A complete shock
10 years ago, something ridiculous happened to me. I found out I was pregnant.
At this point, I’d been with my partner for 2 years, we were planning a wedding, but essentially living the party lifestyle. We both had jobs, a wide circle of friends and an active an varied life that just happened to involve lots of parties and catch-ups and barbecues. We were certainly not planning to have a baby, especially RIGHT NOW, and were a bit traumatized at the situation.
A changed life
To cut a long story short, having our son was the best thing we could have ever done. Having a baby forced us to do things wayyyy differently than we had planned.
– We decided to get married right away rather than wait the year we had originally planned. We brought the date forward 6 months, booked the first venue we found (in the city that his parents lived in) and had a amazing, no-time-to-stress wedding.
– We decided to move to the city we got married in because we wanted to buy a house and have a family orientated lifestyle, which was a LOT harder in the huge city we were living in at the time
– David had to retrain in a different field because there was NO WORK AT ALL in his industry. His years of experience at being an awesome sound engineer in the best studio in the country didn’t count at all.
– I gave up my awesome job and prepared to be an at-home mom for the first year or 2 of our son’s life. That only lasted 6 months – when he turned 8 months, I went to work in yet another role in software support – something I had done for the last 7 years in various capacities.
Some of this was good, and some of it was not so good, but the sum total of all these changes meant that we went mentally from being good-time party animals to responsible parents in just over a year. And THAT was an amazing thing to happen.
Learning to be a responsible adult
When I started work again, I resolved to focus on my work and career rather than treat it as a necessary evil that paid for my social life. I started actively figuring out how I could be a better employee, and what I needed if wanted to move to the next rung of the ladder. I researched tools and techniques and courses, and read stuff online. And incredibly, I struck lucky. Within a few months, I moved from my entry level position to a team leadish role.
But I wanted more. Now that I was reading stuff and learning new concepts and ideas, I wanted to do more. I put a little bit of thought into what someone with my skills and interests (and technical limitations!) could do. And at some point I decided – I’d make a kick-ass BA.
What I thought makes a good BA
– Knowing a little about the domain
– Knowing a little more about how our customers use the product
– Knowing a lot about the product
I’ll talk about how that worked out for me in a future post. Right now, I want to talk a bit more about what I did next.
How I got into the BA role
I was lucky to work in a company where there were loads of opportunities for staff to mingle, like end of month drinks or staff starting & leaving morning teas. I used this time to chat to people who were BAs to figure out what each of them did, what they liked about their role and what they thought would be useful skills for a new BA to have. I talked to the BA and development managers to understand what they would expect a BA to do and what they would look for if they were hiring someone for the role.
I went online and looked at similar jobs, and found books at the library that might help. This was a while ago and there weren’t quite as many resources online as there are today, and to be honest I didn’t have enough context or knowledge to fully understand a lot of what I was reading.
Once I was confident enough that I was a decent match for some of this stuff, I made sure I expressed my interest in learning to be a BA to people in the area. I got a few tips on what to do next, and made sure I followed up on these.
– I started reading legislation and policy documents relevant to our domain which was a key component of the role.
– I learned how to do BPMN and workflow diagrams.
– As our BAs started working on requirements for new features, I volunteered to be the customer / support liaison to help them figure out which customers were stakeholders and what current processes looked like.
– I offered to review requirements documents from a support perspective – which helped me learn heaps about how to write requirements. I was extra lucky because there were four BAs in the team with different styles, so I had different styles and perspectives to learn from.
TL;DR – I learned what people wanted from the BA role, tried to learn those skills and made it visible that I was trying.
IT PAID OFF!
I’d done a decent amount of groundwork, and I was lucky that a BA role came up internally. I applied so fast for the role, I probably broke the sound barrier. But another essential part of the process was buy-in from my manager and the heads of the 2 different areas, because internal moves mean figuring out back-filling roles. I was so lucky to have enormous support from everyone involved, including being able to start the BA role part time for the first couple of months.
Another thing to consider was salary. A junior BA role didn’t pay much more than a senior support role, and perhaps even less once you included performance bonuses. This one took a little negotiation and long term thinking, but it was sooo worth it for me. I do wonder what the situation would have been like if I’d been a developer moving sideways though – probably a lot harder.
Finally, I was super, super lucky to work for a company that believed in retaining and promoting staff internally. This is probably the single most important factor that allowed me to make the role change. So if this is a change you are intending to make, this is probably the first thing you want to think about when you are starting out!