Finding a New Business Analyst Job Without Relevant Industry Experience (Reno Chew)

Today we meet Reno Chew, a CCBA (Certification of Competency in Business Analysis Recipient) and PMI-ACP (Agile Certified Practitioner), who recently landed a new business analyst position, even though he didn’t have experience in the industry.

One thing I particularly like about Reno’s story is that it demonstrates how self-awareness of the value of your skills and experience is critical in moving into and upwards within the business analysis profession.

Let’s take a look.

Laura: What prompted your search for a new business analyst job?

Reno: It started when my company, MYOB Australia, ceased operation in its Kuala Lumpur office and moved the development work back to the Melbourne office.

One thing I want to emphasize is you do not always need to have relevant industry experience to get a BA job. I’m an accounting grad with background of commercial accounting, accounting software and also the proven knowledge on agile practices. I landed two (possibly three) job offers in two weeks and they are from all from different industries.

  1. Springer Miller. Development and distribution of hotel & spa management systems from Las Vegas. based in Kuala Lumpur. For my lack of hospitality industry and product knowledge, I will be paired with another BA who used to be their product trainer. I will be mentoring her on agile practices and she will teach me about the hospitality industry and their products. I was offered a BA position.
  2. Nettium. Deliver and support an e-commerce platform specifically for the online gaming industry from Kuala Lumpur. Same situation, my experience on both business analysis and project management has granted me the job. I was offered a Senior BA position.
  3. F-Secure. System security provider from Finland. My previous role as combination of product owner (agile BA) and scrum master played a big part for me to do well during the job interviews. They were not worried about me having zero knowledge about their product and industry. I passed the first interview with the recruitment manager and human resource manager, and the second interview with the product manager and product owner. It went very well and I’m positive I would have been offered the position, but I told my job agent that I do not wish to proceed due to personal reasons.

In conclusion, industry knowledge does not matter much, but transferable skills, knowledge and experience are important. Probably not so true for oil & gas, insurance and banking industries, but there are industries where your business analysis experience is more relevant than your industry experience.

Laura: Three job offers in two weeks is an outstanding accomplishment! Can you share a little bit more about how you got these opportunities? What updates did you make to your resume?

Reno: To be exact, I was offered only two. I’m positively thinking that if I let the discussion go on, it would have been three. Here are the few keys I thought played a big part in my successful job hunting.

  • The time was right. It was March of the year, a season where job-hoppers leave their jobs.
  • Agile is growing its influence in Malaysia. I was lucky and worked for one of the companies that drives agile influences in Asia Pacific. The exposure enabled me to match the interest of many software development companies in Malaysia.

Laura: How did you find and apply for these opportunities?

Reno: I found them through job ads from recruitment agents and also referrals from ex-colleagues. My advice is if you do not network outside, be sure to establish a network inside your organization. I was the latter.

I was referred to their companies because my ex-colleagues liked to work with me. (I ended up joining a different department though). We all like to work with nice, competent people, don’t we?

Laura: And how did you prepare for the job interviews?

Reno: The ability to pitch for yourself is very important. Most of the time we perform a task without even realizing it. It is important that you are able to tell your own story, in 3 minutes. I rehearsed the pitch few times unintentionally through phone interviews during the first week of my job hunt. Practice made perfect.

Besides, always research the company you are interviewing with. Ask for information about the job role. It’s best when you have insider information. Remember, when the recruiter is evaluating you, you are also evaluating whether the company is good for you.

My sources are the company website, local forums, friends, public news, financial statements (why would you want to join a company that is not financially sound?), and

Laura: Was there anything that caught you by surprise during the job search process? How did you handle it?

Reno: Yes. I went for an interview for a Product Owner position and I later found out it was a role combination of Product Owner and Scrum Master (in the non-agile world, it is known as a BA Cum PM role).

They asked a lot questions related to team management. For example, how to make the team happy? I did what any BA would do – find the root cause and give proper recommendation. Ask questions instead of solely accepting the fact that people are the way they are.

Such as, why is the team unhappy? Why do you think they are not happy? I later concluded the problem lies with communication. My suggestion is that the team needs a purpose. A team that practices agile work based on purpose, not just following instructions.

Of course, the problem about happiness is not as simple as that, but that is all I could do in 15 minutes. I got second interview that afternoon.

Laura: What recommendations would you give to someone looking to follow a path like yours?

Reno: There are 3 things that come to mind:

Awareness. Find out what you really want as a BA.

  • Refer to Laura’s book, How to Start a Business Analyst Career, the end of the first chapter. That checklist really can help you to understand whether you are a good fit. I didn’t get most of them ticked, but enough to realize what I was missing.
  • IIBA has identified many traits of BA. I’m from subject matter expert trait switched to become Agile BA, and now my role is BA/PM.

Identify your transferable skills for BA and grow them. 

  • Three years ago when my company introduced the idea of agile, I immediately fell in love with it and started learning more about it. It was aligned with the company direction, therefore I get a lot of chances to experiment with ideas. Being an agile practitioner has become one of my most valuable transferable skills.

Don’t close your door.

  • Always be available and lend ears to your colleagues. They could hold the key to your future. So be nice. If you cannot make one feel better, don’t make them feel bad.
  • No BA job scopes are alike. However, similarity is usually found among the same industry.

Laura: Thank you so much Reno for sharing these insights. Good luck with this new business analysis position. You are poised to grow with it and into an even bigger opportunity to come!

>>Read More Success Stories

Reno’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.

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