One of the hardest things for me when I was starting out, was allowing myself to be the dumbest guy in the room. In school, at home, and even with friends, I have always been known as a smart kid. I always got top grades and my friends often ask me for my thoughts and advice because they know I can be relied on to be thorough and thoughtful. My nickname for a time was "Yoda". For me, this was something I identified myself as, so it was difficult to allow myself to be anything else. Unfortunately, this seriously hindered my ability to be a great business analyst.
Becoming a great business analyst Lesson 1: Being the dumbest is a good thing.
I have had the very fortunate opportunity to work alongside some great business analyst and one very important thing I've learned from them is...
Its not about what you know, its about what you learn
For me, my biggest weakness was that I didn't want to appear dumb. I am often the youngest person in the room, so I always feel like I need to prove my worth, which I always thought was my intelligence. However, in reality, my worth as a business analyst is to be able to learn and understand. That comes from questioning EVERYTHING!
Essentially, I didn't start really learning to be a good business analyst until I let go of my self-image of being "the smart guy". My current manager, who also manages all the business analyst and is very well respected in the company for being impeccably effective, is a person who I very much look up to as a mentor in my business analysis career. I've had the opportunity to shadow and work with him for almost a year now and the biggest takeaway I've gotten from him is probably the most important phrase every business analyst should use...
"I'm sorry, I didn't understand that... Can you explain it again"
At first, you may feel like you are telling your stakeholders "I'm sorry I'm too dumb to understand what you're saying and I'll probably fail in capturing it correctly". However, your stakeholders don't expect you to understand everything about everything they do. If you did, you would already be doing their job. By asking, you are actually saying "I'm sorry, I don't understand, but I'm committed to meeting your needs, so please explain again so I can do that for you". In the same way that asking questions in a classroom lets your teacher know that you are really trying to learn.
You should approach every interview, workshop, JAD, etc as though every point made is going to be a question on a test you will be taking. That test will determine the future of your career and every point you only "kinda" understand, will be a question you get wrong.
The analysis isn't about knowing everything, it is being able to understand, document, and use new knowledge to help people can make good decisions.
Be proud of your lack of knowledge, because it is the basis for good analysis!