Data analysis is a highly coveted skill these days—89% of businesses say they plan to adopt big data analytics by 2022, and last year over 1.3 million jobs requiring data skills were posted, according to Burning Glass Technologies.
How can an understanding of data help you to solve complex business problems and excel in your role? Understanding data analysis software and being able to interpret complex data to solve business questions can offer you immeasurable opportunities to grow and advance in your career.
Two senior executives shared their thoughts on how business analytics have transformed the work they manage in marketing and finance. Lisa Melton is Senior Vice President of Marketing at AAA Northeast in Providence, RI. Mike Lawhead is Vice President, Portfolio Manager, at Bank of America in New York.
Why is the Master of Science in Business Analytics degree so important and relevant today?
Lisa Melton (LM): There have been so many advances in technology over the years that companies have multiple sources of information and massive amounts of data—and they need people to help them make sense of all of it. I can’t think of an industry or company that doesn’t look at their data as an asset and a very valuable resource, and frankly, most jobs today have some sort of data-decision making component to them. It’s a key competency that will only continue to grow in importance. In reading more about St. Bonaventure’s Master’s in Business Analytics program, it’s clear that it focuses on all the right aspects of data decision making, communication and ethics.
Mike Lawhead (ML): The amount of observable and measurable data is growing exponentially every year. As these new sources of data that were previously unmeasurable continue to be developed, the economic imperative for the current generation of businesses, governments and educational institutions has shifted to transforming these pieces of data into information that can guide institutional decision making. The ability to harvest, manipulate, and analyze data is a critical skill that has become indispensable even during periods of economic instability and should be viewed as an incredible opportunity as students contemplate entering the workforce.
As a senior marketing executive, how do you use data analysis to accomplish your goals?
LM: One of the tenets of my department is that we are data-rich and insights-driven—it’s foundational and embedded in our culture. Everything we do is based on data, and that data leads us to make decisions that impact future results, all with the goal of driving our business forward.
Being data-driven also gives us the ability to remove subjectivity in our marketing efforts—we’re testing ideas and seeing how they perform. And if they don’t do what we expected, we see where the data leads us and try something else. It really accelerates our success by creating an environment of constant learning and improvement.
Based on your experience, in what ways is Business Analytics a rewarding career track?
LM: From my perspective, this is an area where you can be continually learning, challenged and constantly growing in your role and knowledge of business. To me, that’s a winning combination for a terrific career. This is also a transferrable skill set, so you could work for a number of different industries throughout your career, if you choose to do so.
ML: A rewarding career will mean different things to different people. As a Portfolio Manager, I have found it incredibly rewarding to be able to evaluate information and form my own opinion on what story the various pieces of economic data are trying to tell the world. The reality is that we live in a world where data can be transformed and manipulated to tell any story that the narrator wants to convey, but the intellectual independence to evaluate the exact same data and to reach differing conclusions has offered investors an incredible opportunity over the last year.
Admittedly, that’s a narrow perspective focused on my personal career, but the ability to evaluate any set of data and independently decide what story that data is telling you is incredibly valuable and rewarding in today’s world. Whether you work in finance, or in healthcare or for a non-profit, you will ultimately need to develop a framework to make any decision within your institution and even just within our own daily lives, and having the ability to analyze data and reach your own decision is more important today than maybe in any period of modern history.
When hiring, what do you see as the missing skills needed for data analysis?
LM: It’s easy to create reports with loads of data, but it’s more important to be what I like to refer to as a data “sense-maker,” which is someone who can help stakeholders better understand what conclusions they should be making from the data.
There’s so much collaboration between business and marketing, and with that comes different audiences with different levels of analytical aptitude. It’s important to be able to make sure insights are communicated effectively and in a way that’s tailored and contextualized for all to understand and be able to react to. This really boils down to being analytical and an effective communicator.
What advice do you have for those interested in growing their skills as a data-savvy leader?
ML: A great piece of advice that was shared with me from one of my mentors was the importance of finding a way to make the work we do every day intellectually stimulating. Whether its evaluating data, becoming more comfortable speaking in front of people or improving your ability to lead a team—it’s far more interesting and rewarding to find skills or traits in life that you personally feel you need to improve on, putting in a ton of time and effort to get more comfortable with being in that situation and then looking back and seeing the progress you’ve made relative to where you started.
LM: I’ll share the same advice I’d have for anyone in leadership role: focus on your people, your process and your technologies. When you have all of those in the right place, success will follow.
Why St. Bonaventure University?
St. Bonaventure University’s Online Master of Science in Business Analytics cultivates skills needed to succeed in this growing profession. Courses in data warehousing, data visualization, and predictive analytics teach best practices used in the global economy. You also learn essential tools like SQL and Tableau from world-class faculty.
SBU’s Online MS in Business Analytics makes you an indispensable part of any company’s data operations. Your first step toward solving the last-mile gap is to contact SBU today to learn more about this advanced degree.
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