Retraining for the workforce, what to study?


As many know I had 5 years off due to a health issue.

So my background is Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, Project Management, UX and UI Design

It seems Agile has taken over the world. To feel confident going into a job I feel there are some things I need to retrain and somethings I need to learn.

So lets look at this from a simple Business Analysts (non organisational) perspective. The role involves engaging an elcitating business requirements from key stakeholders to build firstly a business case, once funding approved, the business requirements phase goes ahead where we build a document based around requirements, functional and non functional (this is where UX can and usually does tie in and have its own set of requirements and schematics, ie BRD 10.1.1 XYZ Should XYZ with Database XYZ and Produce the following graph (balsamiq wireframe drawn up for UX design purpose). Each requirement has a number which flows on to SystemRD, System TCD and UAT Document, so all functions a traceable through that numbering. Now thats a very time honored and proven waterfall or possibly hybrid RAD approach.

And this is not withstanding most contracts want you to be able to be the project manager, systems analyst (conflict of interest much), systems test manager, UAT manager (conflict) Database analyst and of course UX expert, simply because its cheaper to pay one person HAHAHAHA.

Now, Agile seems to have taken over a chunk of the world, much like many corporate methodologies it makes me puke a little, especially when I read the words “Scrum Master”. People were doing Agile long before they gave it a name, so I never understood the need to tie it down with more red tape ala ITIL.

So this makes me look at what I feel confident in and what I dont;

I plan to recert my BCS BA certification as its easy and I have the book already. That covers pretty much of all the business case to UAT stuff.

I feel weakest in Agile and Im not sure If I should study the BCS BA Agile Cert?

I feel slightly weak in how to wireframe and display my UI design, is Balsamiq still used?

Also technically my skills are blunt, last I left a .net role, but I couldnt point you to a method or a class in that world if I tried. Or am I better on focussing on web based technologies, if so what should I sharpen up in?

I think that about covers it as the rest will come back to me on the job.


I would say that agile is a nice to have i.e. not essential on the list of things a UX guy is expected to know. It does help, that’s for sure, if the workplace follows agile, but I wouldn’t say it’s a deal-breaker if you don’t have that expertise. It is easily learned on-the-job in my opinion.

Balsamiq is still going strong. I haven’t used it in years, but if you know Balsamiq, you’ll be able to pick up the others. I don’t think it’s about the tools anymore, they change all the time. It’s about the fundamentals (gestalt, layout, composition, hicks etc) which you can apply to any future tool

r.e. Tech skills. You probably wont need to code for a UX role. Although again, having a background in it does help when liaising between stakeholders and developers. It’s again a non-essential, nice to have I think. If the UX role requires you to code in .NET, I’d be wary!


Heh, I’ll say. I walked (no sprinted) away from 13 years as a .NET dev to get into this job 9 years ago and I’ve not touched it since. Doubt I could remember how.


Hi!! My 2 cents (4 years in UX in corporate with some emphasis on ITIL).

Specific programming languages are probably not (or probably should not be) important, but it is good to have a respect for the general ideas in coding and a willingness to talk tech when necessary.

I rarely see ITIL requested, but it helped me to be more confident in my suggestions. I think it is a cherry-on-top kinda skill.

Agile is a really important conceptual framework. Some people call it XP now. The common sense user-centeredness of UX is really at the heart of both. …Research/empathize, design, build, test, repeat (or some version thereof). It’s important to know what a scrum meeting can look like and be prepared to iterate without too much preciousness/fanfare around pixel-perfection. But don’t worry too much about being jargain-hip. The general ideas are the important parts of this.

Software: If you know one prototyping tool, you can figure out the others. Do not let this worry you too much. You can learn a new one in a day or so if you are comfortable with any of the others. Balsamiq is not common in the realms I have worked in anymore- though i still love it. People love to use Sketch/Invision. Sketch is a very simple drawing tool that allows symbol libraries to be created quickly. Sort of a DIY balsamiq- you can make your own components or use templates/ things supplied by your group.

Equipment: Important side-note:Sketch is Mac Only and has made public announcements that it will never cross over to PC. If you are thinking of investing in a new computer, I would (painfully) advise that you get a mac. I prefer my windows bc I can draw directly into illustrator/photoshop with a pen… but most shops I know of today are sort of gaga over this Mac only Sketch/InVision combo. . . I hope this is just a trend but it has been a strong presence in my community for about 1 year now, exactly. I also hear about Zeppelin and Axure from time to time.

Research: Get to know different quantitative and qualitative techniques enough that you feel comfortable talking about them. There is some formalization of the verbiage of research - but it is still good, old fashioned ‘be a great listener, take notes, ask questions’ at its heart.

Culture: I think its all about being a good collaborator and a good helper.

That got long!! Hope it helped!!!


Turning UX into a role takes the “good part” out of Business Analysis and Systems Design, and sounds like there are no bad bits.

I can still understand companies hiring BAs who can do it all including the wirefrraming, in fact Id find it odd not to be ina BA role as not many small companies have money for both and big companies its always been the BAs role to do the UX and UI.

How do you coordinate your UX and UI into Business Requirements documents, as requirements that can be tested, the BRD and each requirement number drives the numbers for all development and subsequent testing.


Interesting timing. If you decide you’d like to work on Agile, learn current jargon, etc. here’s a free (sponsored) spot in the Acumen on-line course. It might also be a good project in general because you can on other skills at the same time in the context of a team. If you can’t get the free seat DM me and I’ll forward you the e-mail invite I got. It arrived this Am, but there are only 5 free seats.

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