If you’re a recent grad who’s surveying the job market, you’ve probably noticed that the title “Business Analyst” is one of the most popular opportunities out there. A quick search on LinkedIn this morning yielded 634 openings with that title in the Greater Atlanta Area alone. Yet, even with its popularity, most applicants might not fully understand the nature of the business analyst role, as the title can mean very different things at different companies.
While many organizations might silo analysts into specific processes or areas of the business, at SUPPLY.com, our business analysts get to see the full picture of not only the project they’re working on, but the company as a whole. We recently sat down with a few of our business analysts from various departments, and their managers, to learn about what makes the role so unique at SUPPLY.com.
To Start – Why SUPPLY.com?
While each analyst at SUPPLY.com may have found the company in their own unique way, they all joined for similar reasons. “I came to SUPPLY.com from a very large company that I joined after graduating. The biggest things that attracted me to this company were the team and the growth. I felt like there were opportunities for more responsibility and ownership of the work that would be on my plate,” explained Kevin Link, Senior Business Development Manager (and former Business Analyst).
“At a big company, a lot of times, you’re very much a small cog in a huge wheel, doing the same things over and over again – you don’t necessarily have a good grasp on how what you’re doing affects the company overall,” he continued.
“The growth and opportunity at SUPPLY.com was the change I was looking for when I was stuck in a rut at my old job.”
Clariana Cunha, Business Analyst, found SUPPLY.com after graduating from UGA. “This was my first job out of college. From the interviews I had with other companies, I started to sense that a smaller company, a company that’s growing, was a better fit for me,” she recalled. “I really liked getting a chance to see the culture through the Instagram page – it looked like a fun place and it had that family feel.”
Claire Humston, Merchandising Analyst
Tarak Talpade, Business Analyst, on the other hand, decided to join the company full time following a summer internship with us. “What really impressed me about this company was the amount of responsibility they entrusted each employee with,” asserted Talpade. “I was an intern, but I was still doing impactful stuff. I didn’t want to be doing grunt work; I wanted to be doing work that actually mattered and to get recognized for it.”
Like Tarak’s experience as an intern, what stood to all our analysts was the fact that that they were handed big projects right out the gate. “I was able to make an impact almost immediately,” said Claire Humston, Merchandising Analyst. “One of the great things about being at a company that is growing this quickly is that there is certainly no shortage of work, and you are given meaningful projects right away.”
“One of the first big projects I had was to gain a better understanding of how we measure sales rep performance,” explained Jared Ervin, Sales Operations Analyst. “I built a sales dashboard, that we’re still using today, and the sales managers can now keep track of how reps are performing.”
“I started pricing out estimates within a month of working here – literally quoting the price to the customer, which was pretty impactful, not to mention daunting,” remembered Alex Perry, Pricing Analyst. “Although my manager held my hand at first, there was no hesitation in being given an immediate amount of responsibility. Every hand on deck was needed.”
The Right Stuff: What It Takes
As noted on our job descriptions, at SUPPLY.com, there are more things to do than there are people to do them. With that fast-paced, high-velocity environment, there are a few things you need to be a successful business analyst here. According to Martin Davis, Manager of Pricing & Analytics, “Aside from the ability to execute on one’s responsibilities, there are five primary traits, convictions, softer skills that take an analyst from good to great:”
Have Conviction for Accuracy
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Who intentionally submits inaccurate data? However, it’s possessing this strong conviction that drives the analyst to develop a deep understanding of the data, to incorporate error-checking habits into their routine, to refuse to settle for subpar deliverables, and to think through the data’s implications thoroughly so that stakeholders are equipped to make the best decision possible.
Take complex concepts and simplify them for others. Be a good storytellers who can master the art of data visualization, who can tailor their communication to the audience’s needs, who can translate data into actionable insights and align them with company goals.
Seek out ways to be more efficient and to automate processes. Prioritize documentation and lay a foundation for the future. Be resourceful, and not easily deterred by obstacles to completing projects.
Jared Erivn, Sales Operations Analyst, & Alex Perry, Pricing Analyst
Don’t just wait for a task to be delegated to you, and don’t just be satisfied with meeting the requirements. Think about the NEXT question coming down the line. Be intently tuned-in to your surroundings to identify blind spots and opportunities in the organization. Be curious; proactively investigate to uncover potential value not yet realized. In turn, these practices and traits prime you to play key roles in determining company strategies.
Stay Technically Inclined
Realize technology plays a major role in doing all the above effectively. Seek to master your tool of choice and regularly seek to enhance your skillset. Expand your awareness of other technologies so you can consult the organization on fitting the right technology with the right business problem.
Courtney Forson, Director of Merchandising, furthered Martin’s sentiment by saying, “We push our business analysts to find solutions in the data. Reporting and diving into data is only one part of the job; we also look for people who can think critically and clearly communicate their results.”
Even though they already possessed the core competencies Martin mentioned above, our analysts have felt a rapid improvement in their skill sets since joining the company. Alex, Jared, and Tarak’s team learned SQL together, which none of them had experience with prior. “My Excel skills have gotten so much better since I started here. I use it 24/7 and I’ve seen big improvements,” asserted Cunha. “I’ve also gotten a lot better at problem solving. You’re not doing the same thing every day and you have to be ready to solve your customer’s problem and there’s never one clear solution for all problems.”
For Kevin, “The biggest thing for me has been general management abilities. You’re forced to do a lot of different things here and fully understand how the whole organization works together and with every step of the supply chain,” he said. “At bigger companies, you might not know how what you’re doing is affecting things 3 steps down the line.”
Claire Humston (left), Clariana Cunha (center), & Kevin Link (right)
“Being a part of a small company means that I get to wear a lot of different hats and be involved in conversations and projects that I probably wouldn’t have exposure to in a larger company,” explained Humston. “I have gotten to work with more departments than just Merchandising, which has given me different perspectives to consider when I approach my work.”