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Becoming a BA in a Virtual World: Mastering Remote Onboarding

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Attention: Jobseekers, recruiters, hiring managers, and onboarding buddies, check out some great tips from those experiencing it first-hand! Plus, with our evolving workforce practices, this may become the “next normal”. 
Given the economy in 2020, a lot of business analysts found themselves in an unexpected spot…looking for a new job and onboarding remotely. Now, experienced BAs might have had a slight advantage –previous onboarding experience and established BA skills. However, imagine if you were doing this in the 2020 job market for the first time as a BA. What would that look like? 


Becoming a BA in a Virtual World: Mastering Remote Onboarding


Enter Alberto Fernandez and Xinyi (Josie) Zheng. Alberto is a senior at Marquette University, majoring in Computer Engineering and minoring in Business Administration, with a focus on leadership. He found the BA profession, while researching the role of a Product Owner as part of his Software Methodologies course. In early 2020, the BA career looked interesting to him, but he didn’t have any experience. Pre-pandemic, he went through the traditional onsite intern interview processes with a few companies in the Milwaukee-area; and he waited apprehensively as companies postponed their internship programs and rescinded offers. Baird’s internship program persevered; and, in May 2020, Alberto was onboarded as a BA intern 100% virtually – in a historically very hands-on process and program. 

In early 2020, Josie was in a similar situation. She was a post-graduate with two previous BA internships under her belt. Now, she was looking for that first full-time role. Like Alberto, she interviewed pre-pandemic, immersing herself in the full onsite Amazon experience in Seattle. After multiple rounds of interviews, she too was awarded her desired BA role at Amazon, but now it was in an exclusively remote environment. She arrived at the office on her first day only to have her badge created and to pick up tools she would need to start her Amazon career from home. Like Baird, the Amazon onboarding experience is very hands-on and interactive; and many of their standard processes were incorporated and/or converted to adapt to a virtual experience (e.g., onboarding videos, virtual distribution center tours, daily associate experience surveys, etc.). 

For many this may seem normal, especially for those facilitating contractor and consultant roles. For two individuals, in their first BA roles, which initially promised to be onsite employment, this experience is a bit new, different, and potentially overwhelming. Their individual experiences can help us all as we either personally onboard or help onboard others: 

  • Be open / Introduce yourself – First and foremost, you need to be willing to reach out to your new team members; introduce yourself; engage in 1:1’s; be vulnerable. In an office setting, some of these exchanges occur simply due to proximity. In a virtual workplace, as the new associate and/or his/her team member, you need to be intentional about your interactions. 
  • Leverage mentors – Alberto and Josie remarked on the importance of both their hiring managers as well as their assigned onboarding buddies through the process. These individuals were (and continue to be) their go-to contacts for learning not only about the organization but also how to a be BA in their respective organizations. As a new associate, ensure that you find a mentor to guide you through the process; this can be an individual formally assigned or someone you personally connect with for questions and thoughts. 
  • Ask questions – As a BA, this statement might seem obvious; however, often times, new hires are scared to ask questions until they get more comfortable. Both Alberto and Josie emphasize this activity above all others. This is more critical than ever. Some of the key onboarding tools are no longer as easy or as accessible; use your inherent curiosity to find the information you need. This also enables you to learn the communication preferences of your team members, mentors, and stakeholders. Do they prefer questions in writing (email, IM) or in conversation (Zoom chat)? 
  • Be uncomfortable – Being uncomfortable is the long-touted theme for any individual growth. How much more uncomfortable can you be onboarding to an organization you don’t know, a team you have never personally met, and in a discipline that you don’t fully yet grasp? For Alberto, this discomfort initially manifested in running his first daily stand-up and refinement session. As with any task, you don’t fully understand or appreciate it until you do it yourself. Use your mentors to introduce to and prepare you for your BA activities. Then, dive in! Try it out! 
  • Consider “re-onboarding” – Alberto and Josie have only ever met their (human, canine, and feline) team members virtually – through their camera lens. While neither know when their organizations will physically return to the office, they both acknowledge they are looking forward to making those true, personal connections with their coworkers. They are considering their introduction to the actual office as a “re-onboarding” of sorts; they realize there will be another learning curve as they get accustomed to a new physical environment as well. Anticipate this need; be patient with yourself and others. I think that we can ALL relate to this sentiment. 

Thank you to Alberto and Josie for sharing their well-earned insights and enabling me to share with others! Good luck in your new-found careers! 

If you are interested in learning more about the opportunities that a virtual world affords BAs, check out Vaugh Luckman’s blog post: BAs Without Borders: Opportunities in a Remote-Working World

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About the Author:  
Koryn Anderson

Koryn Anderson enjoyed a couple of careers before finding her ultimate one. She has been a business analyst for more than 10 years and is currently a Lead Business Analyst at Baird. She is passionate about the BA discipline, has her CBAP® certification, is Past President of the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter, and is the current Communications Director for the Global Chapter Council.


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