If there is one topic that gets business school graduates’ pulses racing, it is the big data scene.
Data is creating countless new career paths and is slowly reshaping the way executives gain insights and develop strategy. It is a much-hyped area that will pique the interest of any aspiring business leader, who will need to use advanced analytics to manage risk, improve controls and, ultimately, enhance operational performance.
“The way big data is changing what’s going on in business is like life scientists having a microscope for the first time,” says Mark Kennedy, associate professor of strategy and director of the KPMG Centre for Business Analytics at Imperial College Business School. Frankly, he says, it is hard to image an industry that isn’t going to be “fundamentally disrupted” by big data.
MBAs are benefitting from the vast numbers of jobs being created as a result of the analytics skills crunch, but also from the ability to incorporate data analysis into seemingly untechnical roles.
The need for business analytics stretches from fresh market leaders like Salesforce or Palantir, to decades old companies such as Goldman Sachs, Dell or PwC.
We’ve spoken to five MBAs who have blazed a trail in big data, from the finance and consultancy industries to the marketing and tech sectors.
London Business School
Radhika Chadwick believes there is plenty of demand for data and analytics in business. And, as a partner at EY who leads digital and strategy advisory services, she is well placed to know.
Since graduating from the London Business School MBA in 2005, she has worked for Hewlett-Packard, PwC, and as the chief executive of Resonant Strategy, a management consultancy firm.
Radhika, who joined EY last year, says the potential of business data is yet to be fully realized. “The idea of having better management decision making, and having targeted intervention based on data rather than oversight, is starting to make its way [into organizations],” she says.
But this is just a warmup act: “It’s still a nascent industry. There are still huge strides to be taken.”
Cass Business School
“We see enormous potential in applying risk information and data analytics to clinical research,” he says. “By means of smart data evaluation, pharma companies can reduce patient risk and the cost of clinical monitoring.”
Artem founded Cyntegrity, which is backed by Commerzbank, the same year he graduated from the Cass Business School MBA, in 2013. “The MBA provided me with the necessary tools for planning and launching a technology start-up,” he says.
He says data analytics can make clinical trials safer for patients: “Safety risks are controlled by smart data-engines. It checks sloppiness and misconduct, and can even identify fraudulent behaviour,” he says.
MIP Politecnico di Milano
Pradeep Bhat spent his summer as an intern at IBM Business Analytics, the big data wing of the US tech corporation.
“It's exciting for me to be a part of this field and to start from the very beginning of a new era of computing systems,” he says. His role at IBM involved brainstorming possibilities in the field of data analytics to drive sales for IBM’s financial services clients.
“With proper analysis, one can precisely predict events in future, and take evasive action today to survive and grow in the competitive economy,” says Pradeep.
He’s an MBA graduate from Italy’s MIP Politecnico di Milano and says the big data analytics course presented by professor Guido Gerlotti was a “turning point” in his career: “The course played a very important role in my life and helped me to shift my direction towards big data analytics,” he says.
UBC Sauder School of Business
Mujtaba Sevany has his sights set on a marketing career. “Decisions need to be made in marketing, and the more data you have, the ‘easier’ the decisions become,” says Mujtaba, who previously worked as a sales and marketing manager for Decase Chemicals, an importer and exporter of chemicals based in Kenya.
An MBA student at Vancouver’s UBC Sauder School of Business, he believes the degree will help him move into a marketing management role, where he can leverage the capabilities of digital and analytics.
“Analytics has made collecting and analyzing data a lot more convenient, whether it be comparing the effectiveness of two different marketing campaigns, or determining what audience to target your messages and campaigns toward,” he says.
Inter-American Development Bank
Lancaster University Management School
Before beginning an MBA in the UK, Marlon Velloza worked as an IT consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank, which support efforts by Latin America and Caribbean countries to reduce poverty.
A computer science graduate who previously studied database management systems in Guyana, South America, he is excited about the impact of technology and analytics on business.
“The most exciting thing about technology in business is the ability for companies to use very powerful tools that can aid in their decision making process and ultimately give them a competitive advantage, such as big data analytics,” says Marlon.
He enrolled in the MBA at Lancaster University Management School last year and hopes the program will eventually land him a C-suite IT job at a global company.
But “such a role would require more than just technical skills”, he says.