Forums for the Business Analyst

 
  Modern Analyst Forums  Careers  Career Advice &...  “So, what do you do for a living?”: A BA/Product Manager’s guide to surviving cocktail parties
Previous Previous
 
Next Next
New Post 5/10/2010 2:05 PM
User is offline Seilevel
13 posts
10th Level Poster


“So, what do you do for a living?”: A BA/Product Manager’s guide to surviving cocktail parties  
Modified By ModernAnalyst.com  on 5/10/2010 11:55:31 PM)

“So, what do you do for a living?”: A BA/Product Manager’s guide to surviving cocktail parties

By James Hulgan

I used to dread hearing the question, “So what do you do for a living?”  This was often usually asked by a family member or other acquaintances not familiar with the software development lifecycle, IT, or business processes in general.  For business analysts, product managers, and other software requirements types, it’s difficult to give an answer without being convoluted or sounding like Tom Smykowski.

This great post expresses a similar insight beautifully, but many of us struggle with good, one-sentence responses to what it is we do everyday in simple English.  I thought I would plagiarize some ideas that I’ve heard from colleagues over the years and compile them here:

  1. “We help businesses figure out what software they need to build to solve business problems.”  This is a personal favorite of mine that I stole from Marc (who posts under mtalbot on this here blog).  It’s especially relevant to IT consultants/contractors.  Just about everyone knows what software is, and a lot of people understand that just about every business runs on some sort of software to solve business problems.
  2. “We help communicate the business needs of a system in a language software developers understand.”  A variation of this is, “We translate from business to geek”, although I am less fond of the second version because it veers into Smykowski land.
  3. “We make sure the right software is being developed at the right time, for the right people.”  The emphasis here is on the right software.  This response is nice because it allows you to segue adeptly into a discussion about business objectives.
  4. “We help the business get the most value out of their development dollar.”  This response stresses the fact that you are not just a scribe or secretary writing things down, formatting them, and delivering them to the development staff.  You are helping make the tough decisions on which features to cut and which bugs to fix, and quantifying those decisions in terms of dollars and cents.
  5. “We work with the business to find the appropriate scope of a software development project and ensure that what is built is what the business expects.”  Whenever I am asked the dreaded WDYDFAL question, this is what almost immediately comes to mind.  Sometimes I fill in the details of working with pictures to help model current business processes (and desired business processes).

So how about all of our readers?  What answers have you come up with?  Do you dodge this question altogether, or do you sound like a fumbling Smykowski?  Hopefully we can all help each other find good answers to this question.  After all, you never know when you’ll be in a meeting with “The Bobs” and the pressure will be on!

To check out this full blog post:

http://requirements.seilevel.com/blog/2010/05/so-what-do-you-do-for-a-living-a-baproduct-managers-guide-to-surviving-cocktail-parties.html

http://requirements.seilevel.com/blog/

 
New Post 9/2/2010 6:43 AM
User is offline 2BArNot
1 posts
No Ranking


Re: “So, what do you do for a living?”: A BA/Product Manager’s guide to surviving cocktail parties  

I have had a real problem with this question ("So, what do you do for a living") over the years and wonder if anyone else has had similar difficulty. Perhaps it's due to the company I keep.

The problem I have had is that, having started a career in financial services (Life and Pensions, specifically), 

- Q: "So, what do you do for a living"

A: I'm a Pensions Administrator...

       questionner glazes over and shuffles away.

I got a professional qualification -  Associate of Chartered Institute of Insurance- then followed up with a degree in Mathematics & Geography and found I had a facility for programming and IT generally, I moved into that hybrid space between the business and IT.

The career change happened gradually over a period of 20 odd years, during which time my job title varied " Senior Pensions Administration", "Pensions IT Project Manager", "Pension Systems Consultant", Pensions IT Technical Sales". This didn't improve my situation re the WDUDFAL question - for a lot of people there was now a double turn off - Pensions AND Computers!

The main reason for my difficulty may have been that I'm a kind of Jack-of-all-trades and I didn't know what to call myself - I have only very recently been able to identify myself as a Business Systems Analyst. I always thought this role only existed in large IT departments and that one would necessarily hold an IT degree to fill the role.

In recent times due to re-location, I have attempted a shift in direction and have now completed a GIS (Geographical Information Systems) Diploma and a highly regarded Diploma in Computer Systems. I am working but, not having recognised myself as a Business Systems Analyst, I have started at the bottom a GIS-related job (to learn the business). I am having difficulty in convincing my employer of my value (as I am new to the business). I am currently describing myself as a Cartographer, though again that is not a true reflection of what I do.

I think the problem with BAs is that it requires a wide range of skills, in a time when specialisation seems to be more valued. In my view specialisation makes BAs more essential than ever - they are the glue of performing organisation.I welcome comments/advice as to how I might progress my career from here.

 

 
New Post 9/2/2010 11:42 PM
User is offline Guy Beauchamp
257 posts
www.smart-ba.com
5th Level Poster




Re: “So, what do you do for a living?”: A BA/Product Manager’s guide to surviving cocktail parties  

 Ealga,

This is a real issue for me: what DO I do for a living? However, I have found the best response is to not assume that people really want to know what I do for a living because my job is to analyse and the one thing people hate doing is formal, rigorous analysis (hence the Agile approach). So now I just say "I'm a business analyst". "Oh really, what's that?" "It involves all kind of stuff and sometimes computers." "Oh, computers, right. I have a laptop and recently it's started to [inset problem here]". Once we get past the "can you fix my laptop stage,  I ask them what they do and generally that is a whole lot more interesting.

Guy

 
New Post 10/31/2010 6:48 AM
User is offline Craig Brown
560 posts
www.betterprojects.net
4th Level Poster




Re: “So, what do you do for a living?”: A BA/Product Manager’s guide to surviving cocktail parties  

 You could always describe your job in terms of outcomes rather than activities.

example"

"I help companies break out of old habits and become more efficient. Just last year the project I worked on saved the company x million dollars."

 
New Post 3/22/2011 6:39 PM
User is offline ClaudiaRS
2 posts
No Ranking


Re: “So, what do you do for a living?”: A BA/Product Manager’s guide to surviving cocktail parties  

As a working mom often attending functions with other parents, I am not always asked the "What do you do for a living?" question. The assumption is that I may not have a career (subject for another thread). When I am asked the question, I sometimes start with the generic "Information Technology". If the person asks any further, I then explain that I am part of a team that launches web sites for large retail companies (last job). I also use the analogy of the architect where the homeowners (business) articulate their needs and wants. I gather and document their requirements, and work as a liaison between groups in order to make sure the end product is built to their specifications.

 
Previous Previous
 
Next Next
  Modern Analyst Forums  Careers  Career Advice &...  “So, what do you do for a living?”: A BA/Product Manager’s guide to surviving cocktail parties

Community Blog - Latest Posts

Salesforce has established itself as one of the most reputable CRM platforms, providing important customer data to assist businesses in effectively managing their operations. Salesforce is the world's best CRM platform that helps businesses to keep up the data in an arranged or structured manner. Salesforce is the world's most popular...
There are big differences between data exploration versus data presentation. And you need to be aware of these differences as you're creating data stories and data presentations. Let’s start by defining our terms: Data exploration means the deep-dive analysis of data in search of new insights. Data presentation means...
Is Agile a reason to avoid documentation? I bet this question shows up again and again while working with product requirements. On one side, we have got long specifications, complicated diagrams, mystical technical design, too many prototypes and pretty obvious for engineers user guides (do we really need so much?). On the other side, can we actual...

 






 

Copyright 2006-2022 by Modern Analyst Media LLC