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Student Perspective: Competing Through Business Analytics

12 Nov

Audrey Low MSBA ’19 Candidate


Imagine as a new Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) student, you have had a semester or less of preparatory classes as a primer for one of the most diverse and growing fields in business: data analytics. This may have been the only exposure you’ve had to data analytics, but now you are being asked to talk about it just a few weeks later in a job interview.

The MSBA program is designed to nurture skilled personnel who are equipped with both business acumen and a unique set of technical skills, and who can work in either realm, or where both realms collide. The space where the two overlap is chaotic and expanding, and the opportunity is endless for those who can take the massive amounts of ambiguity and produce clarity.

First Steps Into Business Analytics

At the official start of the MSBA program, every student takes the introductory course Competing Through Business Analytics before diving deep into the details of the field. The course is designed not only as preparation to do well in a job interview, but it is also the first opportunity for students to learn how to use data analytics to build a competitive edge.

The course serves as a foundational business course anchored in business analytics. In it, we learned the fundamentals of business analytics and good business practices, heard from analysts active in the field now, and developed our initial analytics skills. These essential skills—the ability to visualize data and to use it to persuade clients—were just the first of many tools that would serve us in class, our eventual jobs and more pertinently, our job interviews.

Additionally, we began our first coding assignments by scraping the web to gather data. For many of us, this was our first time getting our hands truly dirty with Python, R, and Github while wrangling with real data.

A Rare Competitive Asset

Every fall, women from the current MSBA cohort make the trip to the Grace Hopper Celebration conference. The conference is big, with over 18,000 attendees and over 400 exhibitors. There, companies—and their hiring managers—at the forefront of the technology spectrum and all things business analytics attend looking to interview candidates. At this showcase of the confluence of the latest progress in analytics and women entering one of the most fascinating and impactful contemporary fields is the opportunity to network, interview and maybe even be offered a job. But in a crowd of over 18,000, it is hard to stand out.

Even the most technical companies care primarily about using technology to power their business growth, and that is the area of analytics where the fewest number of people can compete. The ability to talk about artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive models and algorithms with someone who does not have the technical acumen to understand their business implications and the steps necessary to best utilize tomorrow’s tools is rare. To be rare and useful makes one competitive, even among a crowd of 18,000. That is Competing Through Business Analytics.

Audrey Low is a candidate in the MSBA program at William & Mary. She is a marketing & business intelligence analyst at DMD - Connecting Healthcare.