Background is a good platform
Business analyst roles can vary considerably in their content, but there are key characteristics that make a successful business analyst (BA). One of the most important is the need to work effectively in a team-oriented environment. A successful BA will also have the ability to communicate at all levels. A significant part of a BA's role is listening to users and to help in turning sometimes vague and ambiguous descriptions into a focused analysis of their needs.
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Your background will provide a good platform for your move into a BA role. Good analysis experience is essential and your experience in this area will prove invaluable. In addition, your involvement in the complete project lifecycle will support your move as this role typically calls for participation in large (multi-person) development projects and contribution to all aspects of the development process. By moving into the commercial sector, you will gain relevant industry experience and this will be underpinned by an MSc. Most BA roles will call for a degree or equivalent in MIS, business or related fields and the MSc should prove worthwhile. With so many businesses now reviewing their e-commerce strategies, you may wish to consider a role in this arena.
To address your final concern, I would like to reassure you that it is illegal in the UK to discriminate directly or indirectly on the grounds of sex or marriage unless a Genuine Occupations Qualification or Other Legal Exception applies. This Act is enshrined in employment legislation and exists to address exactly your concerns. Discrimination is very clearly defined in employment law and anyone found to be breaking the law would be liable to criminal prosecution.
The panel: Apex, MBS International, Best International Group, Computer Futures, Computer People, Elan, ITNTO, Monarch Recruitment, Reed Computing, Prince Training