It’s hard to believe, but our Business Analytics coursework has wrapped up for the year! As we’re making our way onward to the Global Immersion Experience (GIE), out of McIntire, and into the working world, I wanted to get in touch with some BA alum from last year’s class to learn what they’ve been up to since graduating from the M.S. in Commerce (MSC) program.
Emily Huang and Jordan Smith both graduated from the BA track in 2016, and since then they’ve each gone on to a unique job at opposite ends of the earth. Emily now works as a Marketing Science Analyst for Coca-Cola Japan in Tokyo, and Jordan works as a Technology Advisor for EY’s Data and Analytics practice in New York City. I wanted to know what they felt were some of the most important facets of their work life, and how the BA track and the MSC program helped them prepare. And, well, I’ll let them speak for themselves.
Communication is key
“The most important skill I use daily is definitely communication,” Emily said of her role in Tokyo. “From presentations to focus group interviews to casual elevator chats, how to tell a meaningful story efficiently in the correct cultural and situational context is not easy and needs practice.” The elevator pitch is one of the first projects we worked on in MSC, and the concept of weaving an impactful story into our business presentations has been emphasized since day one. We even had a class section devoted entirely to written and verbal communication skills, plus at least a dozen live presentations throughout the year.
Jordan echoed the importance of strong communication: “One of the most important skills I use on a daily basis, as Emily said, is communication… I’m communicating with the clients, my eight-person team, and other EY employees about internal work… you have to be comfortable communicating with them and following up to get the information you need in a timely manner.” She commented on how the MSC program gave her an edge in this regard. “The projects give you a lot of exposure and examples that you can pull from in the future. I use PowerPoint and Excel every single day and constantly think back to presentations from last year when I need ideas.”
“It may sound cliche, but BLUF everything you say,” Emily advised. BLUF stands for Bottom Line Up Front, and it’s a concept we’ve been trained to apply to everything from presentations to quick email interactions. In the fast-paced world of business, the ability to identify, analyze, and summarize the key points of any issue is invaluable. One of Professor Maillet’s favorite phrases in our Global Commerce class was “finding the signal in the noise,” or getting to the true heart of things even when the available data is pulling us in a hundred different directions.
Maintaining a breadth of knowledge
“In a global company like Coca-Cola, literally every lesson in Maillet’s class can be applied to our business,” Emily remarked. “For instance, the habit of reading the news and automatically making connection everyday (which I didn’t have before).” Bringing the coolest, most relevant news articles for each morning’s discussion sometimes became a point of pride in the first semester of the program. At some point, reading the news stopped being an assignment and started being compulsion for many of us.
Emily also found the Business Analytics coursework essential. “As my role includes digital consumer research,” she said, “the exposure to different KPIs and tools in Professor Kitchens’ course was super helpful as a foundation and to stay relevant. Also, all of the presentations were great practice!”
Jordan spoke to the importance of carrying over the high standards for work ethic and intellectual curiosity from the MSC program to the working world: “After taking Professor Kitchens’ Introduction to Business Analytics and Digital Analytics classes… I’ve become interested in Visual Analytics and Visualization software; so I spoke to my team when I saw an opening for a Qlikview training and we worked it out so that I was able to take a Friday off from the client site and attend the full-day training.”
“You’ve been given and developed the skills you need to succeed,” Jordan assured me, reflecting on her first few days at work. “In fact, for our two-week initial training, we were broken up into groups and assigned a company. We had to assess their current situation, identify problems in the firm or its operating model, and develop a final presentation where we proposed our recommendations including a cost benefit analysis. Sound familiar?” In response, I can only offer a resounding yes — we’ve been mastering that framework all year.
How to Succeed In Business Analytics
Since I looked to this blog so often when considering MSC, and I myself will be going into analytics at Capital One in the fall, I wanted to hear Jordan and Emily’s advice for incoming students and outgoing graduates about to get their start in BA.
“If anything, remember to NETWORK! Professors are also great resources, that’s how I learned about the job opening for my current role,” Emily advised; “Explore all the different opportunities available, don’t just focus on one industry or location!” She commented that her move to Japan for this role was “one of the best decisions I’ve made (behind going to MSC of course)!”
Jordan also emphasized the value of building up a network among McIntire classmates, faculty, and recruiters, as well as the ability to “just remain confident in yourself.” During her transition from school to consulting at EY, she had to learn to become very familiar with new concepts and companies in a very short period of time, but she reflected that “before I started the MSC I hardly knew anything about digital analytics, or big data and I managed to do pretty well.”
One of our professors this year has often joked that BA actually stands for Bad Ass. After making it through this year and now hearing from alumni from the track’s first iteration, I gotta say, this really rings true. We haven’t just learned to use analytics, write code, and create presentations; we’ve also learned how to be resilient, investigative, and quick-thinking. These ladies have already seen great success in their first year out, and with the skills MSC has helped us develop, the future looks quite bright. I can’t wait to see where my classmates and I will be a year from now.