Mastering Indispensable Skills for a Data-Driven World
Friday, July 15, 2016
Carlson School Master’s in Business Analytics grads emerge from the program prepared to leverage data to identify valuable business opportunities. And employer demand for business-minded analytics pros is evident: 100 percent of the MSBA class of 2015 received offers for employment within 90 days of graduation.
Mia Wang, ’15 MSBA, is no exception. In her first few weeks as an analytics manager at Carmichael Lynch—an award-winning marketing and advertising agency—she saved the agency $50,000.
She was hired to complete a text mining project for an automotive company to track the conversation topics and sentiment around their brand on social media and measure the impact of their marketing campaigns. Her first assignment was to choose between two pieces of expensive software intended to make sense of social media data. But after evaluating both software products, Wang recommended neither. She built a custom algorithm instead. Her work saved the agency thousands of dollars.
"Within a very short time on staff, Mia has made a measurable financial impact on our business," says Carmichael Lynch Director of Marketing Analytics William Stentz. "Our clients are looking for help sifting through all their marketing data to help them identify what really matters. We help them do that. In our line of work, pure data scientists are less valuable than a well-rounded analyst who can provide data stories with a business twist. That's what the Carlson program produces."
Making the leap to analytics
Wang discovered a passion for analytics in the final year of her undergraduate program. Through an internship, she connected with some fellow business students who were able to leverage data to reveal hidden insights, and was instantly curious.
“I'm a person who hates surprises. So when I found out that I can do predictive analytics, I thought there would be no more surprises for me,” she says. “But there was a big gap between what I knew and what I wanted to do.”
In researching graduate degree options, Wang gravitated toward the Carlson School. Not only was the Management Information Systems department ranked third in the world, but the School was situated in a thriving business community replete with employment opportunities.
“There are lots of Fortune 500 companies in the Twin Cities area, and Carlson also has a very strong alumni network,” says Wang. “Because of all these factors, I think that Carlson was right for me.”
Getting up to speed
Wang first learned the text mining tools that she implemented at Carmichael Lynch from her Predictive Analytics course, led by Professor Gedas Adomavicius. The process was difficult and time-consuming, but ultimately worthwhile.
“[Adomavicius] said ‘I know you spent so much time on cleaning messy data when doing assignments. You probably hate me now, but once you go to the business world, you will thank me.’ It's totally true,” Wang says. “I have to deal with complicated data sets every day.”
Wang entered the MSBA program with a background in marketing, and limited knowledge of programming or data mining processes. But her professors helped her internalize advanced quantitative approaches faster than she thought possible.
“I think for people who are from a business background, there's a threshold when you try to learn technical concepts, but once you can go over that threshold, you can grow very fast,” she explains. “The professors were able to explain complicated algorithms and the programming logic in a very intuitive way.”
Now Wang is coaching Carmichael Lynch clients to embrace data insights to guide their strategy.
“The best part of being an analyst is that you get to deal with new challenges very frequently, and you get to help clients understand the problems and the opportunities from the data,” she says. “Long term, I’d like to be the one leveraging technology to make the important and innovative business decisions.”