Before business school Cindy Lai spent her career in precious metals, dentistry, and aerospace. The thread that connected each role? Data analytics.
The Master’s in Business Analytics student found that she was constantly dealing with and analyzing data. It’s why she went to business school; she wanted to build her analytical skillset and network of data professionals to enhance her career.
She was stuck on where to go, but after reading a biography of US financier, Bernard Baruch, she came across Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business, and the new Master’s in Business Analytics. Together with Janhvi Saxena, another student on the MS in Business Analytics program, Cindy is part of the first cohort to enroll on the program.
The school has a strong reputation, she says, and the lure of studying in Manhattan and learning from established professors who also teach at NYU and Columbia was a big pull factor.
With her mind on a career in data, how does the program set students up for their future careers?
Cindy’s plan is to become a data analyst after graduating and within five years move into a data scientist role. The network she’s building on the Master’s in Business Analytics program is giving her access to a wealth of experience and talent.
The Graduate Career Management Center (GCMC) hosts events—now online—with professionals who talk students through their own career journeys and the paths available to grads.
“There are lots of opportunities to learn from them, ask them questions, and that helps you decide what you want to do with your future,” Cindy explains.
Janhvi explains that companies have been reaching out to her with job and internship offers, even amid the pandemic. She also points to the ‘open house’—now virtual—where companies are open to conversing with students about their CVs and any potential job openings.
Zicklin’s Executives on Campus (EOC) program also provides students with executive mentors who guide and develop their networking skills, interview technique, and other business etiquette skills.
One of Cindy’s mentors Rawley Cooper introduced her to volunteer service Datakind so she could get real-time project experience during the program. Allison Siminovsky introduced her to business analyst, Christina McKendall, who passed on information about how to enhance her career prospects.
Finally, another mentor, marketing analyst Andrew Zwillinger, curated a list of key skills for Cindy to focus on developing. He also enhanced her interview technique.
Cindy and a friend on the course also launched the Data Science & Analytics Society to help students develop a career in data science and analytics through learning and networking. Cindy was the vice president of event planning before becoming the president of the society in October 2020.
Past events have brought students exposure to professionals from companies like Google and Accenture. Cindy says that the events have now shifted online, and upcoming speaker events are hoping to bring in professionals from Facebook, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley.
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The course covers everything you could need to launch a career in data, Cindy says.
“People are using Python and R more often, and Zicklin covers it all. It means you will graduate with knowledge of statistics, coding, and everything you need to know to be successful in this field.”
There are three specializations students can take—in accounting analytics, data analytics, or marketing analytics—which cover topics like big data technologies, data visualization, web analytics, and financial statement analysis and reporting.
Cindy points to professors Olisa Chakraborty—who teaches programming for business analytics—and Will Millhiser—who covers management science—as two stand out faculty members.
“Olisa logically explained the concept of Python and inspired our passion for programming,” she says, “while Will trained us to think thoroughly and understand the differences between data models and the real world.”
In the last semester students take a Capstone course that puts them in a group and gives them a real-life business problem to solve for a company. Students are provided with data from a company and tasked with thinking up a topic and a problem. They then work together to solve it.
Janhvi (pictured above) adds that she chose the program at Zicklin as she wanted to combine her business experience—she studied business administration at undergraduate level—with technical experience. Zicklin has delivered that.
“I had no experience in the field before Zicklin, but the subjects are helping me a lot to learn about this field,” Janhvi explains. “I don’t think I’ll need any extra experience or knowledge on top of what I’m learning now to start a career in business analytics.”
She wants to land a role with an organization as a business analyst, whether that be within a specific business analytics team, or within a company’s marketing or data analytics department.
Janhvi believes business analytics skills are important because today you need to be able to bridge the gap between business and tech. You need to be able to complement business jargon with tech knowhow, and analyze business performance between departments.
Cindy adds that a conversation with one of her mentors drove home the importance of understanding and deciphering data for businesses today.
“Companies have found that if you can better analyze people’s behavior you can better target your audience to drive decision making,” she says.
“But nowadays there are so many data points available it’s hard to get the right information. The Master’s in Business Analytics prepares you to make sense of data, and to add value to companies through data-driven decision making.”