Practicum Perfect in Every Way

MSBA students take on a big data challenge with CBRE and McKesson

Working with the world’s largest real estate services firm, CBRE, and McKesson, Anil Jacob MSBA 18 and Yiqing Yang MSBA 18 and their team are applyinig Internet of Things sensors toward improving workspace efficiency. 

A prime location in San Francisco, a well thought-out curriculum, a curated group of diverse students and a strong sense of community—all are key advantages of the UC Davis Master of Science in Business Analytics.

Group of people standing inside a vacant building
Graduate students in the Master of Science in Business Analytics program tour the new CBRE building MSBA students Yiging Yang, Anil Jacob, Yiyi Han, Siyu Wang and Shaoqian (Nicholas) Tang get a tour of the McKesson HQ building at McKesson Plaza, in San Francisco.

But for many, the prime motivation to join the program has been the industry practicum. It’s why members of the MSBA charter class favored this program over the multiple other admissions offers we received.

The practicum runs the length of the program and matches student teams with leading firms. The corporate sponsored projects offer the opportunity to understand how analytics works in a business setting. We're able to immediately apply the theoretical concepts we’ve learned in the classroom to our work on the project. It also reminds project teams like mine that generating insights is the easy part, but getting stakeholders on board and ensuring implementation is a totally different ball game.

"We were on a mission to gather as much data as we could…. We were intoxicated with the pursuit."

Business, Technology and a Culture of Fun

Our business analytics projects marry technology with business experience, under the goal of generating new insights for company decision making. Having a balanced team with strengths at both ends of this spectrum is a valuable asset.

My team of five engaged with the world's largest real estate services firm, CBRE, for a joint space optimization project, with McKesson as the client. Headquartered in San Francisco, McKesson is No. 5 on the Fortune 500 and a global leader in healthcare supply chain management solutions, retail pharmacy and healthcare information technology.

The project applies Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and traditional data sources toward improving workspace efficiency. At the individual level, the tasks for the project were daunting. Collectively, however, we understood how to structure the problem and we had the technical skills to deliver results. We also recognized the need to document the process and to have effective visuals. And we built a fun work environment.

Chasing Down Data as a Team

When we started our journey with the space optimization project, we were focused on one goal: data collection. We were on a mission to gather as much as we could, with only a faint idea as to what to actually do with it. We were intoxicated with the pursuit.

"It reminds project teams like mine that generating data insights is the easy part."

We then learned that most organizations fail to understand that data can be valuable only if brought together. It may reside solely in a Word document on a project manager’s laptop or in survey sheets relegated to the back storage room. Bringing this data together requires the active participation of many and it has to bring meaningful value to all, which is how we dealt with our first major challenge.

Building a Data Pipeline and Making a Home for It

We gained experience building a robust data pipeline and designing a functional dashboard for analyzing those data sets. It’s a critical skill for a career in analytics.

Our MSBA practicum stitches together an experience that builds technical expertise, business proficiency and teamwork. While we are still working hard to match our client’s expectations, we are now on a steady path to delivering long-lasting results.

We hope our efforts in this practicum will also leave behind a healthy data culture for everyone to appreciate.