Change of worlds

It was the final year in University. Last three years had been all about learning, facing examinations, travelling, enjoying life with friends. But then slowly that life was coming to an end. “Where to next?” was a question that had been hidden all the past years and it suddenly started to surface. As a fresh graduate with a couple of internships in the CV, there I was looking for jobs. One uncertainty I had was where I should fit in exactly. If you are following your bachelors in Medical science, you are focused on becoming a medical doctor.But my degree covered so many aspects I ended up being even more confused where I’d truly belong to. There were arguments inside my head.I told to my self “I don’t fully belong anywhere. No one would want me in. I wish I did something more specific”. Little did I know back then.

With all these internal monologues going on in my mind I was going through interviews, looking at different company profiles and job roles and just after eight days from the last day of 4th-year examinations I was employed. The confused fresh graduate suddenly became a professional and worlds changed for me. I was searching and trying to figure out who I was (I am still doing that). On top of it, a whole new world of professionalism opened.

I remember myself on my first day at work. There I was walking down a crowded hall across a sea of new faces and names which I barely remembered since it was information overload for me that day. I was freaking out inside. These are the memories that I had from the first day of my work as a Business analyst. Time passed, I was more familiar with people and work, and supportive work environment eased me a lot. But the journey wasn’t smooth and didn’t happen overnight. I remember myself struggling a lot. Now it’s almost two years since I started my journey and looking back there are things that I wish I knew and should have done better back then when I started my career as a business analyst.

1. You are in for a sudden expansion of knowledge

When you are in school, you are told to study hard and enter a university. Or follow a suitable professional qualification and that’s all the effort that is needed to be happy in life.

Then you study hard imagining all of this pain, late night studying will be over when you enter a university and then you are sorted. But when you enter university it’s another different learning environment and the process of learning continues. All the teachers in school and classes had apparently been lying. Something I know now is that; you are never sorted or saturated with knowledge if you are doing a job that involves thinking analysing and problem-solving.

When you enter professional world as a knowledge worker, the game changes drastically, and it’s not all about learning. All this time a teacher, a lecturer would spoon feed you with something where you’d memorise or analyse to write exams. This pattern changes unimaginably if you pursue your career as a business analyst.

The most integral part of grasping all this knowledge would be in how you apply them on hand to solve a real-life problem of someone you have not seen or talked. This is not something which we practiced anywhere before

You will be in for a whole lot of new terms technologies functional flows, business processes and it’s not about memorising them word by word. The learning pattern changes drastically so as the expectation of the education. This was something that should be understood clearly.

2. It’s all about connecting the dots

This is something which had me confused and disappointed for a while, and I struggle even now. Sometimes problems that you are faced with spread far and wide. If you have limited knowledge in the domain of the problem the actual cause of the problem will be there unseen.

As someone amateur, it’s difficult to see this complete picture where the interconnections will be unnoticed and a higher probability that your conclusions are wrong.

Then you start feeling incompetent because you always miss things out. But seeing the connections when solving something complex is not something that is achieved within a day. This was something one of the most senior business analysts once told me: “This is something with is sharpened with time as you collect more experience with time.” It is quite normal, failing to see all the roots of the problem as every issue brings a lot of learning to you.

3. Keep notes in a way you could refer

I enjoy writing, and I write a lot. Even when it comes to work, I tend to keep a lot of notes. I remember one colleague, noticing that I wrote a lot, jokingly asking “Are you writing a book titled Purchase order for dummies?”. He had a valid point. I indeed was writing a lot. What I did wrong was I was writing down everything. I was so overwhelmed by the massive inflow of knowledge I just scribbled everything. And looking back none of those notes made sense. It’s like I copied the help text entirely.

You should not feel overwhelmed by what’s in front of you. I wish I kept notes in a short and more meaningful way and in a way that I could refer back.

There will be many tiny things, many complexities that you come across when going through a cycle of fixing a system bug or creating a new functionality. Maybe some basic data that you had missed and your colleague had helped you in figuring out. It’s those tiny things that you are bound to forget or miss out when you do the same thing, which you should keep notes and not the entire help doc as I did before.

4. Requirement- what to do?how to do? when to do?

Decision making is hard. Not just in work in life as well. In the life, a business analyst the trickiest part (from the understanding that I have up to now) is to decide if the customer request is valid or not. This decision is something which is not that straightforward. For me in most cases when I look at a requirement at once seemed something that we should do. But it might not be viable functionally, or there could be technical limitations. Assessing the requirement simply by looking at the description given and deciding is an art, and I’m learning it myself.

The most important factor to consider when deciding on whether to go ahead with a requirement or not is the business value that would be delivered through the fulfilment of that particular requirement.

Also, if there are time limitations or within a given time frame if the product is focusing on a different set of priorities, then there will be instances where a decision will be made to skip a requirement although a requirement seems valid. There will always be members of your team and in the upper hierarchy to guide you through in this kind of situations. We as business analysts have the power to influence those decisions by doing a comprehensive analysis from our end but just because we feel that there is an actual requirement to be fulfilled, it will not always be done at the end of the day.

5. Bridging the gap is not easy

I remember during interviews I was asked the question: “who is a business analyst?”. I remember my self promptly answering “the person who bridges the gap between customer and Software engineer”.

it is easier said than done. Customers would want the sun and the moon. They’d have all the needs in the world to be fulfilled through a machine working with 1s and 0s.

Technically and functionally some of them could be possible and some might not. If you say no there could be a very dissatisfied customer. If you say yes and pass all of that to the Software engineer, they might get back saying most of the requirement is not feasible due to limitations or the requirement is not practical.

There will be a lot of discussions thinking and that would re-shape the requirement into something really different than what it was initially. There is always a trade-off at some point. Sometimes explanations given which are too technical for the customers to be understood should be explained in laymen terms after understanding by business analyst first. Then there will be the Chinese whisper effect as well. What we hear, what we grasp or process and what we pass on could be having a gap as well. These are only a few of the challenges that you’d face when bridging the gap.

As Business analysts, we get to hear about new problems, new solutions, and new workarounds every day. I remember feeling happy the first day I wrote an answer explaining why the system is behaving the way it is (I remember getting a lot of help to formulate it) and the happiness I felt the first time I identified and fixed an issue and how I felt when I added a small field to a huge system having millions of fields. Every day is new learning and there are good and bad days and this is indeed not easy. But it makes me happy and that’s what it matters.

Yes, the worlds changed for me, and I’m still in the process of getting used to the change of the worlds. I’m no expert myself and this article pretty much summed up what was going through my mind last year. This is to all the future business analysts or any fresh graduate who is as confused as I was. Hope this will be of help to you.

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A business analyst by profession and passionate about building good software products.

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Randima Thilakarathna

Randima Thilakarathna

A business analyst by profession and passionate about building good software products.

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