Are you a Computer Systems Analyst?

MizAnnThropeFebruary 11, 2013

If so, will you share a bit about your job? I'm thinking of switching to this as a new career in my late 40s.

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I'm not but will share my two cents being that I work in the software industry and also work with companies that have IT departments with "analysts". In my experience corporate IT departments are chronically understaffed and it seems like it could be a challenging/frustrating environment to work in depending on the nature of the company.

What is your educational background? It seems like to be considered for this type of position you'd need an MIS degree unless you already have a lot of applicable experience. You also need exceptionally good communication and interpersonal skills to bridge the gap between the technology people and the lay people.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 12:02PM
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The details of the job vary from one company to the next. I was a systems and business analyst before having kids and gibby nailed it. "You also need exceptionally good communication and interpersonal skills to bridge the gap between the technology people and the lay people". In my role I didn't have to know the guts of the tech side, but I needed to know enough to commuicate with the IT side. I also didn't need to be an expert in my assigned business modules, but I needed to know enough to fully understand their needs and concerns.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 2:07PM
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I've been doing hands on technical work for 34 years, based on a BS in economics. (Computer science degrees weren't widely known back then, and who would want one anyway?)

I believe you're asking about jobs that don't involve reading and writing code or performing operating systems tasks? In my world, those are known as management jobs, as opposed to analysis jobs.

I have worked with people who describe the business function to me so that I can automate, streamline, design or repair it. Those people, however, were usually located in a functional pyramid and considered themselves business, rather than systems, analysts.

Today, when everybody is expected to come out of the womb understanding technology, I'm not sure what a systems analyst would actually do, but it's probably very different from company to company depending on the size and on what they sell, manufacture, or serve.

I think the likeliest employer for a systems analyst today would be a very large company with multiple diverse technologies. In a smaller or tighter organization the hands-on guy would be expected to do it all.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 3:00PM
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I just looked at the other thread. ARe you interested in a medical technology job, like giving stress tests, where you have to use and verify the output of technological applications but call someone else to fix them when they break?

Or maybe sell/install specialized medical equipment?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 3:06PM
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Ya, I never even hear the term "systems analyst" any more. Business analyst is more the term I hear - as amj mentioned. I think it would be an interesting job if you have the right skills for it and work for a decent company that allocates sufficient resources for the amount of work they're trying to get done.

It would be helpful if you'd share some info on your background - experience, education, etc. I don't think I've seen anything about that in any of your posts on this topic in this or the other forums where you've posted about this.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 6:42PM
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I have been a Business Systems Analyst (aka BSA and BA) as well as a number of other non-developer IT roles (from tech writer to director). It very much depends on the company, but typically a Systems Analyst (vs a Business Analyst) is a much more technical role. In my experience, they were seasoned developers/architects but these days, the role is generally replaced by collaborative efforts of multiple team members.

A business analyst position is one way to get into IT if you are switching careers. It has not been my experience that employers want MIT degrees for these roles-- in fact, it's been my experience that real life experience is preferable and that a masters is not at all an indicator as to a candidate's ability to perform the job. That said, I suspect that it would be beneficial, at least on paper, if you are looking to get into the industry without work experience. I have hired many BSAs over the years and it's one of the positions for which I actually seek someone with a varied background-- at least for the type of work we were doing. It is important that you have the aptitude to work on a technical team but it's just as important that you know how the business world works-- how people think and work and how they use software. Highly technical people-- developers-- don't always "get" the realities of the business world and non-technical people don't usually "get" how systems are developed. So the BSA serves as the liaison between the business units and the technical team. The BSA works with the business units to determine what they need-- not just what they think they need but what they need to interface with their other systems, to improve efficiency and to accomplish their business goals and initiatives. They then document these needs in a way that makes sense to the development team. The BSA is key to the success of the project because he/she ensures that everyone is on the same page and everyone knows what is needed.

The skills required will vary a great deal depending on the company and the type of systems you are working on. Very different skills are required if you are developing a new system than if you are maintaining or customizing an existing system. As noted above, the skills required for any analyst position include exceptional communication skills-- both written and verbal. You will be writing requirements documents, gap analysis documents, creating presentations, facilitating meetings and preparing presentations. You'll also need good analytical skills. In my experience, this is something you have or you don't. While you can develop your skills, you need to be one of those people who naturally processes information in a logical and analytical way.

That's a pretty high-level view -- but what I think may be a bigger issue is the job market. The IT industry has been hit pretty hard over the last 10 years and while you are seeing jobs in the field, companies have become much more demanding in what they expect-- and they're paying much less. Requirements and salary will vary a lot by the type of company and the location. I've worked for large corporations and abhor the environment-- but I'll say that you're more likely to see a project team adequately staffed in a large corp. I know that's in stark contrast to what Gibby has seen-- so perhaps we are in different areas and/or different industries. Either way, small companies or large companies, BSA salaries are down-- but that does play to your advantage to some degree because they are also filling more entry level positions. Salaries will vary by region but what I've seen, you are looking at 65-85K-- a little more in the cities and a little less for entry level. I generally hired at the top of that scale-- but I also expected a lot of my analysts (including the ability to fill other roles in QA and Project Management).

Sorry, I've received a few phone calls while writing this-- too many stops and starts. I am sure there's much more to say but I am going to leave it here for now. If you have questions after after reading these posts, feel free to contact me directly.

Good luck to you!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 9:58PM
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I'm a Senior BA in a large organization, I'm on the end user side, and I pretty much agree with most of what funkyart and others have said. I'm senior because I have 30 years working on the end user side of the industry I'm in. In addition to full agreement with the comments about communication skills, a good BA is very self-motivated, organized, willing to challenge the status quo. A good BA is not afraid to speak, especially when the audience consists of senior people in the organization. A good BA is not a follower. At the same time, a good BA is a team player who regularly shares info with and interacts with co-workers, including the IT side of the world.

Because the economy has been hit hard, companies are demanding and getting industry specific experience in BAs they hire. In addition, almost all hires start out as contractors at the employer. Consulting firms have become the entry point for many employees. This is not a 40 hr/wk job in the US. I routinely work 55 hrs/wk and could do more on my current project. It's a demanding and often very tiring job.

If you want to go down this path, take the Project Management classes. You'll learn about the project structure. These classes often lead to folks taking the Proj Mgmt Professional certification exam; however, one can learn alot in a fairly short time as to how this environment operates and not take the PMP certification exam.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 5:57AM
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Thinking about how things have changed....

"Systems" analysts mostly don't exist anymore. Perhaps OP was consulting a dated reference.

In my world, much development work is now done by people from other countries, often not even simply FROM but actually IN other countries, who use other languages and work when we are asleep and do not necessarily share the work culture with which I'm familiar.

Thus, the "communication" skills that used to be required - translating bits and bites and schemas into quotas and accounts and manufacturing methods - have enlarged and changed. More go-betweening these days is consumed with bridging the time and native language gap. Part of my success in my job depends on jumping on emails from India that are not written in standard English and are sent at 4:00 AM. The exercise of this type of communication skill is the opposite of standing up in front of a conference room full of high paid execs who are hanging on your every eloquent word. It can be real drudgery to work via email with non-natives on technical things.

Your job, if you work for a computer software or hardware company, will likely be more "systems" and will involve travel. If you work at a bank, utility, or public instituiton it will likely be more "business".

I bet there are a lot of "systems" analysts jobs in maintaining T1 lines and router hubs -- all that invisible infrastructure that we sometimes take for granted. I wonder what the people who maintain Gardeweb call themselves.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:57AM
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What an informative thread! My last two 'working for someone else' jobs were doing this work and hiring others for it, though generally by other names. It's interesting, challenging, fun work. But as others have said, requires a very specific skill set and, at least in my case, industry specific work experience.

There's also, I suspect, fairly widespread age bias. If you've got experience in the industry and a track record of systems development, than age is not a problem, but if you're new to the field, I think there's just a widespread baseline expectation that 'kids' are more tech savvy. Having done this work, I'd argue that 'life savvy', communication skills, and business understanding are FAR more important -- but that won't help you get the job.

It would *really* help to know what your resume looks like now - education, work experience, skills. Without that information, we're all basically guessing when it comes to recommendations.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 11:04AM
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I keep trying to finish composing this post and get interrupted. Was out the last two nights, ugh.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insight and go into such detail. My understanding of the role of SA has always been that an SA is the person that bridges the gap b/t the computer side and the business side. It's amazing to me that this can be outsourced. Amazing and scary. In my research (limited, so far, I'll admit), the job is still referred to as a "computer" SA; and it's shown as a growth job - with the salary that you indicated, Funky, which is comparable to what I'm earning now. I just need a change, new challenges. I love and have always excelled at the tech side, and have also looked at a Software Engineer role, but I worry that I wouldn't be able to compete with 20-something year old tech heads in a programming role. I DO fear age discrimination in this field, but posts by some of you who do the hiring are encouraging. I've attached an article about this field from 1/2012. I have to wonder if even info that old isn't obsolete.

All of your posts about firsthand experience are so helpful and exactly what I was hoping to find here. There are endless amounts of info on the net, of course, but sometimes, it's hard to gauge how relevant the info really is, whereas, here, I know I'm getting honest info on real experience.

I think I've given up on the medical field. Although, your mention, Jamie, of the specialized medical equipment has me thinking. I was looking for some sort of a medical techie role beyond any sort of data entry. Friends in that field (nurses, researchers), who work at hospitals, are in the midst of converting to electronic systems. Maybe, tho, I've missed the boat on that conversion in this area.
I certainly don't want to invest the $ in additional education to end up in a $14/hr job, and I have to decide if it's worth not working for a time and going to school f/t+ in order to expedite the process. Probably not in this economy.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 1:25PM
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Actually, Software Implementation might be a very viable career option --

It requires technical knowledge, business knowledge, and excellent communication and relationship skills, but is more 'experience-driven' than degree driven. And I don't think it can really be outsourced. (Actually, I've never seen the Analyst work outsourced either - just the Programming.)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 6:08PM
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Analyst work is definitely consulting firms. Plenty of US firms place consultant analysts. 2 yrs ago, I was a consultant BA, brought in to do the BA work for 1 specific project. I had the industry background, but had to learn quickly both sides of the company's businesses so that 1 could be integrated into the other's software, processes and procedures. I was hired full time just before the end of that project. I'm 57 and age was no problem.

I'm working on a complex project now - there are 12 teams that are each covering different aspects of the big project. The 4 of us who are senior BAs are all over 45 and have a combined 98 yrs of experience in our industry. 3 of us started as consultants within the last 3 yrs.

A huge plus to working as a consultant is to have strong experience with specific softwares.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 9:17PM
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Sorry - should have clarified. I meant that I'd never seen Analyst work outsourced to India. To consulting firms, absolutely! Implementation work also.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 11:45AM
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