Like most business analysts I had a career before my business analyst career. Like some of those business analysts, I came up the developer career path.
I actually started my career in Accounting, which is what I have my degrees in. After three years of being a Corporate Accountant, my manager (the Chief Financial Officer) noticed that I liked working with the company’s computers. So when they decided to go to an IBM midrange system, he asked me to head up the project.
I spent the next two years learning a new computer system, learning a new software package, writing a training manual; and then I traveled to eight locations to install computer equipment and train each location’s staff on the new system and software. When that was all done, management wanted some reports that were not available in the system; so I learned to program.
Now fast forward several years in a successful programming career encompassing a few internal and consulting positions. In 2008, I found myself with a great small consulting firm, and in an industry that was rapidly drying up. This wasn’t anything new; I had been through a couple of dry spells in the industry, where new clients or programming jobs were hard to find.
This consulting firm gave me the opportunity to attend a Business Analyst Boot Camp class offered by ASPE Training. Now to this time in my career I had worked in only one company in which I worked as a business analyst. That business analyst had tested changes to applications before they were promoted to the production environment. In fact, in that company when the largest system enhancement project came along I was named the project manager. As the project manager, I facilitated meetings with stakeholders all over the country to discuss their requirements for the system enhancement…with the business analyst sitting in the room.
So you can imagine when I was told I would be going to a business analyst boot camp class that my impression of a business analyst was what we consider today as a quality assurance tester. I will also point out that I have to this point in my career have never held the job title “Business Analyst,” or any derivation of that job title. However, being the naturally curious person that I am, I decided to confirm my understanding of business analysis by researching what it means to be a business analyst. My research uncovered what a business analyst really is supposed to do: perform the tasks, techniques, and skills of business analysis.
“It’s not who I am underneath; it’s what I do that defines me.”
Batman (in the movie Batman Begins)
Now, remember, I had not ever held the job title “Business Analyst.” I had been a “Programmer/Analyst” or “Team Lead,” but never a “Business Analyst”…well at least not in name. As I continued to read and research, I kept saying to myself “I have done this stuff most of my career.”
My research led me to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®), where I learned more about what it means to be a business analyst. Then I learned about the Certified Business Analyst Professional™ (CBAP®) certification designation. Seeing that it required 7,500 hours of business analysis experience, it was now time to start documenting my career. I was fortunate that a great deal of my career was as a consultant, so I had old time sheets that helped jog my memory on what I was doing each year. Those times that I was an internal employee, I had artifacts that I had written that jogged my memory and allowed me to put work experience in proper time frames. I was able to go back nine years in my career and document 9,000 hours of business analysis experience. I put all 9,000 hours on my CBAP application; I was daring IIBA to reduce my hours enough that I wouldn’t qualify for the certification. The one thing I needed to qualify for the CBAP certification was 21 Professional Development Hours, which the business analyst boot camp class would give me. Now you had to be qualified for the certification before you could apply for it. So I put my application together, included all the work experience documentation, got my two references in sealed envelopes (that is the way we did it back then), sealed it all up, addressed it to IIBA, and sat it on our Administrative Assistant’s desk with instructions to mail it on Friday. So on the final day of class, while I was finishing getting qualified for the certification the package was on its way to IIBA. I waited six months to be one of the first to take the CBAP exam on a new computer-based testing platform.
At this point, I had not held the job title “Business Analyst.” Realizing that just obtaining the CBAP certification would not make me “sellable” as a business analyst, I then looked at my resume. I rewrote my resume highlighting tasks when I collaborated with stakeholders. That time that I facilitated requirement elicitation sessions (as a project manager) for a large system enhancement is the type of work experience I highlighted. Even though I highlighted my analysis work experience on my resume, the CBAP certification really proved to prospective clients that I had the business analysis experience. This allowed the consulting firm to get me “gigs” as a business analyst instead of a programmer.
My research into business analysis showed me what it meant to be a business analyst. I knew from that research that this was the direction that I wanted to drive my career. Obtaining the CBAP made that transition easier and quicker. I only had a couple more “gigs” as a programmer after attending the business analyst boot camp class and obtaining the certification.