Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
I am Jessie Lee Perez, a complex and diverse woman with a passion for helping others grow to reach their potential. I’m an internationally certified business analyst, a certified expert on the human temperament, and a published author on these topics.
What does your job involve? What happens on a typical day on set (or off of it)?
As a business analyst (BA), my job is to bridge the gap between business needs and technical teams that can build solutions to meet those needs. If you think about all your favourite phone apps, each one of these was an idea and need from a business and built by developers on a technology team.
It’s the ability to understand how to ask questions that get true answers, and how to listen that make up most of what a business analyst does. In addition, the outcome of these conversations get turned into documentation called “requirements”. Business analysts may also draw up workflow models or pictures of ideas of what a solution might look like, called “mockups”.
Then the business analyst works with the developers so they can build a product that the business needs, often resulting in an application (or app).
What’s great about what you do?
Being a business analyst can be great for so many reasons. Of course, there’s the potential for travel – I’ve loved that in a couple of my roles. It’s also nice to have a job title that people seem to automatically respect, even though most people have no idea what the role actually does. I love that I get to help solve problems, lead businesses toward answers through a set of questions. It kind of feels like being a treasure hunter sometimes, scouting out the truth and answers.
There’s also a lot of flexibility in the role. While every company is different, some let you work from home or remote part or most of the time. Some pay you to travel. Some have you work in the office but offer other benefits. I’ve worked for several that have in-office gyms.
And, of course, the ability to stick within the same industry if you like routine or find new positions in other industries if you prefer a change of scenery - all while keeping the same career. There are really few careers that can offer that level of flexibility.
What are the toughest parts of your job?
What is not so obvious until you are taught or have come face to face with the results is that businesses that have ideas, while they may understand what they want to do, most times they don’t understand why they need to do it.
This means that if an untrained business analyst meets with them and asks what they want to build, the business will tell the analyst what they want; the analyst will write it down, and the technology team will build that. Then, when the solution is built, it won’t work. It won’t solve the businesses true need.
That is because the business doesn’t usually know how to communicate what it wants, and the technology team builds whatever it understands from what’s written.
The business analyst’s job is to ask the right questions to help the business know what it really needs. Then the analyst can write those needs in a way that technology teams can build, in a way that really meets the need.
Sometimes this can be harder than other times, especially when business members keep changing their minds. That’s where understanding people’s temperaments can help. When we start to understand how other people think about things, we can work with them more easily.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
I’ve had the opportunity to work in many different industries as a business analyst, including healthcare, NASA and international logistics. The last-mentioned was the most exciting. I got to travel throughout Central America and the Caribbean Islands for work, staying in each location for one to two weeks. I was given a company credit card to eat at restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner while I travelled, and they booked me nice hotels. All of my off-hours were my time to enjoy those destinations. Such destinations included Guatemala, Honduras, St. Lucia, and Barbados, to name a few. It was an amazing way to spend my mid-20s as I got started in my career.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside of the arts?
In my upcoming book called ‘The Ways of a Business Analyst’, I talk about how I accidentally became a business analyst. My path was not a plan where one day I decided it might be a career is like to pursue. I happened across it through a customer service job where an opening within the company positioned me to step into the role as a partial business analyst, and then it grew from there.
Interestingly, many experienced business analysts I’ve talked to had similar paths; maybe not the same steps, but they accidentally find themselves into the role as a BA.
I had several other jobs before beginning as a business analyst in many different industries. But, once I became a business analyst, that continued as my job even as I crossed industries. I simply grew in skills and experience.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
Sometimes being taken seriously for my abilities in the male-dominated space of IT can be a bit of an uphill climb. There is plenty of room for female business analysts, and this is a role that actually has very equal pay and hiring for females, in some cases even favourable. When it comes to those crucial talks about IT direction that sometimes takes place in projects, making yourself a true seat at the table when the other IT roles in the room respect what you have to suggest takes time sometimes. I have found that the key to this is to learn before you speak, but once you’ve learned, speak with confidence, even when you are not directly asked for your opinion. In addition to this, which took time and practice for me to learn, is how to say what you mean in as few words as possible. When you are concise, please are more likely to listen.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry in recent times? If so, what?
One of the challenges we see in the BA industry today is that the general public is confused about what a business analyst does. For this reason, I’ve seen some colleges even offering courses on Business Analysis. Still, when you read the description, the course is really for business analytics - a similar name, but a very different function.
Businesses are also hiring for the position of business analyst. They could be looking for a range of duties, some within the business analyst scope and some with different duties altogether.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
I’d say, “do your work with excellence, and be kind. There is a plan at hand that is greater than you know”. Sometimes we can’t see how all the pieces fit together until we are looking back at it. Don’t quit.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in your field?
Becoming a business analyst is a very good career. Not only does it offer a lot of flexibility, but the pay is very good, especially as you become more experienced. Other jobs can give you some experience that can translate, but it’s all about how you word it on your resume. While a business analyst career doesn’t require a university degree, it is helpful in the hiring process to have one. A career as a business analyst can be a very rewarding and satisfying career.