As we have discussed before, many business analysts are moved or hired in from other areas. Many come from the technical side of the house and others come from the business side of the house. Not until recently have you seen universities teaching students some of the skills needed to be a business analyst. Actually I am starting to see elementary schools breeding future analysts. My daughter's third grade class was learning about process flows. I almost cried when I reviewed my daughter's homework. Her teacher thought I was a freak when I ran into the classroom the next day and would not stop thanking her for teaching the kids about process flows. But I digress.
What this means is many of us got into a BA career without any kind of formal training. It is critical for newcomers to get foundational training on the techniques available to business analysts. The projects we work on are critical to the success of our companies. How can we expect consistent positive outcomes from those that have not been trained properly? Why is this tolerated in our field?
Education is on-going and not a one-time event. You don't go to a class and check off a box saying you did the education piece. I hope blogs like mine and others are educational. There are more advanced classes, books, conferences, online forums dedicated to business analysis and, of course, your local IIBA chapter. My advice is never stop learning.
Before we move on, I want to make sure everyone knows my background/bio. I do work for a business analysis training provider, B2T Training.
In the United States, January is National Mentoring Month (NMM). Created by the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR, NMM is marking its ninth year in 2010. By focusing national attention on the need for mentors, as well as how each of us-individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits-can work together to increase the number of mentors, we assure brighter futures for our young people. I think it is wonderful that these organizations are promoting mentorship for children. Learning at an early age the value of having a mentor or mentors will help these children succeed in life.
Now more than ever it is so important for us as business analysts to find a mentor. At the same time, we should open ourselves up to become mentors for someone else. It is very enriching to be a mentor. Without mentors, BAs will continually be set-up to fail.
A mentor is someone with experience in a field or subject that helps a less experienced person advance in their career. In the past, companies had a layer of management that moved up the ranks. Part of their role as a manager was to guide and mentor the less experienced team members. Although I am seeing a shift in that BAs are growing up to manage BAs, there is still a large gap. Many BAs are managed by people who have never played the role of a business analyst. This presents the situation where many BAs cannot look to their manager for guidance around the BA activities they do day in and day out. We need the support because we can't do this alone. Even the greatest Jedi to ever live, Luke Skywalker, had a mentor in Obi-wan Kenobi. Find a mentor that can help you grow as a business analyst.
It is not enough to get the education you need and find a mentor. You have to make the commitment to change. At times, I am just as guilty as the next person when I come out of a training class/seminar. I am fired up and excited just thinking about how I am going to implement all these new things I learned. I wake the next day, bounce out of bed, and I rush to the office. I sit in my chair day-dreaming about all the new skills I have, and then do the same thing as I did prior to training. This is natural. Sometimes it is hard to determine which of the new skills you should try out and when.
My suggestion is start small and keep building. Brad Childress, the Minnesota Vikings head coach, said he starts his rookies off with a small menu, but with deep knowledge. In other words, he gives his rookies a few plays to focus on instead of the entire playbook. As the rookie gets comfortable with the few plays, he adds more to their plate. Use this philosophy as you learn new things. Don't try to make a complete change all at once.
Take a few minutes to think about where you may need some education and look for avenues to acquire what is necessary. If you don't have a mentor, please begin your search to find at least one. Lastly, begin changing your behavior now in small chunks. I think we all know Albert Einstein's definition of Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Together let's stop the insanity.
All the best,
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Jonathan "Kupe" Kupersmith is Director of Client Solutions, B2T Training and has over 12 years of business analysis experience. He has served as the lead Business Analyst and Project Manager on projects in various industries. He serves as a mentor for business analysis professionals and is a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) through the IIBA and is BA Certified through B2T Training. Kupe is a connector and has a goal in life to meet everyone! Contact Kupe at firstname.lastname@example.org.