I'm a firm believer that the demand for quality business analysts will continue to rise as more companies focus on data. There has never been a better time to start a career as a business analyst. The demand is at insane levels and continues to rise.
In this post I'm going to answer the question, how to become a business analyst.
There are 4 steps to build a career as a senior business analyst and I'm going to walk you through each of them.
In this post you'll learn the following:
I led a team of 5 business analysts at my previous company. Each of my analysts had to navigate a challenging and stressful environment. Not everyone is suited for the role and before you decide to invest years of your life on this career path, you need to decide if it is for you.
A business analyst needs to be strong in a number of areas. These areas include:
A business analyst needs to be a natural problem solver and highly technical. This doesn't mean you need to necessarily study a technical degree (even though that would help tremendously), but it does mean that you need to be comfortable in technical environments.
I studied business administration but was teaching myself how to code before my degree. You can get away with not having a technical degree if you're willing to put in the work. Below are a list of highly technical skills I developed through self teaching. If I can do it so can you.
Now that you've determined that you're the right fit for the job you need to understand the exact responsibilities of the role.
The exact responsibilities of a business analyst will change depending on the company but in a nutshell a business analyst will be responsible providing the following services:
If I had to sum up the responsibilities of a business analyst in a single sentence it would be; "A business analyst is responsible for helping the company improve its' performance". A business analyst is essentially a data-driven consultant that works full-time for the company.
As a business analyst you'll be running around like a chicken without its head. As you show people that you can help them do their jobs better (data becomes a valuable resource), the higher the demand for your time will become.
One of the toughest parts of the job is disconnecting your emotions from the day-to-day. As a business analyst you'll have incredible power since you'll know what's working and what's not working. This includes who is doing their job and who is failing.
I remember being asked by my manager to provide him with a list of employees that the company should fire. I had to forget that the people on my list were my friends and rely on the data to tell the story.
If you want to be a business analyst you'll need to get an undergraduate degree. The best degrees for someone that wants to build a career as a business analyst are:
I wrote earlier in this post that I studied business. The reason business is not in this list is because a typical business degree is not going to give you enough technical and problem solving skills. I only studied business because I failed to get into the computer science degree so I consider myself an outlier when it comes to my career path and my studies.
If you really don't want to do one of the degrees I've listed above but want a career as an analyst then just accept that you'll need to do a ton of work on your own to improve your technical and math skills.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that by simply finishing your degree you'll get a job. I'll tell you a little secret. As a hiring manager the degree the candidate has holds very little weight. I see the degree as table stakes. You either have one of the degrees I've listed, and then you move forward, or you don't, and your chances drop significantly.
Once I see that the candidate has the right education I focus on past experience. You want to do everything you can to get some runs on the board (and preferably with the right team). Try and get an internship or part time job with a startup and use your free time to learn some of the skills I listed earlier in this post.
Udemy, YouTube and blogs are great resources that you can use.
It is critical that keywords like SQL, Tableau / PowerBI, Google Analytics, etc appear on your resume. I had to learn all of the main tools on my own but hopefully part of your degree included introducing you to technologies like SQL and Tableau.
If you've made it this far, congrats, you're close to becoming a business analyst.
The next step is to start applying for a job at the right companies. Don't make the mistake of just sending out your resume to as many companies as you can. You'll get a few interviews and be tempted to take the first offer you get.
You want to be strategic about it. Your goal at this point is to get a job at a data-driven company. If you have some luck on your side you'll be paired up with an awesome manager who can help you grow quickly. The difference between being in the right company vs. the wrong company is massive. I've come across dozens of senior analysts which have the years behind them but lack basic skills because they were stuck in environments which didn't challenge them. Don't make this mistake.
Do your homework and short list the top 20 - 50 companies in your city in the three industries which catch your eye. Speak to your friends that are working to improve your list.
You want to look for companies which are clearly data-driven. Below are some ideas on how to determine if a company is data driven:
Now that you've got your list, start sending out your resume. Now go and read my post on how to prepare for a business analyst interview.
Congrats, you just got your first job as a business analyst. Once you've finished celebrating take out a pen and paper and start writing your 6 and 12 month goals.
You don't want to be a drone going from one day to the next. You want to work towards specific goals. Goals that will help you build an incredible career as a business analyst.
For the 6 month goals I'd recommend the following:
For the 12 month goals I'd recommend the following:
To become a business analyst takes years of hard, focused work. The process I've mapped out in this post has 4 parts. First you need to decide if you really want to be a business analyst and if it suits you.
Next you need to start learning the skills needed to provide value as a business analyst. Getting a technical degree is the best way to check off this box but it's not the only path that's available to you. Once you've started the degree you'll need to start filling up the resume with work experience and skills, most of which you'll need to learn on your own.
Once the degree is behind you it's time to start looking for the right company which can help you grow into a senior business analyst. I've listed a few useful tips to find the right companies. You'll need to be strategic and patient. You'll need to take an unconventional approach to finding a job so you'll end up with the right fit.
Lastly you'll want to set goals for yourself and work really hard to achieve them. You'll start out as a junior analyst with limited skills and experience but if you work hard and are in a good environment 12 months is all you'll need to make the jump.