Can I get a job as a business analyst in NZ by undertaking a course or certification?

by Mindi Clews on 05/04/2016 10:00

Himanshu Jaisal recently asked us a question of this nature via our Ask us your IT questions and we’ll respond page. The business analyst role can be a popular way to move into IT projects and we receive questions like this fairly regularly. So Brendon Livingstone and I recorded a quick 12 minute Blab to answer this question which you can watch below. A transcription of the Blab is also included. If you have an IT question that you would like to ask, please submit this in our Ask us your IT questions and we’ll respond page.

You may also wish to read this article by Equinox IT’s Jasmin Wilkins How do you start a business analyst career in New Zealand?, which is referenced during the Blab discussion.

Brendon: So good afternoon. My name is Brendon Livingstone from Equinox IT. I'm the marketing communications manager there, and Mindi is going to introduce herself.

Mindi: Hi, my name is Mindi Clews, and I'm the manager of Learning Services here at Equinox IT.

Brendon: And today we're just going to cover a couple of questions that we sometimes get around the training activity, the IT training activity that we do. So I'm going to launch into the first question, which is, "Can I get a job as a business analyst by undertaking a course or a certification?" And before I hand over to Mindi, to get her thoughts on that, I will just give a bit of context. So we actually received this question from Himanshu Jaisal, and on the Equinox IT website we've got a page where you can ask your IT questions and we'll respond, and he's filled that in. Himanshu is working in New Zealand. He has six years’ experience in sales and marketing and a background in engineering and computers. He's looking to move into a business analyst or project manager role and asked whether certain courses or certifications would help. And so, let's get your thoughts on that, Mindi.

Mindi: Well, that can certainly help. A course or certification can certainly help you get a job as a business analyst, but it's absolutely no guarantee. I think at the market that we're in here in New Zealand, your skills and experience and, probably more importantly, your knowledge of the business domain in which you'll be working are more likely to put you on the top of the candidate list. And when I say your knowledge of the business domain, often business analysts grow their breadth of knowledge by working in an insurance company or in a bank in an analyst role, so your domain experience is often what will set you apart when you're applying for a role as a business analyst.

Brendon: Okay. So some of the thoughts I had on this, so I guess at a very high level there's a lot of talk around IT shortage, skill shortage, globally and in New Zealand and that is absolutely the case. But my thoughts were for starting a career, there's no real silver bullet and some kind of lucky things need to come together generally to get the start. And so what my thinking was instead of...so yeah, absolutely certification or course may help. It probably shows that you've shown a bit of initiative, but it might not be the very first step that I'd undertake. And the first thing that I'd think I'd look at is understand a bit about the market at the given time. So in a tight employment market then I wouldn't have thought that just doing a course or a certification would be the make or break factor in getting a role and it may not be enough. In a buoyant employment market, it might show some initiative and it might help.

When I say understand the market, look at the kind of roles that are being advertised and see what people are generally looking for, talk to recruitment agencies, and understand a bit about what their clients are asking for in terms of fulfilling the roles. And Mindi, you probably know more about this than me, but my assumption would be that employers are generally looking at the whole package, and your certifications, or your qualifications or the courses you've done, is just one element of that whole package.

And in terms of a business analyst, the types of things that they're also be looking for is communications skills. Obviously, that's an important part of a business analyst role, and when you look at say, for example, Himanshu, so he's got six years’ experience in sales and marketing which is also the types of roles have strong emphasis on communications so that could be a helping factor. Analytical skills, clearly, is an important part for being a business analyst, and again, for Himanshu, he has some background in engineering for computers, so I'm assuming that his mind does work in a slightly more analytical way.

I think project experience is probably quite a big one, and even if it's not project experience as a business analyst, having been there...and you know, one of the things I was going to talk about and, you know, Mindi and I, we're no longer in business analyst roles, but we have both worked as business analysts in the past. When I moved into being a business analyst, the way that it happened was I was working on a project, actually quite a sizeable project, and I was a training type person. The business analysis team had a shortage and I needed to help out for a little while. And turned out I was reasonably good at it and the people that I was working with wanted me to stay in that role.

So, having that project experience and being in that environment, I think, can be a contributing factor. Team player, easy to work with, evidence of results, and if you have some business analyst experience already in there, that will help. And so, I guess we're almost instead of focusing the question just on course or certification, it seems to me that it's probably more about a full score card for a person, and then it depends on who else is in the market looking for jobs and how you measure up on that score card against those types of things with others.

Mindi: And to add to that list, I'd say curiosity about how things work, why things are the way they are, and a determination to be constantly learning or constantly evolving. I think those are core attributes of a business analyst. And like you said, Brendon, you and I both moved into BA roles from being the main experts in the businesses that we were in, and being invited to participate in projects and proving ourselves. So, for anyone looking to make a career move into a BA role, my advice would be, start in the place that you're in and look for opportunities to participate on projects to improve or change or adapt the processes and tools that are already around you. Prove yourself, and that way gain some skills and experience informally on the job, and then look to formalising your skills and experience with a course or a certification or a collection of courses.

Brendon: Yeah. One of the things that Mindi and I briefly discussed earlier was the IIBA, the International Institute of Business Analysis, and I don't know whether, Mindi, you wanted to talk a little bit more on that.

Mindi: Yeah, absolutely. So if you are looking to learn more about the role of a business analyst and the skills and tools and techniques of business analysis, I think a fantastic place to start is with some self-directed learning. And I can't recommend enough the resource that the IIBA, International Institute of Business Analysis, provides in the form of a BA, or Business Analysis Body of Knowledge commonly known as the BABOK. Now, subscribing to the IIBA does come at a cost and it's well worth it for access to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge which will outline the competencies, the tools and techniques of analysis. And in that way you can build your knowledge, even though you might not be building your skills on the job.

The IIBA is also a provider of the two most common business analysis certifications that we see here in New Zealand, the CCBA and CBAP. One thing to be aware of, though, is that IIBA is changing its certification program this year, and they will be relaunching a new program in September, October, as what the news is in relation to this. So I expect that the services they provide around self-directed learning, around assessment and official certification, will change significantly towards the end of this year, perhaps early next year, and that it will be more resources available to people who want to study, to train, and to accredit themselves against the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge as a framework.

Brendon: There's an interesting point there that both the CBAP and CCBA both require experience for you to actually hold those certifications or take a criteria to be awarded those certifications. So, they're not the type of certification that a person looking to enter the BA role could pick up. You need for one of them, I think CBAP, you need kind of five, roughly five years, I think it's done more in hours isn't it, but that I think it kind of requires the five years of experience, and the CCBA is less and I'm not sure quite now what the criteria is there.

Mindi: I think it's 500 hours, from memory. There is an interesting option emerging in the New Zealand market through the recently created ICT graduate schools that are coming online now in Auckland and Wellington, soon to be online Christchurch. So there is a post graduate qualification and business systems analysis that you can do through the ICT graduate schools, and that would be one formal learning pathway that if you were successful in passing that, you'd receive a certification in business analysis that wasn't experience based.

Like I said, it's a post grad program, so you would need to have a university degree behind you in order to participate in there. And those programs begin, the majority of those programs begin in July this year.

Brendon: Okay. The other thing I was going to say just before we moved on too much from the IIBA, in addition to the BABOK, is that they run regular events so there's an also useful opportunity to network and meet people who are already working in business analyst roles, potentially might be business analysis team leaders, and so building that network may also be a useful way to just kind of just immerse yourself in that community and try and kind of work your way into a role.

Mindi: And when you are looking for training courses to attend, then their are training, providers like Equinox IT, who's courses are certified or accrediting into the IIBA's framework, which means that participating in those will earn you credits towards your IIBA certification. That information about the courses at Equinox IT has that are accredited against that framework is available on their website.

Brendon: So the last point I was going to make is that we did a couple of months ago, one of our senior consultants, Jasmin Wilkins, put together a blog post which the title is How do you start a business analyst career in New Zealand?, and it's also got a number of useful points. And so, when we complete this video, and this video will go up on our blog post, and I'll put a link to that to the article in there and that could be quite a useful next step in terms of some ideas as well.

Recorded webinar: The IT professional - an unexpected journey

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