Preparing for Your Leap into Business Analytics
An insider’s view shares his six lessons before making the dive into big data
It’s six months into grad school and I already feel nostalgic about the journey.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride to say the least. I’ve been juggling a rush of classes and a time-intensive practicum, while soaking up San Francisco life (#SFLife) while I can. Yet joining the Master of Science in Business Analytics program at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management has been worth every minute.
A lot of people were surprised to see me leave a flourishing career in marketing and head back to school. I must admit the transition was not easy. Taking a break from corporate life for #StudentLife was on my bucket list. But leaving my comfort zone and plunging into the unknown was an intellectual jolt. I was suddenly opening up a world of new possibilities and taking baby steps into the tech space, learning a few lessons along the way.
Break Problems Down into Solvable Tasks
As an engineer both at heart and on paper and a marketer by trade, I’m used to breaking down problems into solvable challenges—it comes as second nature to me. That’s the one piece of advice I would give anyone faced with a seemingly insurmountable task.
Upgrade your Skills
Going back to school after six years, I quickly recognized there were three critical skills I needed to upgrade.
Learn to Code
Sure, Microsoft Excel is still being used for a host of activities. But R, SQL and Python are languages that are the bread and butter of any self-respecting analytics professional. If I could go back in time, I would have polished up my coding competency.
As our program co-founder and academic director, Professor Hemant Bhargava once put it, “An MSBA graduate is an MBA graduate who can speak multiple programming languages.”
Courses I recommend:
- R Programming A-Z™: R For Data Science With Real Exercises!
- R Programming: Advanced Analytics In R For Data Science
- SQL For Data Science
- Python for Data Science and Machine Learning Bootcamp
Understand the Business Context
And that brings to focus the next critical skill, appreciating business realities. Understanding the business context of the analytics problem being addressed is a highly valued trait.
In my previous life as a working professional, I experienced the dangers of not building a symbiotic relationship with my allied business colleagues (case in point: marketing vs. finance). It is this strength that UC Davis aims to develop through the Business Competency series of courses for the MSBA program. As aspiring data scientists, a lot of us may not appreciate the value of the business context. But training yourself to structure problems effectively and then building solutions that have true practical applications will go a long way.
The third, and possibly most critical skill, is embracing uncertainty.
I must confess I am OCD about having structure to life in general. Even the smallest deviation can disturb me. Yet working on a practicum project introduces real world uncertainties. At times, the data is not there. Once you get the data, you realize it isn’t accurate. When you fix accuracy issues, you identify accessibility issues. Once you’ve got the entire data clean, you recognize that you require a different stream of data. And this is simply on the data front.
As John Allen Paulos put it, “Uncertainty is the only certainty.” Accepting this truth and working around it is the only path to success. But, yes, it is fun to cry about it to your friends occasionally!
There are a lot of other challenges that I’ve dealt with consciously and unconsciously. Some I’m still figuring how to deal with. And there is no perfect recipe to success or happiness.
My last piece of wisdom, if I may so call it, is to trust the good in people, particularly your classmates. I am proud to be part of the charter class of the UC Davis MSBA and in this global family. I’ve learned a lot from them and hopefully have given back to the class in my own way. So here’s to the memories I’ve created and hope to create in months to come!