A woman stands outdoors smiling at the camera. She is Ciara McShea of Version 1.
Ciara McShea. Image: Version 1

Meet the woman who went from developer to senior business analyst

26 Jan 2023

Ciara McShea of Version 1 talks about the challenges that come with a career change and what she enjoys about her job these days.

If senior business analyst Ciara McShea had the power to change anything about the STEM sector, she would eliminate imposter syndrome.

She has been working in the industry for 25 years now, and when she first started out she and her other women colleagues were vastly outnumbered by men.

McShea told SiliconRepublic.com that she and her women colleagues “experienced hesitancies and doubts” within themselves. They felt like they weren’t as good as their male colleagues and that they had more to prove.

“Today, I think this has changed for the better,” McShea said. “I see so many young women, especially those out of university, or a few years into their career, much more confident about themselves and their ability.”

“This doesn’t mean that imposter syndrome has gone away, but just that we are getting stronger and better at addressing it,” she added.

McShea is adding her voice to the many people who are addressing the issue of imposter syndrome these days.

Fortunately, the senior business analyst at Version 1 has gained confidence over the years and now she feels content enough to advise young people who may be doubting their professional abilities.

Her main advice is to give things a go. “You won’t know until you give it a go and if it works out – great, but if it’s not for you then, don’t be discouraged as you can always try something else – nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Another piece of advice McShea agrees with is to find a mentor and listen to them. “When I began my career, I had several mentors who helped mould me into the role that I found best suits me.”

“Before I became a business analyst, I started out as a developer. At university I studied Information Management and began my career as a graduate developer.”

Her early projects in development were on applications which were developed using Oracle Forms and Oracle Reports, PL/SQL, Business Objects and Oracle Discoverer.

In her current role, she uses Oracle and Microsoft technologies.

She started out in development at a time when “there were big clunky PCs and floppy disks being used every day”.

“Back then, a cloud was a white fluffy thing in the sky,” she joked.

Young McShea realised after a few years working in coding that she wanted something different. As well as listening to mentors, she knew it was important to listen to her instincts.

“After a couple of years coding, I realised that I enjoyed working and interacting with customers to solve business problems more than I liked software development.”

“At that stage, I had learned many new skills to help with moving to a new role. The top among them being soft skills, things that most people often overlook such as how to engage with different people, and how to get the best from them to be successful in delivery.”

‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’

“I then looked for roles that would suit me and chanced upon the business analyst role which was perfect.  So here I am still, many years on and still enjoying the role!”

Despite having worked on developing her soft skills, McShea found the transition from software developer to business analyst challenging.

Her toughest challenge, she said, was earning the trust and respect of her customers. But as an empathetic person, she was able to understand that putting their business in someone else’s hands can be daunting.

“I think time spent building the relationship and a lot of hard work is how I overcame this challenge,” she recalled.

These days, she has a team of 15 people, consisting of a delivery manager, solution architects, senior analyst, developers, database specialists and technical engineers.

“I have worked on a diverse set of projects over the years from public sector organisations, utilities companies, to a variety of private sector enterprises. In one of my most recent projects, the team was involved in implementing new legislation initiated by the Department of Justice.  This was a very high profile and challenging project of huge importance to our client.”

“I enjoy the incredible variety of work and the fact that every day is a school day,” McShea said, adding that her favourite thing about her job is her colleagues.

So, what are her main inspirations in her career these days? She said her friendships from college and the people she has met throughout her life are her main sources of inspiration.

“I make connections with others mostly through Version 1 events, professional bodies, online forums and through LinkedIn.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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