A Business Analyst is the profession of the future, isn’t it?

Personal experience, IT difficulties, and useful tips on finding a job from Senior Business Analyst at EPAM Anywhere, Maria Ivashko.

Senior Business Analyst at EPAM Anywhere, Maria Ivashko

The start

— My story began in 2019 and, it may seem to some, developed in a rather logical way. I studied at the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics (BSUIR) as a systems engineer with a specialization in engineering psychology and ergonomics. We were given knowledge not only in development and testing, but also in the field of human-machine interaction. The class I was in was the first, so the program was compiled on the go. We were pioneers in the profession.

My interaction with business analysis began with business analysis lessons led by a teacher who knew nothing about business analysis and taught dry theory. She relied on a book called Software Requirements (Developer Best Practices). This book is recommended to Business Analysts to help them start getting acquainted with the profession. This was my introduction to the field.

When I was going to university, my mother read an article about the professions of the future. It focused on a Business Analyst. She advised me to take a closer look at this profession, because she thought it suited me. She told me then: "You will make presentations, work with numbers, and build graphs." But I was skeptical: "Mom, what are you talking about, who is a Business Analyst?" At the time, there was no widespread understanding of what kind of profession it was. Now, I remember this moment with a smile. Of course, business analysis is not just about presentations and some numbers, it's much deeper. It's about people.

More about Business Analyst

My first job

— Some will say that my first job was a matter of chance, but I believe that this is where my path was taking me, step by step. I have always been a restless student. I always had a little new knowledge, and I was constantly looking for new professional communities and joining them. I tried to find a part-time job in my free time and I checked various websites. I saw a post in one of the groups that an Outsource People conference required a volunteer to help set up a video conference. The deadline had passed, and I didn't know how to set up a video conference, but I wrote to them with an offer of help anyway. They told me that I could come for an interview. I didn't think it would be too serious. I passed the interview, and I said that I didn’t know how to set up video conferences, and I don't have technical skills, but I understood what the IT sphere is and I was interested in learning trends, meeting people, and communicating. They called me.

That's how I got to go to the conference. Once I was there, I was surprised at how open everyone was to communication. My goal was to find out if one of the companies would take me on in an internship. When I spoke with representatives, I just told them where I was studying, and asked where they worked.

At one of the lectures in the conference hall, we were sitting with the organizer, and I was giving feedback about the presentations. We talked about one performance, and I said that the person who gave that presentation really sold his story. I said that I would like to work in such a company. A couple hours later, when the conference was over, this person (the director of the sales department) came up to me and said that he had been given my feedback. We had a conversation, and I told him about myself. He offered to send him my resume, and said that if I passed an interview, they would hire me. I was surprised how quickly everything started spinning from one of my comments, and not even a comment directly to the presenter, but just to the organizer. That's how I realized that there are no boundaries.

A couple days later, I went to the company office as a new employee to receive my first corporate laptop. It was the Andersen company. At the time, it was not so big. Only 3 analysts worked with me there. At the beginning of my career journey, I did not have a clear structure of knowledge. It was at Andersen that I started assembling this system in my head. I felt like an impostor then because I did not believe that I could get into such a position without courses and more knowledge. But that's how it happened. Afterward, with the help of mentors, courses, and professional communities, I became who I am today.

Continuation of the career path

— I worked at Andersen for 2 years and then realized that I needed to try other projects and companies. I didn't know if I was good enough at building processes, working with a product, making connections, etc. I had 5 interviews and passed 4 of them. The one company I didn't get into was because I had an insufficient level of English.

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— I chose EPAM. I knew that it has extensive expertise, and that many experienced specialists work here. I decided that here, I will be able to find someone to train me, help me with the structure, and suggest which technique or technology to use at one time or another. For me at that moment, knowledge, environment, and a community of like-minded people were important. I developed there until 2021, working on internal projects.

At the same time, I was interested in mentoring and teaching. I was a curator of courses, mentored some colleagues, and taught someone the area from scratch.

I realized that I was interested in managing teams and sharing knowledge. For this, I went to the iTechArt company. I was invited to set up processes, share experiences, train newcomers, and do everything that I had not been able to do and really wanted. At that job, I fulfilled my need for mentoring, but I lacked experience on a project. Then, a project appeared, but I kept thinking about EPAM more and more often. So, I returned to EPAM Anywhere, where I work to this day.

Business for the soul

— I like helping people. That is the core of business analysis. I am driven to help solve problems, to see the shining eyes of the satisfied client who achieved their business and financial goals, and also of end users who directly work with the developed systems or services, or work in improved business processes. This keeps me inspired and gives me energy. The same is true in training — I like to help people learn business analysis because, in the end, they work in a profession that they enjoy, which allows them to learn new technologies or look at life in a different way.

When I worked at iTechArt, I developed a competence matrix — identifying what a specialist of a certain level should know: junior, middle, senior. I realized that I know quite a lot, and that you can develop your own personal brand. I created my own course, which allowed me to plunge into the life of a Business Analyst. This course did not just describe what business analysis includes, but — using concrete examples from life — it showed what a Business Analyst does during the working day and what tasks they face. After all, many people do not fully understand what business analysis is. They pay a lot of money for courses, and then after 3-4 classes, they realize where they ended up, and that their initial impression did not match reality. My course was designed for 12 people. After taking it, 8 out of 12 people said that business analysis was what they wanted. And 4 people, thanks to the course, realized that they did not want to be Business Analysts.

I also prepared checklists and conducted webinars. Some collected 2 streams each. These tools included information about: trends in the world of business analysis; what to do and how to be an analyst on a new project; how to communicate with a project sponsor; and how to conduct refinement sessions. I developed a concept of “3P” focusing on the main aspects in the life of a Business Analyst.

Now, the market for Business Analysts is overheated, and there are not so many open vacancies. Therefore, I suspended my webinar activity for now. I would like to continue to develop a personal brand, however, and help people understand what business analysis is and whether it is suitable for them. For those who are already in the profession, I can help them with their choice of appropriate tools and techniques. For beginners, this is the most challenging aspect of the work. You have read a book, and taken courses, but you don't really know what to use and when. I would like to help and prompt such juniors.

Tips for novice Business Analysts

— Now is not the easiest time to find a job, but those who are looking will always find one. So, I’ll share a few tips that will help you enter the profession:

  1. The most productive career-builder is networking. You need to constantly look for new professional communities and join them. Recently, many communities relocated to different countries and are creating new local communities there.
  2. Conferences. They offer an opportunity to communicate in person or online. I would advise going not only to business analysis conferences but also to related events. You can find them in communities, via the Internet, and in various groups on Facebook or Telegram.
  3. Webinars on Agile and Scrum. They are worth visiting to understand how IT works in principle.
  4. Mentoring. Find a mentor through professional communities or acquaintances. We frequently do not objectively see what we lack and should work to improve. I had a mentor even when I was already a senior. At one point, I didn't understand what my next step was, or where to develop further. I went to an experienced analyst and said: please be my mentor, I'm confused, I don't know where to go now. We conducted an audit of my knowledge, and I learned a new area in which to develop. Sometimes, a person gets lost and does not know where to go next. One solution to this problem is to go to a mentor.

Complexities of being a Business Analyst

— Of course, not everything is as simple as it may seem at the beginning. Business Analysts are people who know how to interact and lead a team to a result, but they face many difficulties along their way:

  1. Changing domains. A Business Analyst always needs to know how the domain of the project is developing. It is difficult to be on the right wavelength if you switch from one project to another and the projects are in different domains.
  2. Technology. A certain limited set of tools is sufficient for business analytics. But there are specific features in various profile domains, including AI, data processing, health care, etc. All have technical requirements for development, and sometimes there are legal requirements as well. The specifics of the requirements for technical systems are always changing and complicating the development.
  3. Competition. You have to study all the time, be progressive, be ready for how the team interacts. This is difficult.

— For me, the main focus is never to stop in my development. I also want to become a member of the IIBA community, and to get a certificate in business analysis. The preparation for such a certificate is the path of development and it is not an easy one. But I can do it. And so can you.

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