What is a Systems Analyst?

Systems Analyst(Photo: Kevin Fitsimons, WOSU)

Meet Bettina Bair, Systems Analyst

What exactly do you do?
I’m a systems analyst.

Describe a typical day.
I spend most of my day talking to the people who use the computer systems in my business. I help them tell the programmers what kinds of new programs to build, and after the program is done, I help them learn to use it and get any problems fixed.

What’s the coolest part of your job?
I love being the person that everyone goes to when they have a problem with their computer, knowing that I can fix it.

How do people react when they learn what you do?
Most people have never heard of the job ‘systems analyst’. They know that I work with computers and most of them think that I must be some sort of genius braniac with no life. The genius part is pretty true (j/k), but I have a great life. I am married and I have a daughter who just graduated college. I am getting ready to take a two week cruise on the Amazon river in South America this year and I’m really looking forward to it.

How did you become a systems analyst?
Well, these days, it really helps to have a degree in some sort of computing field. I have a masters degree in business which helps me understand my users problems a little bit, I think. At first, I didn’t have a formal name for the work I was doing. I was just being helpful. Later on, I realized that I was doing Analyst work and started looking for jobs like that.

What disappoints you about your job?
Sometimes it feels like it takes a long time to write-up some users’ systems specifications for the programmers. I’m not much of a detail person and I have to really discipline myself to sit still until its done.

How has your job changed over time?
Twenty or thirty years ago, users had to learn to talk like a techie in order to get any sort of computer development done. Now that computer systems have gotten more and more complex, it really helps to have a Systems Analyst working with users and programmer as a sort of go-between.

How will your job be different ten years from now?
It looks like in the future, some computer jobs, like programming, might be done in places like China and India. When that happens it is especially important for computer users to have a Systems Analyst who can make sure that the programmers get very precise instructions about what code to write.

What are some of the most important skills and abilities needed for this job?
A Systems Analyst need to be a little bit of a lot of things. People skills are really important since she is working with lots of different kinds of personalities. She needs to understand the technology as well as the programmers do, and also the business world as well as the users do. She also need to be a good communicator, so that there aren’t any misunderstandings.

How much of that is learned and how much is natural aptitude?
A lot of people say that you can learn how to do computers, but you can’t learn how to communicate with others. I actually have to work at both. I have to learn new computer systems and applications, and I have to learn how to be a little less of a smart aleck sometimes.

What advice do you have for people who want to enter this field?
This is a great time to be a Systems Analyst. The field is really growing. Systems Analysts are working as independent consultants and also as salaried employees in major corporations. You should find a good college that offers classes in Software Engineering and Systems Analysis and Design.

What do you wish someone had told you before you left high school that would’ve helped you with your career?
I really wish that I’d had better experiences with computers in high school. Our computer was very old and hard to use. I don’t think that my computer teacher was very helpful either. It’s too bad that I wasted so much time thinking that computers were dumb and useless back then. Fortunately when I got to college I learned how much fun working with computers can be.