Student Interview: Online Master of Business Analytics

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Learn more about Ohio University’s Online Master of Business Analytics.

Transcript

Amanda Scaperotta:

Hi, thank you for listening to our online master of business analytics webinars here at Ohio University. Today, we’ll be speaking with a current student in our master of business analytics program, and also speaking with the director of the online master of business analytics program.

Hello everyone. Thank you for listening to our webinar. We actually have a student with us to talk about the online master of business analytics program here at Ohio University. My name’s Amanda Scaperotta and I’m a program specialist on this program. And also here with us we have James Nelan, who is a current, online, master of business analytics students. James, would you like to introduce yourself?

James Nelan:

Yes. My name is James Nelan. I’ve been in this program for roughly over a year now, and it’s been a exciting and a challenging program all at the same time.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Awesome, James, and we’re happy to have you here with us talking about our business analytics program. Can you tell us a little bit about your current occupation and where you work?

James Nelan:

Currently I’m a data analyst and I work for a federal contractor in Washington, DC. This is a newer position for me, but I recently have been in logistics, either as an inventory control manager or an inventory analyst.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Awesome. Thank you for that, James. And what made you decide to go to Ohio University, and from there, what made you choose our online master of business analytics program?

James Nelan:

Well, honestly, it’s been a lot of research. I know I’ve been wanting to get into this field for a really long time and I wanted a university that was not only good for students to learn, but also I’m not going to lie, accreditation was a big deal. And Ohio University was AACSB accredited, so that was very influential for me to actually go through the program and get interested in this program. Yeah, from all the research I’ve done, this is one of the few programs that didn’t require a GRE or GMAT and with AACSB accredited for an online education.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Yes. Thank you for also bringing up the accreditation, we are very proud of that accreditation. There are fewer than 1% of business programs that are accredited by the AACSB and our college of business has been a part of that for nearly 70 years. Thank you for mentioning that as well James. Now, [crosstalk 00:02:59] in the online master of business analytics program.

James Nelan:

I’ve been a student since January, 2019, I technically have about five months left. It’s been a very exciting, very challenging coursework, at the same time. I’ve been learning a bunch of different techniques that are actually used in the field, and I can go on more about that later.

Amanda Scaperotta:

That’s awesome. Well, congratulations on being very close to being done with the program. I know five months sounds long, but time flies. Congratulations on being close.

James Nelan:

Thank you. Yeah, the first six months felt really … It really does fly by it. You never really notice it until now that I’m so close to the end that it really went by faster than I thought it would.

Amanda Scaperotta:

That’s awesome to hear. How is the [inaudible 00:04:09] analytics program helping you in your current position? Are you able to apply what you’re learning within your current position?

James Nelan:

Yes, honestly. Yeah, the class I’m actually taking now, which is business intelligence and data management, we’re using some of those same techniques now when it comes to creating data warehousing and architecture, and stuff like that. But when we’ve done predictive or prescriptive it’s stuff that I’ve either used or I am using in the field. Currently.

I can even give an example, for one of my roles as an inventory analyst, we were trying to come up with linear models and we just couldn’t figure out how to do it efficiently, and prescriptive analytics, we do use the solver tool that actually does some linear programming. And one of the modules that we learned was gold programming and it actually helped find us a solution. Because it was something that we just were struggling with and struggling with, and then after I took prescriptive analytics, it was something that kind of lit a light bulb in my head and I was like, “Oh wow, this might be our solution.” And it turned out to be our solution.

Amanda Scaperotta:

That’s exciting. I love when dots connect and light bulb moments happen. That’s really good to hear because especially if we’re taking the time and putting the energy into furthering your education, you definitely want to apply what you’re learning to real world scenarios.

James Nelan:

Oh, of course. Yeah. This is just one example. Some predictive modeling that we’ve learned is stuff that we’re using today, especially when it relates to time series or even not … Especially now, neural networks are huge in the field and many companies that I’ve worked for, or been with, are kind of scratching the surface. Some of the techniques that we’re learning in this program has been very helpful.

Amanda Scaperotta:

And can you describe what neural networks are?

James Nelan:

Yeah, that’s the funny thing is that neural networks are described as a black box, because they’re hard to kind of explain how the output is coming out. But I think one of the influential things about predictive analytics was it goes through step by step of how to create a neural network, whether it’s creating weights for your hidden layers, or coming up with different … I’m trying to think of the word, sorry … Learning rates and backwards propagation, stuff like that. It’s stuff that many companies are still kind of learning and trying to figure out better ways to implement, but this predictive analytics was really good tool and showing us how that actually works and ways to create models from it.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Good to know. And thank you for all of that insight. And I know we’ve kind of touched on it a little bit, but I wanted to ask, what is it like maintaining your career while you’re here?

James Nelan:

It’s been actually surprisingly well balanced, I would say. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely been challenges. There’s been times I’ve been up late at night trying to get work done or studying, but realistically, I’ve been able to do a pretty good job between balancing between work and school. It’s really just about time management, about how you manage your time effectively, because you may work eight to 10 hours a day, you come home and you may have a family and things do pop up from time to time, but if you set time each day or each … Set time for a week that you’re going to get work done, that’s key honestly, that’s how you’re going to get accomplished with this program.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Got it. Your advice to maybe people who are listening to this and thinking about going back to school while they’re working full time, what would be your biggest piece of advice working full time and then deciding to take [inaudible 00:08:51] and take on another obligation of continuing your education. Would you say time management is one of the biggest keys to success?

James Nelan:

Yeah, definitely time management. And honestly, plan ahead, because there’s going to be some modules that are very difficult and they’re going to take on a numerous amount of time, but they’re also going to be some modules that, for some people, are going to be pretty easy to pick up on. If you can, please, plan ahead, come up with a game plan of what you want to address first. Obviously address the stuff that you understand quicker, first. And if it’s a task that takes much longer to learn, set that set time for that because you’re going to need time to pick up on a lot of these concepts that are being thrown at you.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Thank you for that. And people listening to that always appreciate a real world perspective, if you will. Thank you for that. And during the program, how are you able to interact with your professors and fellow students? Do you feel like you’re on an Island or are you able to get a hold of people pretty well? Can you describe what that experience is like?

James Nelan:

Surprisingly, for being where I am, I’m able to get a hold of my professors pretty easily. They have cell phone numbers, they have emails, and they’re generally pretty responsive to the emails that you send and they’re pretty informative. And even with classmates, there’s a discussion boards for stuff that you’re not really sure of. And you put your question on discussion board and another classmate may come in and actually help you with that question. And then we also have done some LDPs, which are leadership development programs. At first, I was kind of hesitant about it, I didn’t really feel like making the trip to Ohio to do it, but after actually going to an LDP, it was a pretty eyeopening experience because you really learned a bunch of different concepts about management and techniques for dealing with your colleagues. And you get to see it from a bunch of different perspectives.

You have a bunch of different classmates from different parts of the program and you all get to do seminars and all these other functions that are pretty interesting. And another thing is you get to meet these people and then there are contacts, some of these people may be in your classroom. If you’re ever having trouble with something, you can reach out to one of them and give them a call, or a text, or even visit them in person if they live close enough.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Thank you for also bringing up the LDP, which is our leadership development program. And you only have to attend one. And what would you say, by attending that one, what was kind of a big takeaway? Did you feel like you were able to connect the dots? And I heard you say that you were hesitant about it, but then upon going … It’s two days, and you went, and you were able to take away some learnings and make some connections there.

James Nelan:

Yeah. At first, I didn’t really want to make the trip to Ohio. It’s a six hour drive from DC, but after actually going and then doing all the seminar classes, they really give you good detail and they give you good instructions on how to handle certain situations within your company.

And there was actually one seminar that I really found interesting was about branding yourself. I don’t remember the professor’s name, but it was a really good seminar on describing how you should be able to brand yourself to companies. And it’s not just whether it’s for your company, or even for yourself, if you’re branding yourself to another company on your resume, it’s a very good tool. The seminar was amazing, I thought, because it helped me update my resume and then I got another job. It was very influential for me.

Amanda Scaperotta:

That’s amazing. We’re really proud of our LDP program for the very reasons you just mentioned. Also, I wanted to ask you, and again, I know we’re kind of bouncing around, but what data visualization tools are you learning, currently, in the program or what tools have you learned already in the program?

James Nelan:

That’s the great thing, I have roughly three classes left and I think I’ve learned maybe six, seven, different tools. We’ve done Excel, obviously. And I thought Excel was a great beginning because it teaches you the concept on a smaller level, but now we’ve been doing Python. We learned Python, especially for machine learning was one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done. And then in the class that I’m taking now, which is business intelligence, data management, we’re using Sequel and [inaudible 00:14:04] for a unstructured data. And for digital data visualization, the one tool that we use was Tableau. And it’s a really good tool for creating unique visualizations. And for most people in the class, it was an easier tool than if you were to do it in Python or [inaudible 00:00:14:25], because it doesn’t require too much programming.

But another good thing about the program is that it doesn’t just show you how to make a visualization, it teaches you why you’re making the visualization. In order to create a visualization you want to make sure it’s relaying a message or telling a good story about what you’re trying to show in the data. When one of our classes, strategic use of analytics, it’s not just about creating analytics, it’s about how to use those analytics effectively and how to communicate your message to a strategic point.

Amanda Scaperotta:

I know a big part of this program is, of course, data is just a collection of numbers, but then you all are able to really take it to the next level by diving deep into it. And not only being able to just pull all of this information, but then really being able to convey it to any stakeholders so that they can make key business decisions.

James Nelan:

Exactly. I can tell you, from personal experience, when I was an inventory manager, one of the techniques that we learned in strategic use of analytics, I used for one of my presentations, regarding heat mapping of low inventory levels and using predictive analytics to find ways to distribute that inventory more effectively, and also using prescriptive analytics as well.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Thank you for sharing all of this James. It’s really awesome to hear your perspective as a current student within the program. And like you’ve mentioned, you’re in DC and you’re doing this on online with our program.

James Nelan:

Yes. And honestly, for me, it’s more unique than a classroom. Because in the classroom, I feel like sometimes you can be easily distracted, but at least in an online learning environment, if you lost track of something, you can always go back. Because they’re mostly online videos, and then you do VOH classes, and they’re always recorded. If you’re in a classroom, you’re taking notes, sometimes you miss something. And you may want to raise your hand and the professor may or may not help you, but at least in these courses, that are online, they’re all recorded. If you ever forget something and you’re not sure of it, you can always go back.

And then even if you have a question, from my perspective dealing with the professors at Ohio University, they’ve all been amazing. They’ve all been able to answer my questions effectively and they’ve always been within reach if I’ve ever needed anything.

Amanda Scaperotta:

This is really good insight, especially for folks who are just now checking out Ohio University and are looking at the online master of business analytics program. All of this information that you are providing, James, is really helpful to these people.

Also, I wanted to ask you, were there any unexpected benefits you discovered while you’ve been going through the program or just any unexpected surprises while you’ve been on your education journey?

James Nelan:

The concepts that we’re learning, I never realized how wide used they are. I can give you example with predictive analytics, I’ve heard of time series before, but I’ve never really used it. When we’ve done forecasting in the past, it was always just a moving average. But recently, I saw one of our departments was using time series, but they were using [inaudible 00:18:17] and I’ve never heard of before until I took predictive analytics. And now I understand the concept between an auto regressive moving average. I actually understand what that means and how to build a [inaudible 00:18:31] model.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Wow. And what would you say, after being able to experience all of this, what are your career goals or any plans you have career wise?

James Nelan:

One of the main reasons I wanted to go back to school, and one of the main reasons I chose this program, is because I really want to get into data science. My main goal would eventually to be either be a data scientist or maybe even a data engineer. When I first took the program, I was looking at just MBAs and thinking about an MBA in supply chain or something like that. But then I saw that they were offering a masters in business analytics and I thought, this is something I really wanted to do for a long time. And I saw it and I was like, I got to apply and hopefully I get in, and I did. And I haven’t regretted it ever since.

Amanda Scaperotta:

That’s huge James. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience, providing advice for people looking to take this program, and sharing your knowledge about the program. And just being honest about how everything is going within the program. We’re excited that you’re a student with that. And is there anything else you would like to add James?

James Nelan:

I would say that when enlisting in this program you’re going to face a lot of hurdles and there’s going to be challenges, but with a support system around you, especially with some of the professors that we have, you can get through it. And if you’re really passionate about data science or data analytics, this is the perfect program to get into, especially within the … They structure it in a way that the first couple of courses builds upon those skills and it teaches you, from a ground level, what you need to learn in order to build a predictive model.

And then from there, it gets into more advanced concepts of more advanced programming and software tools that are used in the current industry today. I know that right now we’re using [inaudible 00:20:56] and we’re using Sequel and our future goal is eventually to start using Python for data automation and machine learning concepts. And it’s stuff that’s already taught in most of your classes, it’s stuff that I’ve been excited about using and stuff that I’ve been excited about doing. The professors are doing a great job of relaying that information in a way that’s not too complicated sometimes.

Amanda Scaperotta:

James, again, thank you so much for the insight and that perspective. We truly appreciate it.

James Nelan:

Thank you, Amanda.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Thank you again, James, for providing your current experience within the online master of business analytics program. With that said, I wanted to say, online doesn’t mean out of touch, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with classmates in your program, network with students enrolled in other online business programs, along with alumni and faculty as well.

At Ohio University, we make it a priority to connect each student individually, which means you don’t have to worry about getting lost in a crowd. We provide access to the specialized attention you need and offer personalized support to help you achieve your goals. Online class discussions are hosted on Blackboard, which allows you to interact directly with faculty and fellow students. Also, many students find that they get to know each other and cohort and form text, and even email groups outside of the Blackboard system. Our online students are not an afterthought here at Ohio University. Next up, we have Dr. Bill Young to speak on the program details.

Dr. Bill Young:

Hello everybody. My name’s Dr. Young, and I’m the director of our online masters of business analytics program. I’m also a professor of business analytics here at the college. I want to talk about the highlights of our business analytics program. But first, I want to also talk about the highlights of Ohio University itself.

We are one of the eighth oldest public institutions in the United States and we have about 25,000 students on campus in Athens, Ohio, which is southeastern Ohio. And I can tell you that we’ve had a wide range of success and some other of our programs, namely our online MBA program and our master’s of business analytics program, is modeled based on all the success that we’ve had within that program. Whether it be Bloomberg, U.S. News Report, or some other ranking institutions like [inaudible 00:23:53], where our online MBA program is highly ranked. And we want to bring that success and our experience through providing that highly ranked program and the world of analytics.

We’ve already received some recognition from KDnuggets, which is a highly credible resource when it comes to all things analytics. And we’ve started our program about a year ago, and we’ve already seen some early success. And I want to talk about the value of our program when you start to shop around with some of the other competitors of ours. I think it’s useful to know what stands out about our program and what are some of the things you can consider when making your choice.

The first thing I would say is, Ohio University is very student centered. We have a team of faculty and staff that are really dedicated to your success. At one point, we’ve had a conference here in Athens, and one of my colleagues mentioned that our online program is not an afterthought. We have a floor in our building dedicated to online programs and a staff of people dedicated to your success. If you come in to our program, we have an orientation program that helps you get acclimated to an online environment, which might be new to you. We have a team of student success support specialists that will make sure you have the correct information that you need to register for your classes, buy the appropriate materials for the courses, and just have a good level of support and a good level of communication between your advisor and yourself throughout the entire program, which is five semesters.

The other thing about OU is that we’re accredited from the AACSB, which is the highest ranking business accreditation body in the world. Actually, less than 5% of business schools worldwide have this designation, so we’re one of those programs. And that really brings up a point about our value, our program at the cost structure, we offer our program and things like that as recognized, sort of universally, as a really high value from a higher level education perspective. We have a dedicated staff that is roughly 80% to 90% terminal degree holding faculty, which is a unique aspect, I think, from an online perspective. Courses aren’t being taught from a graduate assistant, for example, you get to talk to the experts directly. We hold synchronous sessions throughout the week of any course you take. Actually, in a given week, you’ll have two classes that are held virtually and you’ll be able to get a chance to talk with your faculty members, ask them questions about any sort of videos or readings that you’ve might’ve had up until that point. It really gives you a connection with the faculty.

Going back to our student centered nature, that’s something that we really covet at Ohio University. And we really, from a curriculum standpoint, really covet the application of our disciplines that we teach, that’s another value that you got to keep in mind. A lot of times when I teach, I’m happy to say that students always reflect back to me how, almost instantly, they’re being able to utilize the skills that they’re learning from the courses that they’re taking directly back into their organization. That’s a really good thing to remember. It’s not only just the theoretical things that you’re learning, it’s more about the practical. That’s really a good return on your investment.

In terms of our other staff, I just want to mention, we do work with a lot of learning designers that are highly skilled in developing curriculum and content dedicated to the adult online learner. We have been well recognized as being a flexible program for working professionals, I think that’s something else that you want to consider. In our program, we offer courses in a seven week time fashion. In a given semester, you’re going to take two courses, or that’s the typical track people take, and those courses are offered one at a time. It really gives you a perspective and a focus on one course, at one time, where you don’t have to worry about competing deadlines or anything else of that nature. It really gives you also a time to manage your professional lives as well as your family life. That’s something to consider.

In terms about the leadership development program, it’s a really great experience and it’s almost hard to summarize what goes on in that environment in just a few minutes. But I can say it is a world class environment where it’s centered around leadership and developing your leadership. And we have speakers around the world. We have guest speakers from various companies nationwide. We bring in panelists from companies that we work with directly at Ohio University, or have context for those people when our community, our [inaudible 00:00:29:26], if you will. It’s a really great experience to get to know your fellow students that you’re taking classes with, it’s also a great time to connect with other faculty members that you’ve might have had online.

And I’ll leave you with this point, and I want to talk about the curriculum once again, being the program director of this, this is where I really have had a lot of input, and I’m happy to say that our curriculum is very practitioner focused, but it does also have a base in the theoretical application of things as well. But anyway, when you look at programs, I would think one differentiating factor of our program, with respect of others, is we’ve built our program from the ground up. And that might not seem like a big deal, but a lot of programs, that are available for you to select from these days, were really created in a manner that programs and colleges we’re using classes from other programs, maybe even other colleges, in an effort to just launch an analytics program the quickest way possible. And we really took a step back and said, “If we’re going to do this, we want to do it right.”

And what we did was not the easy way and it took a lot more collaboration and processes through the college, and university, and state alike, but we developed a program and a sequence that made sense for our students. We don’t necessarily expect anybody to come in with really high quality skills, if you will, or in depth knowledge of certain areas like statistics, for example, or computer science, we’ve built a program in a way that will get you comfortable, that we’ll focus on getting you comfortable and building your comfort, the technologies that were being used and the principles behind the theories that we teach in a manner that’s very doable and it gradually increases, if you will, in complexity over time. But that’s a good thing because once you leave our program, you’re going to be somebody that can add a tremendous amount of value to your organization.

And I guess my final note would be that I think this program is great for somebody that has recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree, who might be in an organization where their company’s analytical capability is rather low, or maybe their maturity of adopting analytical practices are low, and you’re really wanting to forge a career path down analytics. It’s great for somebody who just recently completed a bachelor’s program. And honestly, it’s also great for those that have quite a bit of working experience that haven’t necessarily had anything analytical in their past, because you’re going to be asked, the people with experience, are going to be asked to lead their organizations. And a lot of time when companies are just building their analytical capabilities, they’re going to also resort and consult the people that have the expertise within their organization to lead their analytical pathway in the future.

Amanda Scaperotta:

Thank you again for listening to our online master of business analytics webinar. I wanted to let you know, we have three starts per year, spring, summer, and fall. On the screen here, you’ll see the email address and phone number to get in touch with one of our enrollment advisors. Thank you again.