I’ll let you into a little secret; I didn’t plan on becoming a Business Analyst (BA), I didn’t even know what one was. Yet now I am certain this is the role for me.

Changing the perception of a Business Analyst

When I was pouring over many prospectuses there never was an option to become a BA, so why?

Let’s start how I got here, 8 years ago I was a graduate in Forensic Science looking forward to a career in crime scenes. The recession hit and opportunities for Graduates were few and far between. I found myself being employed by a software house and over the next few years I bounced around customer facing roles. Then one magical day, I found myself applying the analysis skills I had learnt from my Forensic Science degree and realised that some of the technology and processes were sub-optimal. This was the beginning for me and I was asked to fix a project, when the project was completed I became the company’s very first Business Analyst.

As I read the BCS books on business analysis I became more and more excited. Technology I found was recession-proof and the skills required for a business analyst were the same ones I had! Although there was still so much to learn, I was up to the challenge. To support my thirst my company happily agreed to an external mentor and training. I now have the BCS International Diploma in Business Analysis which has helped me in my own progression as a BA in the 4 years I have been doing the role, a role now considered as a key role on all IT projects within the company.

My story isn’t rare, although not everyone starts out in crime scenes. As I talk to more BA’s I find that most of us have got to this role from sideways moves within our organisations. So now back to the pesky ‘why’ (or five of them). Why isn’t BA promoted as a career at school, why hadn’t I heard of it, why was I asked to do this role, why are others asked and why do businesses not have BA’s?

It is a role that has developed from a different place, although it isn’t academic there is a huge advantage to taking professional certification in business analysis, but hasn’t been a requirement for this role. Without qualification evidence, we are somewhat silent to the world - how do we provide proof of our skills, how do we promote our value and level of expertise. It is a role that has evolved organically within business, providing the holistic overview internally, the understanding of different perspectives and the external view of the world that can be applied. These are signs of a business acting maturely by bringing all components together and we as Business Analysts are at the very heart of this.

However, despite all of this I think that as enablers, translators and helping the business and its people succeed, we are often overlooked. Colleagues and stakeholders don’t hear the massive impact we have on a business because we’re not shouting out our part in it. We’re just doing our thing, helping everyone stay aligned to strategy and achieve the goals the business sets out.

Lastly, I believe our skills are not unique to our role, project management, product ownership, product management, user experience research, market research, test engineering - all of these roles I’ve worked alongside and realise I share parts of my role with. The way in which we bring these skills together and apply them to our entire business is what makes a BA special, it is our job to tell the world that.

I think we owe it to ourselves to get the recognition of how great business analysis is. Share our stories, learn from each other, and attract new talent from wherever it may come.

About the author

Zara Sheldrake is a business analyst working for Redgate Software in Cambridge. She is interested in exploring how BAs become BAs, and how we can learn from each other, and is co-founder of the Cambridge Business Analysis Community.