But since Microsoft is likely to have hundreds of applications for many of its roles, how do you stand out in a competitive job market?
For Valorie Hampton, a senior program manager at Microsoft, a Master's in Business Analytics helped her to stand out and build a successful tech career at the firm.
Joining a master’s in business analytics program in Washington, D.C.
The decision to join a Master's in Business Analytics program came naturally to Valorie. At the time she was working in supply chain within the automotive industry, at Toyota.
“I noticed that I was working with a lot of data, but I really had no idea how to make it more impactful on my daily work,” she says.
The STEM-designated master’s in analytics program at American University's Kogod School of Business caught Valorie’s attention, as it's a master’s degree that offers both full-time and part-time study options. She chose the part-time format, which involves studying remotely for two years, so that she could fit the degree around her busy career.
The Kogod School of Business is based in Washington, D.C., the thriving political epicenter of the US. Though the master’s in data analytics is studied online, students get a chance to connect in D.C. when they visit campus to participate in networking events and group projects.
Blending management and leadership with data and analytics
For anyone who wants to work in a data-driven role, you’ll quickly learn that your work doesn’t revolve around numbers. You’ll need to brush up on your general business knowledge and leadership skills to be successful.
The Kogod master's in analytics program provides courses in business fundamentals like consulting, finance, and business intelligence, while also equipping students with specialist technical skills in a variety of programming languages such as R, Python, SQL, and the data visualization program Tableau.
“We learned that none of the technical aspect matters if you can’t articulate the business thought or theory to your team and to leadership,” says Valorie.
“Not only are we becoming a more data-driven world, but we need people who can communicate and articulate what to do with that data.”
In the master’s in data analytics program, students can specialize in areas like IT consulting, forensic accounting, or biostatistics.
Data analytics consulting projects
Students in the online master's in analytics program participate in an in-person capstone project that sees teams of people working with a Washington, D.C. based company to solve a data-based problem.
“We view these initiatives as consulting engagements, so the students can learn and practice good consulting skills, work collaboratively in teams, and apply the classroom concepts they have learned to real problems, including dealing with dirty data,” says Frank Armour (pictured), assistant professor of information technology at Kogod.
Students might work with professional sports teams to assess play evaluations or on software process analytics with software development firms.
Valorie worked with the Special Olympics to predict BMI using data collected from worldwide events.
“It was a great experience to work as part of a team to figure out what the different variables are and what variables to eliminate,” she says.
Launching a Microsoft career after an MS in Analytics
After graduating, Valorie wanted to join a data-driven role with a company whose products she regularly uses. That’s when she landed on launching a career with Microsoft.
It was in the interview stage with Microsoft that she discovered the true value of her master’s in analytics degree, she explains.
“When recruiters see that you have that analytics background, and you've invested time and money into a master's degree, the conversations became a whole lot easier,” says Valorie, who works as a senior program manager for the Azure database platform at Microsoft, in Seattle.
"Many big tech firms value someone who is able to understand the detailed business objectives, challenges, and requirements for a successful analytics effort," adds Frank.
That’s what Valorie is doing in her current role. She assesses how customers use Microsoft’s cloud products and provides insights to upper management about how to grow the products.
She says her master’s degree in analytics has been invaluable to kickstarting her Microsoft career.
“I learned that what matters is my ability to get in front of my audience and articulate the next steps, providing data-focused recommendations,” she concludes.