Working in Business Analysis: What is it really like?
With Business Analysts (BAs) being one of the most in-demand jobs of 2019, it’s no surprise that the number of BA vacancies have boomed. Initiatives like the Apprenticeship Levy have enabled employers to look towards hiring emerging talent into these roles. Unfortunately for young people, Business Analysis is rarely being discussed at school as a viable career path, so they often overlook it as an option.
Vicky Luke is a Business Analyst at the University of Manchester, where she’s currently recruiting for her next two Apprentice Business Analysts. AVADO spoke with her to find out what a career in Business Analysis is really like, and why more young people should consider it as a career.
How did you get into the tech industry?
When I came out of university, I didn’t know what career I wanted. I began in an administrative role for an insurance company, progressing through to become a subject matter expert and then a Project Analyst in their IT department. After being with the business for 7 years, I decided to move into a Business Analyst role with the University of Manchester. The uni sounded like a fab place to work, and I’ve now been here for nearly 5 years!
What’s the favourite part of your job?
I think my favourite part of being a Business Analyst is the variety of projects I get to work on. From implementing new software at one of our cultural institutions to regulatory projects like GDPR, every day is something new.
The university’s a big place, and within the IT team you have a range of roles. There’s plenty of opportunities to get exposure to different IT disciplines, like project management or web development.
With the tech industry being under the spotlight for its lack of diversity, have you experienced that as a business analyst?
In my career, I’ve always been surrounded by women – including at senior management level. And while the more technical side of the industry may still have gender imbalances, I’ve found that business analysis side has always been fairly equal.
I believe what makes Business Analysis an accessible career is the balance of the roles requiring soft and technical skills. People entering the industry aren’t expected to have the technical knowledge yet, as they’ll learn it on the job. While I’m part of the IT team, my role as an analyst isn’t technical. When I do have a technical project, it comes with the challenges of working with people that speak a lot of jargon. However the key is to ask lots of questions; there really is no such thing as a stupid question! Young people coming into the Business Analyst role need to not be afraid to ask, as it’s the only way you’ll learn.
We’re always encouraging our apprentices to ask questions, and if they don’t feel comfortable, then they write it down and we go through it another time.
Are there any misconceptions around working in business analysis?
The main misconception is that you have to be technical. While there are plenty of roles that require a high level of technical knowledge – there are loads that don’t. Business Analysis is a role where you bridge the gap between business stakeholders and the technical team, so you need to be able to speak a bit of both languages.
However, you’re expected to develop your technical knowledge on the job and it’s not a prerequisite. What we look for in an analyst is someone that can demonstrate excellent people skills and that they’ve got a desire to learn.
Any tips for people not sure about applying for a BA role?
As Business Analysis isn’t a career that’s taught in school, you may be unsure about applying for roles. However, it’s important to challenge yourself, especially if it is an area you think you’d enjoy. Do lots of research and hear from other analysts about what it’s like working in the industry. Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward for a vacancy where you don’t tick all the boxes. Especially in Business Analysis, soft skills and people skills are just as important as the knowledge of techniques.
What can a University of Manchester Business Analyst apprentice expect to do?
At the start you’ll be shadowing the other analysts and attending workshops to grow your knowledge of the discipline. If you’re comfortable, you could even begin contributing or facilitating the workshops. You’ll also be supporting the lead Business Analyst with eliciting requirements from senior stakeholders, then documenting and validating them back. In your role, you’ll have lots of contact with business stakeholders which include going to meetings, workshops and producing documentation.
Why would you recommend the University of Manchester as a place to start your BA career?
The university is a very nurturing environment. The Business Analysis team is very supportive and we’ve got a great team spirit, and there’s a lot of scope for development. As we’re a university, we’re all about learning and we offer all of our employees opportunities to gain new skills. We’re all like-minded people, and everyone’s working towards a common goal.
Apprentices can expect to get involved with projects like carrying out research for IT or supporting the development of new university buildings. The university has a strong sense of social responsibility, and it’s a great place to work. There’s a real buzz and you feel like you’re part of something special.
A huge benefit of starting your Business Analysis career through our apprenticeship programme is the level of support you receive. You aren’t left to your own devices, we work hard to support you to complete your apprenticeship successfully. If our apprentices have an area they’re not quite comfortable in, we have lots of online learning available for them to up-skill themselves. We respect the time you need to spend on your apprenticeship work and support you with assigning that time effectively.
How do I apply?
The University of Manchester are looking for two Apprentice Business Analysts to join them this September. All they’re looking for are candidates who are passionate about having a career in Business Analysis. Recruitment will be based on the candidates’ ability to demonstrate aptitude to carry out the skills listed in the job description and not necessarily, dependent on direct experience.