Thinking of Becoming a BA? Q&A with Laura Brandau

How-to-Start-a-Business-Analyst-Career

Laura Brandau (@ClearSpringBA), fellow BA blogger and friend of Practical Analyst, just published the e-book, How to Start a Career as a Business Analyst. She wrote it, “with the hope of helping other talented professionals discover if business analysis is their passion, and, if so, help them on their journey into the profession.”

Having had the opportunity to read the book myself, I would highly recommend it to those who want to understand what a BA does day-to-day, and how to get a foot in the door – whether as a recent college grad or an experienced professional looking to make a transition.

Q&A with Laura

Laura and I were recently swapping e-mails over some of the particulars of the book when I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the thought and creative processes that went into creating it, and about some of the things she learned throughout. You’ll find those questions along with her replies below.

When and why did you decide to write a book on becoming a BA? Of all the topics available in systems engineering in general, and business analysis in specific, what drew you to the topic of starting a career in business analysis?

I decided to start writing earlier this year after receiving several questions from professionals looking to become business analysts. I realized how challenging it was to break into our profession and decided to do what I could to help people out.

What motivated you to write the book?

I’ll be perfectly honest, the idea germinated in response to a brainstorming session I did using some spare time to turn www.bridging-the-gap.com into a sustainable venture—i.e. generate revenue in parity with the time I invest without compromising the quality of the site.

That said, the idea behind the book is much larger than that. It’s also my way to make a contribution to the profession and really help people who want to be business analysts.

When I started planning, my goals and aspirations where fairly contained. I thought that if I can help a few people into the profession, I would have done some good work. I also simply wanted to learn first-hand about the book writing, publishing, distribution, and marketing processes so that even if I didn’t get this book right I’d be better prepared for the next one.

What made you decide to go the book route? You’re a relatively prolific blogger, why a book in lieu of a series of blog posts?

I actually never considered writing a series of blog posts on this topic. For me blog posts tend to contain one or two small ideas and this was such a big idea I needed to approach it differently. The book is structured in a logical way and, for me anyway, blog posts tend to come at topics from different angles and there is not necessarily a logical progression from one post to the next. As I interviewed people, their perspectives crossed multiple parts of the book. By infusing those ideas into a structure, the book format provides more value to the reader than a series of posts that were published incrementally.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

By far the most difficult aspect of writing the book was final editing. I sailed through the initial planning and writing stages. I stayed in an “almost done” stage for at least 6 weeks. Just like software development, the more times I looked at the book the more I found that I could add. I had to put some pretty strict prioritization methods in place to keep myself from adding content that took away from the main flow of the book or didn’t really add to the book.

Moreover, once you’ve read and rewritten the same section multiple times, you can tire of your own writing. I put the book aside for a week at a time at least twice just to give myself the opportunity to come back with a fresh perspective. I was lucky to have you and Doug Goldberg take a pass through a final draft and find latent typos.

Which aspect of the book are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the section on accumulating BA experiences. I really tried to think outside the box for how people can gain business analyst experiences. I get emails all the time from people who are getting more education but have never worked in a business, but everyone I interviewed came into the BA profession with related experience while they were working professionals. You always can (and should) keep learning. But at some point you have to start applying your learning or you are not really moving forward. I tried to be broad enough with the ideas to make it possible for someone to accumulate relevant experience in nearly any work situation.

What are some things you’ve learned about becoming a business analyst by delving into detailed research of the topic?

I learned that there are multiple views of the BA fundamentals. While the IIBA® has defined the superset of BA knowledge in the BABOK Guide® there’s not a common understanding of what an entry-level professional needs to know. As a result, most people try to learn it all. In reality, there are some things you need to know to get started and some things that make a lot more sense once you’ve worked through a few projects.

Jumping ahead 5 years – what would you like to be able to look back and say about How to Start a Business Analyst Career?

I hope to look back and be able to say I helped at least a few people fine tune their paths and become successful business analysts. Hopefully this is what they love doing and they have now found their own way to give back to the profession as well. This is what it’s all about.

Anything else you’d like to share or any words of wisdom for Practical Analyst readers?

If you think you want to be a business analyst, just get out there and try it out. Our profession is made up of change agents. If you want to lead changes in organizations, you’d better be able to lead your own professional changes.

We no longer live in a society where employers take responsibility for us. That reality changed a long time ago. I think we all understand that from a job security perspective, but not from a professional development perspective. What it means is that no matter what you do or who you work for, you are responsible for your own professional development. No one is going to lead you down a specific path and crown you accomplished. If you are lucky, your employer will pay for some training and if you are really lucky you’ll find a mentor or a coach who will help you and inspire you.

Thanks Laura, for the interesting dialog and for the time and energy that resulted in How to Start a Business Analyst Career. I think it’s a great debut, and a nice contribution to the BA body of literature. I have quite a number of readers contact me about information on becoming a BA, too, and  I’ll be glad to be able to point them toward your book going forward.

Additional Information and Purchase Details

If you’re interested in learning more about How to Start Business Analyst Career, you can take a look at the information page which includes teasers, testimonials and, of course, a link to purchase and download the book at a special introductory price.

About the Author

Jonathan Babcock is a management and IT consultant with expertise in business analysis, process optimization and solution delivery methodology. Practical Analyst is his outlet for sharing what he’s learned, and for interacting with solution delivery professionals across the globe.

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