We recently caught up with Level 4 Business Analyst apprentice Jordan Lea. He talked all about transforming his career, working as a business analyst, and the benefits of the apprenticeship towards his career aspirations.
Let’s take a closer look.
Could you tell us about your career background and what made you go for an apprenticeship?
Of course, so I graduated from university after studying Sociology back in 2016. I then got my first job at a company called EMaC as a call centre agent. I worked my way up to supervisor and then was offered a secondment to work as a business analyst for the data protection team at Innovation Group, who had bought EMaC.
A big part of the secondment involved working with people in the transformation team. After it ended, they offered me a full-time job, so I saw it as an opportunity in front of me, and a solid career path for my future.
Not too long after that, they said that they’ll put me on an apprenticeship as I didn’t have any experience as a business analyst aside from the secondment. It was essentially like a package that they’d put together to bring me onto the team. By then, I was eager to soak in as much knowledge as possible so that I could become a better business analyst - and that’s when I started the apprenticeship with Kaplan.
What made you want to do the secondment?
It was a combination of feeling like I wasn’t gaining much from my day-to-day job, and I couldn’t see anything new coming in the future. There was never a guarantee for me to get a job through the secondment, but I still saw it as a good opportunity.
Obviously, it did work out that way - and I thought it would be a better career path for me to take. It was an opportunity to start on the bottom of a ladder that I could climb higher on, rather than being half way up a ladder that I was stuck on. So I started the new full-time position as a business analyst back in May 2022.
What does the role of a Business Analyst entail?
I suppose, in the word itself, you’re analysing a business. But you essentially look at a businesses’ processes, how they operate, and I work a lot with ‘business users,’ who are the staff that are using the systems that we’re analysing.
For example, if we’re working to enhance a system, I will speak to the people who actually use them to get their views. I’d then start to formulate the requirements for the developers, and then the developers will turn these ideas into tangible changes.
That’s a pretty big part of my role, but there are also bits of analysis that could be considered as more tedious or time consuming. It’s a multifaceted role - there are a lot of things that we do such as work closely with project managers, which includes project plans and working with dates and budgets.
Are there any skills that you’ve noticed a development in since getting the full-time position?
Definitely, I went into this apprenticeship as a blank slate in terms of the theoretical side of things. I didn’t know the pillars of business analysis, or the methodologies. But through the apprenticeship I’ve been able to learn this and actually apply it to my job.
A good example is, there’s something called a RACI matrix - where you assign responsibilities to people in a project. And at work, there was an issue about who was doing what and who was responsible for certain tasks on a project, but I’d recently learnt the RACI matrix on the apprenticeship. So, I suggested it and they actually implemented it. So, that alone just shows to me how beneficial it is individually in my job role, but also beyond that and for my peers and colleagues.
Some of the people I work with are old-school business analysts. They’re very technical people and I’m the youngest in the team. The average age is quite high, for example - a good friend and colleague of mine has just retired. They’re all so knowledgeable and experienced, but it’s really good to feel like there’s something that I can bring to the table.
How would you compare the differences between university and an apprenticeship?
It can be difficult to compare both of my experiences, as I’m so much more mature now than when I was at university. Because this is directly related to my job, I’m more motivated now to commit to it. But there are a lot of parallels. For example, I’m currently working on my apprenticeship portfolio and there are definitely parallels between that and my university dissertation.
I prefer this style as it directly and positively impacts my job, and I’ll apply myself more now. I was younger at university, so there were things that I probably should have focused more on, and I’ve learnt from that now when I’m doing my apprenticeship.
I think the apprenticeship has provided more soft skills than university as it’s generally more practical. It teaches me things that are related to business analysis, using Excel or other pieces of software, but it also benefits me as a professional in general. For example, conducting a presentation or being confident in my job role. Whereas, at university, every module will have been focused around sociology.
What about your technical/hard skills?
One of my main concerns when I got the job as a business analyst was that I lacked the IT-facing skills and technical knowledge.“But with that being said, I am already becoming more technically adept through implementing Business Process Modelling, something I really enjoy which I’ve learnt about during the apprenticeship. I’ve learned a lot more about API’s and integration with software which are more technical areas too.
I was worried or anxious about these skills that I thought I’d never understand, but it turns out that they’re just like anything else you learn. If you apply yourself, try to understand it and practice it, you can be just as good as someone you perceive to be more technical.
Have you encountered any challenges during the apprenticeship?
Absolutely, but this is probably down to the character of the individual. For me, juggling work and the apprenticeship has been quite a big challenge. I’ve sometimes lacked when I should have been studying. But it’s been difficult as I’ve been thrown into a huge programme at work, where we’re transforming all of the systems.
Although the project feeds into the apprenticeship programme a lot, I do get caught up in my work project, and weeks can go by before I realise that I need to re-focus on my apprenticeship again. So, I’ve needed to make sure that I don’t bury my head in the sand and that I focus on both at the same time.
Do you feel like you’ve been supported enough at Kaplan?
Yes, both my tutor and talent coach have been brilliant.
You know when you’re at school, and you have teachers that you click with and learn the best from? For example, you would ask yourself, “do I hate maths as a subject, or is it because I don’t like the teacher?” Or, “do I love English, or is it just the way the English teacher teaches?” With Carla, she’s the English teacher example.
She’s so easy to build a rapport with, and the way she delivers a class is quite relaxed yet focused. This strikes a really good balance.
My talent coach, Dawn, is also really good. There have been times where I’ve been struggling to manage my time, and she’s said, “right, let’s not wait 12 weeks. Let’s have meetings every six weeks.” It helps me stay on track whereas I may not have otherwise, but she’s not had to do that. She’s just treated me as an individual which is really important.
What are some of the highlights so far during your apprenticeship?
Without trying to cop out, everything is so new and applicable, and I can apply it to my job. I’ll go into a live class one week, and the week after it’s already given me the tools to do what I need to do in work.
If I didn’t have this apprenticeship, I think I would genuinely be lacking in my job. I’d be learning on my own, or as I go, so I can really see the benefit of something like this.
But if I’m being more specific, I really liked learning about requirements engineering, as I enjoy talking to people and building relationships, which is a major part of my job. So, learning about the theory and methodology behind that was really good.
But again, all of it has been so valuable because of where I am in my journey and how I can apply it to my role tangibly day-to-day.
Did you know how useful an apprenticeship could be before this experience?
I actually was placed on an apprenticeship before the secondment, it wasn’t provided by Kaplan, and it was more management and leadership focused. I didn’t realise how useful they could be, and turned my nose up a bit at it. I didn’t like it at the time, and would dread going through it.
Thankfully, I got this secondment and was taken off that apprenticeship. But I’ve gone from being quite cynical to having a very positive experience.
When I was offered the business analyst apprenticeship, I was initially still cynical but I just knew that it was going to benefit me and teach me what I needed to know about the job that I want to be doing. I wanted to be a business analyst, and be as good as I could be in the role.
I also chose to view it as a ‘bonus’ to my job offer. It was like they were saying, “here’s your salary, but we also want you to progress,” and it’s essentially what has kick-started my business analyst career and given me those foundations to boost it.
I think you’ve got to acknowledge it when someone is saying they want to invest in you, and they want you to grow in their company. It would be foolish to not recognise it and take the opportunity.
Would you recommend a career as a Business Analyst?
I would recommend it for someone who’s a people person, but also enjoys technology and software.
Another big factor is my job satisfaction. People are really thankful that you’ve listened to them, even if it’s just a quick, 30 second job. Because I’ve sat and listened to concerns and passed them over to the relevant teams, they’re really grateful. So, for me, I find that a really satisfying aspect of the job.
The way I see it, rightly or wrongly, is that there are certain jobs out there that offer more than what you can get from others from a career development perspective. This career opens up a lot of doors to opportunities, and I think if anyone is looking for that sort of career, this is one I would definitely recommend.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
I’d just like to say, Kaplan is spot on - it’s a credit to everyone who works there. I think that Kaplan has the right work culture, as it transcends into the output to us.
Like Jordan, you can work towards opening more doors to opportunities, progress your career and upskill as a professional through our Data and Technology apprenticeship programmes.
If you’re looking to become a business analyst, look no further than our Level 4 Business Analyst apprenticeship, or read more about how you can talk to your current employer about setting you up on an apprenticeship.