From Underwriting to Business Analyst with English As Her Third Language: Zineb Iotti

It’s my honor today to introduce you to Zineb Iotti, ACBA, in Zurich, Switzerland, who is now doing business analysis under the title of Transformation Manager on a multi-lingual team.

In this interview, you’ll discover:

  • Why she decided to pursue a career in business analysis, even though her first job applications were rejected.
  • How she moved from a 13-year career in underwriting to doing business analysis with the title of Transformation Manager.
  • How she succeeded in the program even though English is her third language, and now works on a multi-lingual team.
  • How she is now finding gaps in the process models created by others, even though she struggled with her first use case.
  • Why she invested in herself, even when her employer wouldn’t fund her professional development, and how that got her unstuck in her career.


Laura Brandenburg: Hello and welcome today. I’m here with Zineb Iotti from Zurich who is an ACBA Recipient with us and also a participant in The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program. I’m really excited to learn more about her story.

What I know is she started before she was a business analyst and then she got a very exciting opportunity to move into a BA role last year. I’m excited to hear more about it. Welcome.

Zineb Iotti: Thank you very much, Laura. Thanks for inviting me.

Laura Brandenburg: Very excited to have you here. Can you share a little bit about where you were in your career before you started with us in The Blueprint?

Zineb Iotti: You said it. Sure. I wasn’t a BA. I didn’t know about the BA at all. When I started, I was a Senior Assistant. I worked for an insurance company. When I started, I had worked with them for 13 years. But I felt that I was in a situation where it was stagnation. I was ready to do something else, but I didn’t find any opportunities open for me inside of the company. At that time, I decided I need to do something else.

I started looking for jobs outside and by chance, I saw a job ad with one of the biggest businesses looking for business analysts for the domain I worked for. Then I was amazed. I said, “I know that this is my work. I know everything. But what is a business analyst?” I read the requirements for the job and I said to myself, “This is good for me,” but I didn’t know some of the tasks that are required there with words like requirements, specifications, process mapping. I can’t imagine what is that and how to do it. All the relationship with the others and the communication with the others there. I said, “Okay, it’s me. I like to speak to the others. It’s not a problem.”

So, I applied. It didn’t work, for sure because I wasn’t a business analyst. But then I said to myself, this is a job that they need my skills, but I don’t have what they need, also. So, I have to do some effort and build some skills. I did some research on the internet about the business analyst and by chance, again, I came across your organization.

Laura Brandenburg: That was quite a journey. And how so many people find that this is a role that I’m really excited about and well suited for, but there’s this gap in the skill set or even the terminology. There’s a lot of terminology in the business analyst role for sure.

Can you talk a little bit about your decision to join The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program, specifically? Did you have any doubts and what ultimately prompted you to join that program?

Zineb Iotti: As I stated, I started looking on the internet about how I can learn the skills for business analyst. I came across your organization, but I had some doubts, yes, for sure. I remember I asked one of the colleagues located in the U.S., I asked, “Please, can you see if this organization is serious and accountable.” I waited one week or more for her answer. She didn’t answer then.

In the meantime, I was reading your blogs, your articles, I watched the videos and I was amazed at the content. The content resonated with me. I found it serious and I said, “Here, I’m going to apply.” I signed up first for the BA Essentials Master Class. I started with the master class. As soon as I finished the master class, I started The Blueprint.

Laura Brandenburg: That’s right. I remember that now. It was quite back-to-back for you. The timing just worked out.

What ultimately prompted you to try? What were you looking for out of the program?

Zineb Iotti: As I said, I was new for everything and when I did the master class, it wasn’t easy for me to understand everything. It was a hard time to learn. I spent too much time reading and reading again, twice, third time, reading and reading. But I managed to do it. Afterwards, also, I could also join The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program.

Laura Brandenburg: Does any particular module or component of that program stand out to you?

Zineb Iotti: It was amazing with The Blueprint. It was the Use Cases and Wireframes. I remember, I think, for the process one, I get stuck with the use case and the wireframe, I remember. My instructor was Alexandra and she was trying hard to push me because when I worked on the workbook, I think I went in the wrong way the first time with this module.

She noticed it and she got in contact with me saying that it’s wrong; we have to work it again. I was upset because it was the holiday. But she tried to explain to me the problems and what I should do. I did the rework in my workbook and I appreciate all the work and effort she did with me to understand, to complete it successfully. I’m grateful to her. I appreciate all that she did with me.

Laura Brandenburg: That is one of the things a lot of our instructors is they really do care. All of them care. Alexandra was your instructor and they want to see you succeed.

Zineb Iotti: Exactly. I had the same experience with Disha also from the master class.

Laura Brandenburg: It’s not uncommon. That’s part of why the instructor support is so important, too, is when a concept is so new, to kind of get off track a little bit and need that redirection. I think there is more learning in the rework even though the rework is incredibly painful. It can be really painful. That’s where the real learning happens for sure.

Zineb Iotti: Exactly. Here we see your excellence, your instructors.

Laura Brandenburg: And of you to persevere through that. That’s pretty awesome.

I know that English is…is it your second language or your third language? Because you’re multi-lingual.

Zineb Iotti: My mother was a language addict. My second language is French. I don’t know if English is the third or the fourth because I speak also German. I can say it’s the third. It’s the third because I started to learn English before German.

Laura Brandenburg: I would be interested to hear, and to share with others considering the program, too, we’ve talked a little bit about this, but some of the success strategies that you used with English not being your primary language. Obviously, it is a course in English. I think that created another layer of challenge.

Zineb Iotti: Exactly. It was challenging. Like I said, the master class for me, it was challenging because everything was new, the vocabulary. As I said, I had to read the material once, twice, three times and every time, also, I was noting the vocabulary. Sometimes, also, watching videos about the one vocabulary, functional specifications. What is this? I couldn’t, in my dictionary, I couldn’t find it. What is this? I had to watch some videos to understand. The language, which is a challenge, but the hard work also paid off. As I said, also, the excellence and the skills of the instructors helped me.

Laura Brandenburg: Let’s talk about…because I know you started not in a BA role. You told us about being in underwriting. But now you are in a business analyst role. How did that role come to be? How did your Blueprint coursework play into that? What was the path? I just want to hear more about it and be able to celebrate that success with you as well?

Zineb Iotti: Thank you very much. You know I’m not a business analyst.

Laura Brandenburg: By title.

Zineb Iotti: That’s kind of, exactly. Everything I learned, I apply it now, although my title is not a business analyst. My new position now is Transformation Manager.

Laura Brandenburg: I actually think that is a way cooler title than business analyst. Transformation Manager.

Zineb Iotti: I use the techniques I learned. What I learned with you and with the program, it opened my thinking of analyzing. Much before deciding. Solving problems. It was in my skills before, solving problems, I like to analyze figures and things like that, but when I did the program, also, it’s reinforced the skills. Today, I’m using everything I learned. In my position today, because we have a migration system, I’m working solving problems it creates, this migration.

The process mapping, also, is something that I’m doing today. I didn’t do it myself, but I work in a group with other people. Their function is the process modeling, but they came to me to help them. As soon as I read the process, I see that there are gaps here or errors here and without your program, I couldn’t do this.

Laura Brandenburg: It sounds like you’re making a huge impact. What do you like most about this new role?

Zineb Iotti: Various tasks and new routine, helping others. There are some challenges. I can do my work without analyzing things. This is the thing I was looking for. I needed work where I can think, analyze and then solve a problem. It matched with the business analyst.

Laura Brandenburg: If I recall, you’re working in a German-speaking company now, right?

Zineb Iotti: Because I am sitting in Switzerland, we speak German locally. But I work for an international team. With the team, we speak English. But I still work for the French company, so I help others as I speak French also.

Laura Brandenburg: Have you found, because we get this question a lot and me being American, English-based speaker, I don’t have personal experience in it, but how have you found the business analysis processes to apply in all those different cultures? Are there variances to it or are you able to apply the same kinds of techniques?

Zineb Iotti: I think this is the same. Now it’s the same because we work with the objective of standardization. I worked with other colleagues to map the processes from four countries. We have to do it in the same tool, in the same manner. There are no differences. During the work, we can see some differences in the way that people process the work.

Laura Brandenburg: That makes sense. How did this opportunity actually come to be? You took The Blueprint and then there was some space, and then the opportunity came up. Can you kind of walk us through that a little bit more?

Zineb Iotti: When I started the master class, I asked that I join a project team working just for 20% of my time. I could get this opportunity and they started to help one project team, like I was an SME. It took two years doing this, but when I got the certification of The Blueprint, I contacted the project manager here in Switzerland and I explained my objective, my goals, and explained what I did.

I was clear. I said I would like to join your team. It wasn’t easy because in every company there is a budget for onboarding new members. It took some time. But as soon as the opportunity was open and he could have the budget, they called me and I started.

In between, before the decision came up, I got two interviews. I was frustrated waiting for this decision to come.

Laura Brandenburg: And then really excited when it happened.

Zineb Iotti: Yes.

Laura Brandenburg: Last question. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing so generously. The last question I have for you is what would you recommend to people who are in that stage and looking to follow in your footsteps? They might be in a role that they felt was limiting and that they were stuck in and they were a little frustrated that things weren’t happening more quickly. What would you recommend to them?

Zineb Iotti: What I can recommend is that if someone feels like me, the desire to evolve in their career, they have to do it, but they have to invest in themselves. I would recommend and advise that they don’t need to wait until the employer or the organization they work for pay for the development. It can happen. It might be that they have no budget. This is what happened with me. I didn’t ask because I knew that nobody would invest in my education or in my development. I did it and now I invest in myself. And as you see, it paid off. Everyone, if someone chose the path for becoming a business analyst and I can just recommend, invest in yourself if you don’t have the support from your employer.

The second thing I can say, also, that I recommend your organization, your courses to everyone because they are hands-on courses. It’s not just abstract or theory, it’s practical. When we are finished, we know what to do if we are business analysts.

The second thing is it’s a framework. The course is a framework flow if you want to work like a business analyst. It gives everyone tools to use. You are not empty. You have a backup with the tools.

Laura Brandenburg: Awesome. I just want to celebrate and honor the investment that you made in yourself, too. You made the choice and then you followed through and I’m so excited to see where you are today and to hear you have that amazing title of Transformation Manager, which is still a business analyst. I still feel it is a business analyst and probably more. Very cool.

Congratulations and thank you so much for sharing your story.

Zineb Iotti: Thank you very much. Thanks to you. I’m grateful for what I learned with you. I’m grateful to you.

Laura Brandenburg: Thank you.

About The Business Analyst Blueprint®

When you join The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program, you’ll learn all 12 of the industry-standard techniques and the business analysis process framework to build your confidence in the best practices of business analysis.

You’ll create validated work samples and be a credentialed business analyst as a recipient of the Applied Certification in Business Analysis™ (ACBA).

>> Click here for more information about The Blueprint <<

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