France’s EDHEC Business School has just held its first ever course for MBA students focused exclusively on big data and artificial intelligence.
Launched in response to employer demand, EDHEC’s new Big Data and Artificial Intelligence @ Work course brings MBA students together with data scientists to educate them about using data to drive business strategy.
“What we see more and more today is that companies are looking for people who can bridge the gap between information technology and the data specialists, and the business units,” says the course’s lead professor Karin Kollenz.
A former strategist in the telecommunications industry, Karin taught one of the classes during the three-day, 90-student course. Representatives were also brought in from Google to speak to students about trends in and applications of new-age technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Much of the hands-on portion of the course includes in-depth work with Tableau Software, a data visualization tool, to find innovative ways of portraying and communicating information. Students also used big data—extremely large sets of data that have to be crunched by a computer to reveal larger trends—to develop business strategies.
“It’s a skill most MBAs simply don’t have,” Karin says. “In some MBA programs you’ll find electives that deal with big data, but that’s about it,” she says. “It’s about understanding what makes a good visualization.”
Yvan Fornes led the class in data visualization with Tableau. Known as a ‘Tableau Zen Master,’ Yvan helps customers find value in large data stacks for major European IT group Amadeus.
In his work, Yvan expertly crunches the numbers with Tableau to point clients toward the industry trends that will define their business strategies.
Yvan’s goal with the course was to show EDHEC MBAs how to utilize hard numbers and modern technology to make these practical professional decisions.
“It’s very important to base their decision on fact,” he says. “If the ‘big data’ is hundreds of millions of rows of information, then they can access it themselves without any technical skills—and that’s something you couldn’t do a couple of years ago.”
Most importantly, Yvan adds, MBAs will then be able to make more choices based on facts illuminated by cutting-edge technology.
Yvan gave EDHEC MBAs a number of tasks to complete both before and after the contact hours. Although many of his students were new to Tableau software, he was so impressed by their output that his company may offer a job to one of the highest-performing MBAs.
Jeff Laudadio, a current MBA student at EDHEC had never used Tableau before completing the course.
“It was really interesting going from Excel, where you can do something like a simple regression or a graph, […] compared to something you created in Tableau that has a lot more impact,” Jeff says.
After completing his MBA, Jeff plans to take these skills along with him when he moves from France to his new job working for Amazon in Seattle.
Along with the Big Data and Artificial Intelligence @ Work course, EDHEC also finished another first-time class this month that focused on operations and supply chain management.
Featuring a partnership with Amazon, the course is designed to be a hands-on deep dive into logistics with one of the world’s most prominent product suppliers.
MBA students at EDHEC now have potential international weeks in Cape Town, Singapore, San Francisco, and London to look forward to.