System Analyst

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Business Analyst, Systems Administrator, DevOps (developers + operators) Engineer, Principal Engineer, Technologist, Computer Systems Analyst, Systems Architect

Job Description

Systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures, and design solutions to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the needs and limitations of both.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Being surrounded by really smart, talented, and creative people who like their job
  • Facing challenges and gaining confidence from solving the issues at hand
$87,220
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities
  • Consult with managers to determine the role of IT systems in an organization
  • Research emerging technologies to decide if installing them can increase the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness
  • Prepare an analysis of costs and benefits so that management can decide if IT systems and computing infrastructure upgrades are financially worthwhile
  • Devise ways to add new functionality to existing computer systems
  • Design and implement new systems by choosing and configuring hardware and software
  • Oversee the installation and configuration of new systems to customize them for the organization
  • Conduct testing to ensure that the systems work as expected
  • Train the systems’ end users and write instruction manuals

Most computer systems analysts specialize in computer systems that are specific to the organization they work with. For example, an analyst might work predominantly with financial computer systems or with engineering computer systems. Computer systems analysts help other IT team members understand how computer systems can best serve an organization by working closely with the organization’s business leaders.

Computer systems analysts use a variety of techniques, such as data modeling, to design computer systems. Data modeling allows analysts to view processes and data flows. Analysts conduct indepth tests and analyze information and trends in the data to increase a system’s performance and efficiency.

Analysts calculate requirements for how much memory, storage, and computing power the computer system needs. They prepare flowcharts or other kinds of diagrams for programmers or engineers to use when building the system. Analysts also work with these people to solve problems that arise after the initial system is set up. Most analysts do some programming in the course of their work.

Skills Needed
  • Technical skills, pertaining to how a computer works physically and how it operates at a hardware and software level
  • An understanding of computer systems architecture, operating systems and networking
  • Communication skills to be able to explain technical issues to potentially non-technically oriented individuals
  • Analytical skills for troubleshooting and improving pre-existing systems
  • Creativity
  • Ability to improvise
  • Perseverance when dealing with problems
  • Quick reaction times and availability
Different Types of Organizations
  • Any company / organization that relies on computer systems (which is the large majority nowadays) will need a systems analyst
  • Can work within a company or run your own company and have multiple businesses as clients    
  • Freelance work is also an option
Expectations and Sacrifices
  • Typically at the start of your career, you’ll have to be on-call at all hours, but eventually you’ll transition into a 9-5 schedule 
  • This entails long hours and a lot of reactionary jobs - this is especially true at companies where monetary transactions are based in online stores, so the longer systems are down the more loss said company incurs.
  • Apart from reactionary work, lot of time is spent on the backend to prevent failures going forward,which tends to include deep-diving into a given system to gain a more complete understanding of its inner workings
Current Industry Trends
  • Push for relocation to get more subsidies and reduce the cost of production
  • Company relocation leads to less vibrant economies in some areas compared to others and makes it harder to attract new talent into an industry.
  • Toward cloud-based storage, in which one company pays another to use their public storage system rather than investing in their own physical storage databases.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Enjoyed  learning how a computer, software and the Internet as a whole works, instead of just playing computer games.
  • Had a lot of time-consuming hobbies, which tends to mean that an individual has curious ambition and certain skill sets later required to be a system analyst.
2016 Employment
600,500
2026 Projected Employment
654,900
Education and Training Needed
  • Bachelor’s degree in a technical field
  • Expertise in the field is as important if not more important than the academic education
  • Many system analysts held long-term internships to get the experience needed before officially entering the workforce
Things to do during high school/college
  • Join a computer or audio-visual club
  • Good way to get involved and learn more about underlying computer systems
  • Taking computer / audio classes, particularly at the University level, to facilitate in depth learning
Typical Roadmap
System Analyst roadmap gif
How to land your 1st job
  • Internships to gain technical experience before entering the field. This can also be earned by working computer-related jobs for a University.
  • Entering a job as a lower-level administrator or operator, for example, can give someone access to the people in the roles they wish to fill someday, which provides an opportunity to learn more and potentially transition.
What it really takes to make it and succeed
  • Being flexible with having an on-call position, especially in the beginning
  • Once you’re working a 9-5, it’s more straightforward
  • The ability to work on a team, especially in a production environment
  •  The computer system is expected to be working close to 100 percent of the time, and when a systems analyst is in charge of 3,500 computers scattered across various building, thing can get hectic
  • Some parts can fail and not be a big deal, while others can be disastrous, so system analysts have to be an expert at prioritizing and organizing their efforts
Recommended Resources
  • Technology communities through websites like Meetup.com
  • The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • For more of a media focus, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE)
  • The annual Siggraph conference
Words of Advice
  • Stay flexible, and be open to networking and making connections
  • Don't be afraid to try something you don't know how to do because you'll learn how to do it, and in learning, you'll find out whether or not you like it and then you can move on
  • Don't be afraid to switch jobs if it doesn't work

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