Big data. Business intelligence. Data science. Artificial Intelligence. Insight-to-action arcs. To the casual observer, these terms seem interchangeable, complex, and maybe even a little confusing. But a growing number of businesses, and the people who want to work for them, are learning the value of collecting vast tracts of information, determining which trends in those data matter, organizing actionable insights, and implementing those actions through strategies designed to improve business functions.
This is not a new idea. Observation-based decision making is as old as business itself (put the more popular brands on the top shelf at the grocery store), but the sources of our data have expanded exponentially in the wake of what is now being called the digital (or fourth industrial) revolution.
The mechanisms for collecting, storing, reading, and interpreting data have become a sub-specialization of business administration and “business analytics” has become an exciting and highly sought-after profession in today’s business ecosystem.
“Management analytics and the entire business intelligence field is growing rapidly,” says Lazaridis MSc in Management Analytics (MMA) Program Director, Michael Pavlin. “Developing the skills needed to use data to predict future behaviour, uncover patterns, and help prioritize actionable information will all be necessary components for business seeking to thrive in the 21st century.”
Throughout this spotlight series, we will be exploring different career paths available to business students who have an interest in using data to understand the world around us, specifically aimed at future and current Lazaridis MMA students.
This series features interviews with Lazaridis School grads who are now working with data to better their performance of the organizations.
"It is all about storytelling and how you can bring both numbers and business together."
Lazaridis School: How did you find yourself in this line of work?
Melanie: During my BBA & FinMath undergrad, I always wanted to get my CFA and work at a bank. Like a lot of students from my program, I thought all jobs at banks were in accounting, finance or investment banking, but I was wrong.
I first learned about analytics when I joined a marketing research/analytics team at a bank as a co-op student. It gave me exposure to not only my immediate team's responsibilities but also the entire analytics department's mandate.
My co-op placement often hosted Lunch and Learns where you can learn about what other teams are working on. After learning how analytics drive strategy for marketing, products, and sales with endless possibilities, I knew that was what I would be pursuing after I graduated.
Lazaridis School: What is it about Management Analytics that you find satisfying?
Melanie: It is all about storytelling and how you can bring both numbers and business together.
There is always something you can find through the numbers to build the story and discover business opportunities or room for improvement, which keeps the job interesting and rewarding.
Lazaridis School: Your field is relatively new; how do you explain what you do to people who aren’t familiar with analytics as a profession?
Melanie: Analytics is about using numbers to discover patterns/trends/segments then solving real business problems. Companies nowadays are becoming more and more data driven and making decisions based on numbers.
Lazaridis School: What skills did you gain during your undergrad that prepared you for this career?
Melanie: The most valuable thing learned from my time at Laurier was developing my problem-solving skills through all the business case studies and math questions. In the real world, there is no single math formula that can solve all problems, it is always about how you can think outside of the box; how do you pivot when things are not working and how do you make data-driven recommendations.
Lazaridis School: What advice would you give to anyone looking to follow a similar career path?
Melanie: Analytics requires both hard and soft skills. For someone who wants to pursue an analytical career, he/she should not only focus on quantitative and technical skills such as SQL, Python, but also soft skills like presentation, communication, and collaboration.
Any analytical role often needs to use SQL or Python or other programming language to gather the data. Massage the data and translate it into what everyone can understand.
Lazaridis School: In an industry that evolves as quickly as yours, how are you staying current with best practices and on top of the emerging tools and strategies being developed?
Melanie: Large organizations like banks usually have multiple analytics teams and cross functional teams often collaborate and learn from each other when it comes to sharing experiences and industry best practices.
Externally, there are conferences available, and external vendors supported by the company frequently come in and share industry best practices.
Applications for the September 2021 cohort of the Lazaridis MSc in Management Analytics program are now being accepted. For more information, visit our website. Our sincere thanks goes out to Melanie Shen for her participation in this spotlight series.