By Zina Lahham (M.S. Commerce ’23)
If you’re exploring different tracks offered by UVA McIntire’s M.S. in Commerce Program and are unsure where to start, I highly encourage you to consider the Business Analytics Track. I decided to study Business Analytics at McIntire because it offers students a carefully curated skill set indispensable to strategic decision-making.
At first, I was unsure which track would be best for me. Although I was confident that each of the M.S. in Commerce track choices offers excellent programs, I wanted to choose a path aligned with my goals and interests.
What Is Business Analytics?
Before learning more about it, I thought Business Analytics (BA) would just be looking at data and crunching numbers all day. And it definitely involves that. But I realized it is much more about the story the data tells. In an ever-evolving technological world, many cases have shown that good data doesn’t entail good decision-making, and business leaders must be prepared with the ability to actually understand how to interpret the tremendous amounts of data available just at our fingertips. This is much more exciting than I initially thought it to be.
From guarding against biases to identifying clear and measurable objectives, meaningfully and accurately interpreting data is essential to boosting organizations’ overall health and long-term performance.
Studying BA allows you to offer holistic solutions, based on data, to complex business challenges.
What Business Analytics Courses Does the M.S. in Commerce Program Offer?
M.S. in Commerce students of all tracks start the semester with the Integrated Core Experience, a collection of courses that deep dive into topics ranging from strategy to organizational behavior, accounting, and finance.
In the fall semester’s second half, Business Analytics Track students take Data Management for Decision Making. This course, taught by Professors Yi Liang and Brent Kitchens, offers students the opportunity to build a foundation in web analytics and search analytics. We got lots of hands-on experience with programming languages like SQL. We also practiced creating ERDs and relational schemas. There is a balance between independent work and teamwork, giving students the time needed to strengthen their understanding of the material before contributing to team deliverables. The class environment is collaborative, and Professor Liang identified interacting with students with diverse perspectives and insightful questions as one of his favorite parts of teaching the course.
“The class is fun,” Della Zhang (M.S. in Commerce’ 23) said. “We work on labs and get to code on our own in SQL, which is helpful and can be used for future jobs.” Zhang chose the BA track to get more experience with coding.
In the spring, students choose 12 credits of track-specific courses and a three-credit course, Foundations in Global Commerce, designed to prepare students for the Global Immersion Experience (GIE). Track courses include Managerial View of AI, Predictive Analytics with Low Code Technology, Unstructured Data Analytics, and Python for Data Science.
Bashshar Osman (M.S. in Commerce’ 23) especially looked forward to Unstructured Data Analytics. “It reflects the kind of work I’ll be doing after school as a Business Analyst, working with big, unorganized data,” Osman explained. In Unstructured Data Analytics, students are exposed to big data technologies, including NoSQL and Hadoop.
Why Study Business Analytics at McIntire?
The Business Analytics Track at McIntire plays a crucial role in preparing graduates to be successful throughout their careers and helps them secure their first roles. There are many reasons to choose McIntire, from preparing graduates with relevant coursework with leading professors and faculty to granting access to a solid and international alum network.
Professor Liang, an expert in financial reporting and information systems, emphasized the increasing importance of data analytics in today’s professional world. Professor Liang explained that firms increasingly demand familiarity with data management tools such as SQL. By choosing the Business Analytics Track, Professor Liang notes, graduates have a “competitive advantage, especially if firms are interested in people with data analytics or data management skills.”
My peers in the Business Analytics Track echoed similar sentiments. Anurika Kumar (M.S. in Commerce’ 23) told me that reading through job requirements swayed her toward the track. “To land that future job, I needed the applicable skills.”
Appian maintains that to succeed in their Associate Consultant role, candidates must have a “solid foundation of, or love for, technology.” Booz Allen Hamilton includes “knowledge of problem-solving and data analysis” in their preferred skills for an incoming General Management Consultant.
Understanding the role of data in decision-making allows McIntire graduates to emerge at the forefront of harnessing technology for optimal decision-making practices.