By Jess Clarke
When Jenkins MBA student Jessica Rosera worked in finance in the healthcare field, deciding the best way to compile vast amounts of data was challenging.
And one of her first takeaways in her new role as a finance director at George Mason University? The data isn’t going away.
Neither is her goal to gain a solid understanding of data analytics. She’s doing that in the Jenkins MBA Business Analytics certificate program. “It’s good to know how to talk to people who have a more data analytics background than I do and to know how to translate it to bridge finance and data to work together,” Rosera says.
The program offers classes in core analytics concepts with using and modeling big data, so students can help improve processes and profitability for their organization.
The certificate addresses growing, widespread workplace demand.
“Senior executives say they need people who understand analytics and can create models to solve problems. They need people who both understand how to manage a business and how to utilize data in order to make more informed decisions,” says Poole professor Donnie Hale, who directs the certificate program.
Rosera uses what she’s learning in the program to make informed decisions at George Mason. “Since I’ve been in the certificate program, I understand better how to use data and streamline our processes,” says Rosera, also a student in the Jenkins Professional Online MBA program.
One of the certificate program’s distinguishing features is the practicum, in which students leverage data to address questions real businesses face.
Jamila Belk’s practicum team is working with a large company to use data-driven decision-making at the strategic level. That includes analyzing new verticals “and trying to determine where else they can pivot successfully or if there are companies they should acquire,” she says.
In real-world application of their classroom skills, certificate students work with a range of businesses to study product demand, identify sales and marketing opportunities, create dashboards to highlight performance, size and evaluate markets, and other tasks.
Belk, a financial analyst at Duke University, expects the certificate program to help her strategize as her department merges with another campus unit. “We’ll need to forecast and determine how to pivot in the future,” says Belk, who’s also a Jenkins MBA online student. “Being in this program and working with a team to collect and analyze data has been very eye-opening.”
Certificate students cite as particularly valuable JMP, Tableau, Excel and other tools, in which they’ve gained proficiency in the program and use in their jobs.
We often hear from employers that employees who have taken our graduate certificate are ready to hit the ground running in their careers.
“We often hear from employers that employees who have taken our graduate certificate are ready to hit the ground running in their careers. Our program and students are imbued with NC State’s Think and Do attitude that is about using skills they’ve learned to solve complex problems,” says Bill Rand, McLauchlan Distinguished Professor of Marketing, and executive director of the Business Analytics Initiative housed in Poole College.
Some students pursue the graduate business analytics certificate as a stand-alone credential.
Matt Mallard is a director in the supply chain and logistics area for Volvo Group in Greensboro. “There’s so much new technology and tools that from a leadership viewpoint, I needed to have more add-on technical skills that would help me see the future a little better,” he says.
There’s so much new technology and tools that from a leadership viewpoint, I needed to have more add-on technical skills that would help me see the future a little better.
The future is now. What Mallard has learned in the program has been useful at work. “There have been a couple of projects I’ve helped support where the knowledge I learned in this class helped me better understand what they’re doing,” he says.
Mallard chose the business analytics certificate because the time commitment fits his schedule. “It isn’t a full master’s program, but it’s much deeper than if you do something for a week,” he says.
And for some managers like him who aren’t just starting a career, the certificate may give them the ultimate post-graduate job preparation. “I think for people in a similar role as me,” he says, “this is what allows us to be successful for the rest of our career.”
That may include Rosera.
She credits the certificate and MBA programs with helping her get her position at George Mason last year. Regarding the certificate, “My current boss was very excited about my background because this is what George Mason needs to be more focused on, data and improving our systems,” she says.
And as Rosera looks to advance to an executive position someday, her analytics skills could help her get there. “I’d like to not be totally focused in finance as I move up,” she notes. “In those roles, you have to have a broader background and be more versatile.”