developed in Enterprise Architect, the Company’s modeling tool of choice (via a free evaluation download).  I wanted to show that my methods were quite like theirs, and that I could easily adapt to their technical infrastructure.  The To Be straw model gave them [free] ideas for how they could develop a competency center around my area of specialty.  In addition to showing them how it might work, they had visual confirmation that when it came to their business, I “got it”.

All of this helped one forward-thinking firm to recognize that business analysis can be conducted just as effectively with a distributed team and that there are specialized skills to do so.  Hiring me first for a short consulting contract, they learned more about my ability to work virtually, conduct remote training and presentations, participate in problem solving, and design of a virtual workshop.  I succeeded in building a relationship and ultimately, trust by being present, fully prepared, and responsive.  Once again I’ll have a role in defining the new job description, this time Practice Leader – Virtual Business Analyst.  The fog of the unknown has lifted and I see a bright new day ahead, full of opportunity.

>> Get Inspired

Looking for more inspiration as you find your path to or within business analysis? BAs start with all kinds of career backgrounds, and we have several stories to cover all different kinds of scenarios.

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Comments

  1. This article is exactly what I needed to see/read this morning to solidify the fact that I am on the right track in approaching potential clients about virtual BA’s. Most established corporate departments already have full-time BA’s on staff, but there are some instances where they need the skills but not necessarily FT, which is where a BA consultant can be very valuable. Thank you so much for this blog post!

    • Hi Bridget. I read your post with interest. I have been thinking about starting a virtual consultancy business. Would you like to share ideas?

  2. Hi Joan & Congratulations (albeit a bit late based on the date of your initial post!). As a seasoned freelance BA I acknowledge that most, if not all of my BA activities can be achieved remotely/virtually. The challenge I find, especially as a freelancer is convincing the client that not only can it be done but it can be done very well. My latest contract has allowed me to work remotely for 60% of the time. This initial exposure of working remotely/virtually has definitely convinced me that I need to seek more remote/virtual working opportunities going ahead. If not anything else, I will be saving more than a working day (10 hours) per week without the need to commute. I am also convinced that remote/virtual working will become more & more of the norm in the coming years. Appreciate the article & I’ll be going through your other related articles.

  3. Michelle, your words warmed my heart – glad to deliver a little encouragement. Remember as you search for those virtual BA opportunities that any company with a distributed work force needs this service in order to gather requirements from beyond their Headquarters. Your experience doing this work remotely can be offered up as a money-saving alternative to shipping Analysts to satellite offices for elicitation assignments. Help them to understand the practicalities and possibilities; you may find yourself leading the way with a light of your own.

  4. Michelle Swoboda says

    Joan, thank you for this post. I have a dream of becoming a virtual BA and while I was able to do that at one time with a company, not many companies are mature enough to work with this model.
    I continue to look for opportunities and I am very encouraged on how you were able to make this happen. Thank you for the light!

  5. Bharat Dua says

    Joan, Thanks for sharing an vision, which could be sparkler for the budding liaison.
    Great Message, Thanks.

    • Hi Bharat. I liked your use the word “liaison”. We BAs have always been the catalyst for cooperation across organizational boundaries, and now with the application of virtual techniques, we can expand that duty to bridge the gap across geographic borders as well.

  6. Anup Mahansaria says

    Joan, thanks for coining the term Virtual BA! As I think more about it, I can call myself a Virtual BA.
    I have worked in a typical onshore- offshore model. So, I have been remote for either Business or Developer teams. It has worked out very well for us and we have implemented many successful projects with this model.
    Now, with more and more people working from home and distributed locations, it has become very common that all the team members and stakeholders are not located in the same location. In fact, in my current project, we have team members joining from 3 different time zones. Thus, I guess, most of the BAs currently are working virtually in some way if not completely.
    One of the things that has worked for me is to set up regular recurring meetings with the different teams. We meet; even if their is no agenda. These calls do end early sometimes, but gives an opportunity to have adhoc discussions and an opportunity to create a good relationship with the team.

    Best of luck, Joan!

    • Thank you for your comment Anup. Like you, I have often been thrown into a position where I was working as a Virtual BA without acknowledging that things were different. Allotting time for relationship-building as you described should be foremost in mind when your team is spread across multiple locations. I try to take time with every interaction to have a personal exchange, getting to know my remote co-workers, what’s important to them in their lives, and where our values coincide.

  7. Dharmesh says

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Joan. This area is something I am about to start exploring and to say that your post was “Just in time” would be an under statement.

    • You’re welcome Dharmesh, and I’ll pass my own thanks along to Laura for providing this forum for me to share my story. It will be interesting as time passes to see how many more BAs out there are practicing virtually. Exciting to be a part of pioneering times!

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