In an interview with Head of People Operations Unicsoft Oleksii Laushkin, Dasha Zubakova talks about the nuances of the work of a business analyst, and shares her thoughts on how to become a BA — what competencies are important, where to study and how to change specialization.
– Dasha, tell me a little about yourself.
– I work as a business analyst at Unicsoft. My path to IT was long and difficult, I tried many professions. I worked in sales, as a teacher of English and German, a dance trainer, and a personal trainer in a fitness club. There were quite a few different areas. One of the interesting ones is working in the steel industry, which developed my skills in sales, business development and account management. The first year at Unicsoft, I was an account manager. This role made it possible to learn more about the IT world, how it lives and how everything is arranged here, as well as to understand what to do next.
– You have been with us for 3 years. Why did you choose our company, what impressed you?
– I remember everything as if it was yesterday. At that time, I was very actively searching, I went to interviews as if it was my work. There were about 30-40 interviews per month. I wanted to become a business analyst, but I was unsure where to start: go to QA, take courses, find a job as an account manager or even an office manager. There were many options.
According to the results of the interviews, only two companies remained for me – Unicsoft and one more. And here the decision was quite difficult. I really liked Unicsoft because of the way all stages of the interview went. It was clear, structured, understandable, there were no unanswered questions, no misunderstandings. I really liked the people who interacted with me. I had pleasant communication with each person.
The only thing I didn’t like at that time was the office, or rather the way to the office. It was in the city center. I understood that traffic jams were there every morning. For me, it was not a small blocker, but rather a minus. By the way, I even created a comparison table for each employer. When it is difficult to make a decision, it helps me. But what I liked was, of course, the schedule from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For me, as for the person who does not like to get up early, it was a great option.
In another company, everything was fine in the recruiting process, but they did not catch on, there was no feeling of “wow”.
However, the work was closer to my home, it was possible to get there by bike, a cool office and a lot of bonuses. This is how they attracted candidates. I had a choice: benefits or people. In the end, I realized that it is with the people at Unicsoft that I will be able to achieve what I want, and I will earn the perks myself.
– Or the company itself will grow up and provide all this, as it happened.
– Yes, benefits are good, but they are not a key factor in my development. When I passed the interview, a recruiter called the same day and said that Unicsoft was ready to make an offer. I immediately answered yes, because I had already made a clear decision in my head.
– Did you want to find a job specifically in IT?
– Yes, I considered IT, because my best friend works as a business analyst in an IT company. She told in detail about all the features of the work, recommended courses. I even did an internship at her company. The internship selection process lasted 4 months. It was very interesting and very difficult at the same time because of the lack of knowledge. To complete any task, I had to read a lot, figure it out, consult, check with a friend.
– It turns out that in order to become a business analyst, you basically need to be one already.
– Exactly. I was very upset when I went through all the stages and at the final stage they said that, unfortunately, I did not have enough knowledge to get into the internship.
Plus, they informed me that the selection process will be repeated in the summer, and I will be able to try again. But the summer internship was canceled and I had to look for other options.
– Everything that happened happened for the best.:)
– Talking about your role as an account manager, what did you like the most and what will you miss?
– I knew that this question would be asked, and I prepared. 🙂 In fact, I liked a lot of things, and I was transitioning into a new role with some pain, although I understood that this was my goal. The first is clients, establishing trustful relationships. And at such a level, when you are not just a person who the client sends requests to, and you process them, but when you build something bigger, you share personal moments. I am sure that we will continue to communicate with all my clients outside of projects. Therefore, customers are number one. By the way, I also like this in the role of a business analyst: you continue to work with clients, but at a deeper project level. You’re not just building relationships, you’re helping to create a product. There is even more interaction here. Back in account management, I liked that we went through many different training sessions on communications, cultural features, and conflict resolution. It was useful not only for work, but also came in handy in life. It is very cool that we studied together. As a result, you didn’t just come and go with what you know, you grew beyond yourself.
– Why did you decide to move into business analysis?
– In account management, I felt that I had reached the maximum height. I was able to resolve the most difficult conflict situations, to build a relationship of trust with the client. I can’t even imagine what could happen that I would take as a challenge. And in the role of a business analyst, on the contrary, my head is loaded with complex tasks, and this motivates. If you don’t know something, search, understand, read, find out, talk. In my new role, I see much more room for development.
At what point did you realize you were ready for the transition?
– This moment was probably not provoked by me. Everything happened thanks to Ania Sadovnikova (Unicsoft project manager), and I want to thank her for that. We had a project with a client without clear requirements. Anya did not have time to make an assessment and asked me to help. At that time, I was still an account manager. As a result, we did everything, but it is important to emphasize: I did not prepared specs, I described features. But this was enough for the assessment. Anya decided to share my mini-document with the head of Delivery, and everything started spinning. They started involving me in small projects, giving specific tasks.
I had my first big project when Serhii Germash (Unicsoft business analyst) joined us. I was very afraid to join this project, because I understood all the seriousness: vaccination, state bodies, certification. This is another level, and I asked for someone to help me.
– Yes, mentor. Serhii became my mentor. Everything was not too simple: before Serhiy’s vacation, we had literally a week for him to help me do everything right, create the structure of the document, and cover the most difficult technical points.
There is still room for improvement and room for growth, but thanks to Anya, almost every PM now asks when I will be free to work together on the project.
– What risks did you see in the transition to the role of a business analyst?
– I thought not only about myself as an employee who wants to become a business analyst, but also about the company, my clients. For me, the biggest risk was related to the person whom I would transfer cases to. It is important that she or he can continue to do my job well. There may be insufficient knowledge or the character is not the same. There were always thoughts of “What if…”
– You have developed our value of “care” so much that you really couldn’t just turn around and leave.
– Yes, on the one hand, part of you tells you it’s time to move on, you’ve made a decision, leave it, give the job to Nadia (Account management team lead). On the other hand, I raised it like a child, brought it up, set up and organized all the processes, and here I have to give it back. It’s complicated, like a car: you invest in it, and then you have to sell it. It is necessary, but difficult. Accordingly, the biggest risk for me was this. The second risk was related to the fact that I may be involved in projects that I will not understand at all, and I will let the team or the client down.
– And what are the development opportunities for an account manager in general, if you don’t go into business analysis?
– To become a team leader, as was Nadia’s case, still a project manager. By the way, some people said I would enjoy this role more than business analysis.
– We have a case of switching to PM from account management.
– So. Therefore, maybe one day I will want to switch to project management. But I’m not interested in that now. I prefer to stay in business analysis, cover this area of responsibility. On the other hand, I even thought of trying my hand at design, getting even closer to the developers. Design is interesting to me precisely in the context of combining it with business analysis. So that I not only understood the client and his or her requirements, but also could visualize them, so that the client agrees that he or she sees plus and minus in the same way. I now use more mockups, black and white designs and simultaneously learn how to work with various programs, libraries, objects.
Returning to the question, it should be said that account management is a unique field. It is similar to the faculty of international economics and management, where after graduation you have simply endless space for choosing a profession. This role includes a lot of skills, competencies that, basically allow you to develop wherever you want.
– What are your strong competencies as an account manager that are not used in the role of a business analyst?
– When I was preparing for the performance review for the first time, I noticed that all the competencies of an account manager are also important for a business analyst. The only difference between the two roles is that I am not the manager of the client, but part of his team, the project. I am closer directly to why the client came to us, and all operational issues, conflict resolution, bypass me a little. Although, with conflict resolution skills, I can jump in if needed.
– Do you think that the best business analysts are people who have worked in related fields or have purposefully chosen one vector of development from the university ranks and have not tried themselves in other roles?
– I think the first option, because when a person is narrow-minded, he or she does not think beyond his sphere. There are business analysts who work only in the banking sector. Here they have less flexibility to switch to something else. Suddenly you will not like it, suddenly everything will go wrong, suddenly you will get bored. And in fact, you can’t do anything else, you only know the banking system. When a person has experience not only in business analysis, but also in other industries, this is definitely a plus. We have a client whose business model is very similar to what I did in the steel industry. When I was called to this presale, my knowledge came in handy. There are quite a lot of such examples.
– Business analysis is the end point of your route…
– Absolutely not. 🙂
– …or an intermediate station on the way to the project, maybe product management or something else?
– Now I can’t say exactly what the next point will be. Knowing myself, I will want to go somewhere further, learn something new. Perhaps the development will be in a more technical direction. That is, I will be a business analyst who will be able to build a feature system and give advice on architecture. It seems to be related, but it is more related to the technical component of the project. In this way, I will not stop being a business analyst and at the same time I will be able to bring even more benefit to the client.
But it all depends on whether I like to understand the technical points. Sasha Korlyuk (DevOps architect) has repeatedly told me “Come to DevOps, come to me.”
– Sashko offers this to all knowledgeable colleagues. 🙂
– Given his rate, I don’t mind. 🙂
– Because such specialists are in short supply. Sashko recently interviewed only one good DevOps.
– I came to business analytics under the influence of a friend: she was able to present this field in a way that interested me. It is possible that in a few years after working with Sashko, I will change my career path. 🙂
– In your opinion, every person can become a business analyst if a goal is set, or should there be certain personal qualities?
– Not everyone. It will be very difficult for a person who cannot or does not know how to imagine something. From the very first calls with clients, I try to see the picture they have in their head, and then consider each piece of the puzzle separately.
What else… again – communication…
– Do you have to be an extrovert for this job?
– No, my friend is an introvert, although I thought she was an extrovert all my life. 🙂
This is probably where mindset comes into play. That is, even if you are an introvert, you need to be able to direct the interlocutor to clearly follow the agenda. It’s not like you deviate from the topic and you’re like, “Ah, well, okay, let’s talk about it.” It is very important to maintain discipline.
– What can you recommend to people who are thinking about switching to the position of a business analyst?
– This is a good question, I have to think about it. The first thing is to talk to people who already work in this field and try to understand what business analysis is. Not what is written on the Internet, but what you will need to do directly. Plus, each business analyst still has a different set of tasks. A friend has one kind of task, because she works in a food company. The outsourced person has a different one. Only after talking, can you understand whether it is yours or not. Again, from this communication or on the Internet, you need to find out what the risks are, evaluate the prospects in terms of the level of compensation, whether you have room to grow, whether you will transfer now and soon reach the top.
The third is hard to even name. It all depends on the company. For example, at Unicsoft, I immediately understood that a variety of projects was waiting for me and it would definitely not be boring. That is, I will not get into a project where I will be stuck for two years and will need to do something just for the sake of the process itself. There are product projects where you work on the same thing all the time…
– Someone likes it too.
– Yes, maybe if I worked in a food company, I wouldn’t want to go to outsourcing.
– Now let’s talk about your, so to speak, onboarding to business analysis. Who or what helped you the most?
– You, because you organized payment for business analysis courses. 🙂 I started learning everything from videos, documents, books, and I didn’t expect help from anyone.
Then, when there was career planning, the topic of what courses are needed was raised. And then I decided to get system knowledge.
– Did our program help you?
– Sure. You built this system of career planning, and all my formal training began precisely with the development of an individual development plan. I received a large list of literature and advice. Then, at one of our meetings, you shared a business analysis course. I deepened my knowledge even more. Therefore, probably at the beginning of the whole chain of my immersion in business analysis was you and your career planning system.
– Thank you for this assessment. 🙂 In fact, the format of the transition turned out to be quite interesting: you combined the positions of AM and BA with a gradual expansion of loading in business analysis. I remember starting with 25%, then 50%, then 75% and eventually 100%. And what were the biggest problems?
– Since there was a very smooth transition, there were no difficulties in onboarding. It was difficult to combine positions when the load exceeded the scale. Nowadays, the most difficult thing is to plan time. I planned that we would meet today, but I was given a meeting at 12:30. I can’t refuse, but I didn’t have the meeting in my calendar. Or developers do something and ask to call. A call can take 2 hours and again I need to find time for it. And in account management, I always had everything clear, planned in the calendar.
– What educational resources could you recommend to beginners?
– From what I went through, this is Coursera. I really like the Pluralsight platform these days. There are cool courses, and for different levels. But business analysis is not about courses, but about practice. At one time, I took an offline course, where they gave me a base of what to read, where to look, how to build processes of interaction with the client, which cases to use. Then I tested all the tools and techniques to see if it worked or not, combined it with something of my own, and ultimately determined what would really work well for the projects.
There is a lot of literature, the same BABOK is a classic. Someone says to read it from beginning to end, someone – selectively. I think it is best to start reading when you have a practical understanding of what business analysis is.
– What do you think is the difference between a senior business analyst and a middle one?
– Senior business analyst asks very apt questions from the first meeting. You see that this person has been through a lot, seen a lot, worked with many. These questions arise in the senior’s head immediately, but they probably would not have come so quickly to a middle specialist, he or she would first have to dig deeper and figure it out. Plus, of course, there is a difference in how they work as a team with developers. The senior answers more questions, tells something, and the middle asks for advice.
To what extent does a business analyst need certification and do you plan to get it?
– I look at it as a piece of paper that can open some doors for you to some companies. For example, the certification may come in handy if I want to work in Europe. Formal confirmation of competence is valued there.
It is very similar to the IELTS certificate, which proves the knowledge of the English language. I never passed it, but that didn’t stop me from teaching English. For today, I just don’t see where I would need a certificate.
– Finally, I will ask a few questions that are not related to business analysis. If you became the CEO of a company and were given the task of accelerating its growth, in which three areas would you invest resources and why?
– I would definitely invest in marketing, because without it the company cannot attract new customers. This is brand advertising. If the company does not have a cover, no one will likely come to it. The second thing I would invest in is the technical team. If there are many presales, but there is no one to conduct them, there are not enough developers, there is not enough time, this leads to losses. The longer the client waits until they find a developer, the more he or she has doubts about delivery. If you purposefully develop in some niches (like our current focus on blockchain), you can safely recruit the right people to the staff.
The third direction would be the development of managers, heads of departments, who organize all work, build processes, and ensure that there are no unproductive losses of time. Simply put, each department should be under someone’s wing, and the manager knew what and how to do it, shared the company’s goals, and established effective work.
– And the last question: what hobby would you devote more time to if there were 30 hours in a day and you had enough energy for everything?
– Sports, of course. 🙂 Now the top activities are trampolines, squash, pylon, and swimming. I would increase the number of classes per week or simply discover new activities, sports or hobbies. Now I started learning to play the piano, and I was even offered to try myself in a group, so that later I could perform somewhere.
Those hobbies that I have, I would expand, increase the amount of time I devote to them. And I have a lot of hobbies. 🙂
– Dasha, thank you for the interview.
– Thank you too, I really liked it. There were many interesting and even unexpected questions.