Variety, the Spice of a Business Analyst’s Life

Since the dawn of time, humans have been inherently searching for that ever-elusive happiness. When we feel like we’re missing something, we try to find it and fill that insatiable hole in our soul. It sounds absurd when put into words, but everyone does it regardless. And what’s the one thing that humans want more than anything else? To be happy (with or without a small percentage unhappy).

Well, according to psychologists Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and Judith LeFevre, happiness can be broken down into two key elements: 1) great experiences, and 2) high-quality relationships. If you haven’t read Flow by now (and even if you have), you should read about it in this book (or watch the YouTube video).

But what does this have to do with being a Business Analyst? A lot.

All too often, we find ourselves in the same environment day-in and day-out working on the same things with little variety. It is incredibly rare that something fresh and new is brought up in our work environment or infrastructure, so we must create it for ourselves if we choose to innovate and improve our surroundings (and most importantly, ourselves!). And by innovating and improving your surroundings, you’re automatically innovating yourself. Mind blown.

If you feel like you’ve done everything that there is to be done in your current role, then chances are that you haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible. If you want to experience something new in your work, research and implement new BI technologies such as Hadoop or Scala. If you want to innovate yourself, go for a certification in something out of your comfort zone (or several). No matter what you choose to do, it is guaranteed that the experience will be a breath of fresh air and a lesson learned.

Some people choose to travel around the world while others stay at home and take culinary classes. Both experiences are different from one another but both would result in happiness if done with the right mindset. Remember that this article isn’t about money or sponsorship; it’s all about injecting variety into your work environment so as to make sure that you’ll always be happy!

On top of that, when you look at the core of happiness and fulfillment, what is it? What does everyone want? Complete and utter happiness! So if we’re putting these two things together: great experiences and high-quality relationships, and we add complete and utter happiness to the mix… we end up with a giant plate full of variety. Humans need variety — in their food, in their daily lives — or else they’ll get very bored very quickly. Variety stimulates us almost chemically; it provides all sorts of interesting opportunities for exploring our world through new eyes. You get that ‘new car feeling every time you try something new, even if it’s only new to you.

So if the best thing that humans can be is happy, and if variety can provide happiness, then it makes sense that business analysts would thrive on variety. That’s what this article is all about!

The world of Business Analysis (BA) is incredibly rich in variety. It may seem like every day is essentially the same for a new BA, but don’t be fooled! Every single day brings something new for you to try out. Whether it’s learning about a company through their data or analyzing competitors’ products, there are always new challenges to overcome with every project. The things you learn here will stay with you forever. You’ll always have these new skills at your disposal while working in some other field, even if you’re not using them on a daily basis.

You’ll be able to speak in meetings with senior managers while speaking with project team members one-on-one; you’ll also get to know both sides of the spectrum intimately. You can practice your presentation skills and learn how to train other people, but you should definitely make sure that you take the time to understand the core concepts of what it is that you’re working on (i.e., don’t go off half-cocked). The best analysts are experts at product functionality before they start talking about it… because nobody likes an ‘armchair’ analyst who just spews out facts without any understanding! Your goal should always be to provide solutions for problems, not just solve them without a thought.

As a BA, you’ll get to work with an ever-growing list of tools and technologies. You can pick up one language (e.g., Java), but expand your horizons to include C#, Python, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, SQL/RDBMSs, and on and on… If that’s not enough for you then there are design patterns, new frameworks like Spring or Ruby on Rails, and continuous integration strategies through builds and unit tests. The sky is really the limit!

Don’t forget: variety will make you happy — look at all of these cool things you can learn!

But why stop there? Every day brings new project management skills; use them or lose them! This includes everything from agile to the waterfall, but also project management itself. You’ll learn how to pick the right tool for the job, scope out requirements using UML diagrams, manage documentation using mindmaps, and estimate your work using Agile task boards. Just don’t forget that you’re always selling yourself as much as you are selling your product or service. If things aren’t going well then ask yourself if it’s because of who you are. Think about your image, how you’re coming across to others, and what small changes might make a big difference in the future.

Every day brings a new story to tell friends and family at home. You can be sure that they’ll love hearing about some of the crazy ‘war stories from your day at work (if you get to go home before midnight), but make sure that you mention the important lessons you’ve learned and how they changed your perspective. Everyone can learn from your experiences, even if not everyone will be able to make the trip down the corporate ladder like you… The world needs business analysts and they’re going to need YOU!

Since the dawn of time, humans have been inherently searching for that ever-elusive happiness. When we feel like we’re missing something, we try to find it and fill that insatiable hole in our soul. It sounds absurd when put into words, but everyone does it regardless. And what’s the one thing that humans want more…