Career Change: Becoming a Business Analyst with Sophie Chen
Sophie is one of our biggest supporters at NextWork and took our Salesforce Admin course at the end of 2021. Sophie is an active member the BA industry. She built a good reputation and influence through her hard work and strategic approach.
Leaving a Safe Career to Become a Business Analyst
When Sophie arrived in New Zealand from China, she found herself in a pretty good situation. She quickly landed a job in Sales, earned a good salary and had a place to go to work every day.
However, she felt that she had reached her ceiling. The company she worked at was quite small and not growing, meaning there were limited opportunities to progress her salary or earn a promotion. While stability in life can be nice, for Sophie, she needed a career that offered her so much more.
“Life with some level of certainties is good, but too much would be a chronic kill of passion and creativity. I was only in my early 30s. I wanted a more exciting and fulfilling career.”
The tech industry in New Zealand pays well and is great when it comes to flexible working. While becoming a developer would require her to start from scratch, Sophie wanted something where she could leverage her existing experience. But how do you find out what career is right for you?
Sophie did these 4 things to help her figure out her next career move:
- Understand her own strengths, interests and needs
- Search online for career options
- Talk to friends for potential directions
- Analyse the information she collected
The answer was obvious: pursuing a career as a Business Analyst (BA).
The Journey to Becoming a BA
Sophie took the Master’s Programme of Business Analysis with Victoria University in July 2020. It's a 15-month program, but Sophie found it valuable to start looking for a job before her final trimester. The Master’s Programme taught her everything about working as a BA, from practical skills, industry insights, working in a team and working on real-world projects.
By leveraging the network that she built through her studies and the project experience gained from the programme, Sophie successfully landed her first full-time BA role with NZX.
Recently, Sophie’s BA Career Group put on a webinar where two experienced BAs shared their tips for breaking into the industry. Read more about the learnings from this event here.
Finding a Niche as a BA
A BA can be quite a broad role, so what advice does Sophie have for finding a niche?
Well, for Sophie, this can be answered with a typical BA approach. It starts with analysing your current state, your desired future state, and the gap in-between.
Start with mapping out your existing skills and knowledge. It could be specific skills related to a role or domain knowledge of an industry. You can use the SFIA framework to evaluate your own skills and levels against a certain industry or role. While a SWOT analysis is typically used to assess a business, you can also use it to document your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and external threats.
Next, have clarity on your goal. Sophie recommends you ask yourself these questions:
- How do you envision yourself in five years?
- What industry do you want to work in?
- What technology do you want to learn or what skills do you want to develop?
Lastly, identify the gaps between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Then work backwards and make an action plan. You should take full ownership of your career development and leverage all available resources to achieve your goals.
Learning Salesforce for BAs
Sophie took our Salesforce Admin course where she got certified as a Salesforce Admin and worked on a real-world project. Learning Salesforce helped Sophie crack into more technical BA roles. The Salesforce Admin certification is evidence of Sophie’s technological competence.
“I can use my Salesforce skills as an example to show my manager and interviewer that I’m technology savvy.”
Having Salesforce skills allows her to show her manager and interviewer that she’s technologically savvy too as a BA.
The 4 ways that learning Salesforce has helped Sophie in her BA career are:
- Giving her the confidence to learn a complex technology in a short amount of time
- Developing transferable skills that she can apply to her current DevOps related project
- Making her CV look stronger and more attractive to hiring managers
- Forming great connections within the community, which expands her professional networking
Technical Skills vs Soft Skills
Being a BA means having both a technical skillset and soft skills, but how do you strike the right balance between the two? Sophie’s advice is to, once again, understand who you really are.
“It all depends on what skills you have and who you want to be”
it depends on what skills you have, and who you want to be. For Sophie personally, she found a 40/60 split between technical skills and soft skills to be right for her, since she’s currently working on a technical project in the DevOps area.
However, Sophie says that soft skills can really differentiate between a good BA and an outstanding BA. Therefore, she invests heavily in developing her leadership and communication skills, making a step up to a management position in the future easier.
Sophie’s story is just beginning, and she has so many more aspirations! If you want to connect with Sophie, you can find her on LinkedIn or join her BA Career Meetup Group where you can find events related to a BA career.