DePaul Alumni Give a Professional Outlook on Business Analytics
Recently, the Kellstadt Business Analytics Organization (K-BAO) hosted an industry panel for its business analytics students at DePaul University to help students gain real-world answers to the question, what can I do with a business analytics degree? Members of K-BAO heard from a panel of DePaul alumni who have a variety of backgrounds in business analytics, and these panelists shared multiple perspectives from the field. Joining the panel were:
- Hillery Simmons, Vice-President, Analytics for Shoprunner, which is an e-commerce specialty company
- Dr. Brandon Hendrix, People Analytics Manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
- Utkarsh Mathur, Senior Logistics & Supply Chain Project Manager for MITx, a global massive open online course (MOOC) provider on the edX platform, which is an online learning platform
Most of the questions from the students focused on the job outlook for the field, as many of the students are graduating with Master of Science in Business Analytics degrees and will soon be entering the job market.
When asked how the pandemic has changed the job market, the panelists agreed that pre-pandemic, companies were more likely to look for talent in their local communities. The pandemic has allowed organizations to look more broadly for talent, especially when they want to hire a more diverse workforce. For example, for companies located in smaller communities without a lot of diversity, remote working makes it easier for them to look outside their communities and outside their states to hire diverse talent.
A key piece of advice was to get into the field as soon as possible. The panelists agree that DePaul does a great job of connecting students with real-world problem sets and working through data as they study in the business analytics degree program. They want to see students get on the job and gain experience on the job to help them build their skill sets. For example, in the real world, the data sets are messy. Data may be incorrect, analysts may not have access to the data they want to solve their problem, or the data may not make sense. When working on a job site, this messiness provides analysts the opportunity to solve the problem of messy data and gives them experience working with other people.
Other key skills noted by the panelists include communication and collaboration. Business analytics is a field that works in service to other areas by helping other departments or clients use data to solve problems. As a result, business analysts need to be able to talk to the programmers working in technical departments and then translate that technical knowledge to support the business or operational side of the organization. Dr. Hendrix stated, “We are never left alone.”
Communication and empathy are also important to practicing business analytics. The departments that you are helping to solve problems may not always be able to articulate their problem. As a result, good business analysts may need to come back to their colleagues with multiple solutions before finding out the essence of the problem to be solved. “Better questions,” said Dr. Hendrix, “make better analysis.”
Business analytics is a fast-evolving field. The panelists talked about the new technologies and new methods that they are learning and using in their work. When talking about keeping current in the field, Mr. Mathur talked about dedicating three to four hours per week to learn new skills to keep up with the advances in the field. It is these new skills, he said, that help keep analysts competitive in the job force.
What do these experienced professionals look for when they hire? Adaptability is key because the field is constantly evolving; also, being able to learn new things and adapt to new situations is very important. Ms. Simmons talked about how understanding how someone thinks is important. She builds teams of problem solvers, and it is important to understand their approach to problem solving to make sure the team can work together. Mr. Utkarsh seeks candidates who are passionate about their roles. The ability to adapt and learn, and to be passionate about the field are great starting points to help analysts become successful in this field.
Business analysts are part of and eventually lead cross-functional teams to use data to solve other people’s problems. All panelists agreed that DePaul’s business analytics degree program provides students with experiences that span the entire process of business analytics, making its program valuable when students are looking for their first jobs. The advice that the panelists gave in taking that next step is to network, attend events like these, seek out new experiences and to keep on learning as you take that next step!
Become part of a university that will help guide you to a business analytics career. Apply to DePaul today.