You have become a model-making machine, an expert in elicitation sessions, and a proficient PowerPointer. You communicate early and often with your project team members, and you’ve read Betsy Stockdale’s blog post on Professionalism 101. It might seem as though you’re ready to take the leap and start owning areas of a project by yourself. But are you?
In my previous post, I discussed some specific, actionable skills that business analysts who are just starting out their professional careers can work on in order to progress in their careers. In this post, I’ll deal with some of the more intangible aspects of making that jump to effective, seasoned business analyst.
It’s thrilling to see a new BA learn the skills necessary to start to take ownership of full areas of the project. To me, this means going from being able to research and solve a problem that’s given to them to being able to identify and solve the most important problem in the space they’re operating. Most folks starting out their careers begin by being task-focused, that is, they are given tasks and are charged with completing them accurately and on time. They learn skills like time management, how to research and find answers to their own questions, and how to work efficiently.
Once these skills are in place, the next step is for them to expand their view of the project. What’s coming up next? What areas of the project are in trouble, and which are relatively healthy? If you have some “down time,” how can you be effective and start getting ahead? Once a new employee is able to answer these questions by themselves and generate helpful suggestions, they are well on their way to becoming a seasoned vet.
Of course, developing this ability takes experience and diligent observation. However, I try to tell my mentees that any newbie can start practicing these skills from Day 1. Thinking about their own projects, what might they say are the most important next steps? They can perform the mental exercise of answering that question to themselves and see how closely they align with what their more experienced project lead says. I would encourage them all to offer their thoughts and their rationale without fear of being shot down by their project leads. At worst, you might be wrong, but at least your project lead can explain why, and you can learn from it. At best, you might have pointed out something that your project lead hasn’t seen or didn’t know about, and you might end up influencing the direction of the project for the better. It’s been exciting to watch my mentees make that transition and even start to take on portions of the project themselves.
What advice would you offer to a new employee just starting out their career as a BA?