Welcome to the 2nd Annual MSBA Newsletter, with highlights from the past year’s Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) at the University of Montana’s College of Business. Sixteen students graduated in May 2018! This newsletter features the graduates’ post-employment career opportunities, their course work and internships, and guest speakers; in addition, it highlights a few of our incoming students and partnership opportunities. For inquiries, contact Jakki Mohr.
With an emphasis on gaining hands-on, relevant work experience, the MSBA program is designed to help students obtain employment directly u
The MSBA program trains students in relevant skills to provide immediate value to employers. While applying and interviewing for jobs during the school year was no easy task, given the heavy course load, several students made it a priority and were rewarded for their efforts.
Elizabeth Sicheri became interested in Fast Enterprises during their recruitment trip to the College of Business; she has since launched her career as a Data Analyst in their Pennsylvania office. She focuses on working with clients to provide insight into data warehousing, business intelligence, and analytics to optimize data-driven decision making.
Hayley Lose moved to Portland, OR to work for digital marketing agency R2C Group in Marketing Analytics. Hayley is working on a variety of projects, such as developing forms for client data collection and training an internal team on statistical programming in R Studio.
Marty Grant stayed in Missoula to use his technical expertise as a Data Analyst at LumenAd, a fast-growing tech company focused on helping brands and agencies drive their revenue through optimized digital campaigns. Marty is helping LumenAd leverage the power of machine learning to solve their complex data puzzles.
Mike Ralston received his undergraduate degree in Management Information Systems, and upon completion of the MSBA program moved to Seattle, WA to work for KMPG. In his role as an IT Audit and Assurance Associate, Mike utilizes his unique skill set to execute system development, evaluate the effectiveness of technology controls, and identify performance improvement opportunities (among other things!).
Other students completed the program while working either part-time or full-time. They are now utilizing the skills gained over the course of the year to help drive data-driven decision making at their companies. Learn more about their work!
Several MSBA students earned their final credits through an international business internship in Romania during the month of June. Working with large international companies such as Continental and Marquardt helped them gain additional work experience in the analytics field. After enjoying some time abroad, the students are starting the rigorous job application process. Stay tuned for more employment updates!
Working while Pursuing the MSBA
For students working part- or full-time while pursuing the MSBA degree, the path is not easy; however, the return on investment can be high for both the individual and the company.
Christabelle Kozlik is a Product Manager at Dodge Data & Analytics, a software company providing insight to firms in the construction industry. The company is located in Boston, but she was able to work remotely in order to attend classes in Missoula. Over the course of the year, Christabelle utilized datasets from Dodge for class projects to keep the work relevant to her areas of interest. For example, her analysis of the company’s past agile sprint cycles offered insights into assigning specific developers specific tasks. She also used sentiment analysis to examine Net Promoter Score text reviews. As Christabelle’s technical skills developed over the course of the program, she was able to tackle challenging data problems that she did not previously have the skillset for and provide even greater value to Dodge.
While pursuing the MSBA degree, Jason Wiener continued to run his consulting practice providing strategic data-driven insights to a variety of Montana civic engagement and social welfare groups. In addition, Jason collaborated with a group of faculty and students at the Big Sky Poll — a public opinion poll of Montana voters that ascertained opinions on the performance of elected officials and significant issues in politics and policy. Jason reflected, “In both positions, the statistical knowledge and technical skills I learned in the MSBA program accelerated the work and sharpened my analysis.”
Rachael Cheff, a previous undergraduate in the marketing program at UM, worked throughout the year at PartnersCreative, a full-service advertising agency serving national clients from Missoula; she serves as both an assistant project manager and a data analyst in the digital department. Her time is split between managing Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns and in report writing, where she analyzes the available data and provides insight for a non-technical audience. Rachael’s time in the MSBA helped her to think critically about how to obtain, clean, and structure data, which ultimately resulted in improved insight for clients.
Working at a cybersecurity consulting firm LMG Security based in Missoula as the Marketing Manager, Chris Jambor used the skills learned in the program to optimize digital marketing efforts, develop data collection and warehousing procedures, evaluate historical customer data to discover CRM insights, and help realign financial strategy. Chris states, “LMG Security is a multimillion dollar cyber-security business that is moving out of start-up phase and has been using data analytics in their strategic planning for the future. I’ve been able to put my new knowledge to work and it’s been a great learning experience.”
Students also utilized and honed their skills through internships with local businesses. Mary Makris partnered with TOMIS, a company providing marketing software and services for tour operators (such as raft guides), on a number of projects; she optimized Google Adwords campaigns and analyzed transaction data and customer review data to generate insights. Marty Grant’s work at LumenAd proved his capabilities in machine learning and led to a full-time position upon graduation.
While working throughout the rigorous MSBA program is a challenge, the students highlighted above have paved the way for future cohorts to excel in both the academic and professional environment.
2018 MSBA Capstone Showcase
Once again, Professor Jakki Mohr took students through the Capstone class for the MSBA which is a full-semester experience in which students apply the data science tools they have learned in the program. Starting with a raw dataset, each student works through the entire data analytics process, from generating a meaningful research question which the data will answer to selecting the appropriate analytical method to articulating business recommendations. Although incredibly challenging, engaging in the process from start to finish was a rewarding learning experience.
Encouraged to pick a subject they were passionate about, the students’ projects were diverse and demonstrated a wide variety of technical skills. Several students used datasets from local companies and government agencies; topics included: an analysis of fatal car crashes in the Missoula County, development of strategies to promote alternative transportation for Missoula County, investigation of animal fostering at the local shelter, prediction of enrollment propensity for incoming University of Montana applicants, and more.
Other students took a broader approach and analyzed larger, publicly available data or data scraped from the web or pulled from Twitter. Topics included: PGA golf player performance, prediction of box office revenue for feature films, NFL media commentary and bias, objectification of women in advertising, and the effect of prescription opioid use in Medicaid claims.
As projects were finalized, four students were voted by their classmates to present their work to the Missoula business community at the Capstone Showcase. Voted as the number one representative for the class, Marty Grant presented his artificial neural network prediction classifier used to identify workflow efficiencies in digital marketing campaigns.
Held at the Stockman’s Bank Boardroom in Downtown Missoula, the showcase comfortably hosted the 75 business professionals and students in attendance. People who attended were impressed by the technical skills learned in the program, the diversity of data sets analyzed for the course, and the knowledge that they can hire skilled data scientists from UM’s College of Business. The MSBA program is grateful to the business community for providing internships, datasets, learning opportunities, and sponsorship funds to the students, and we look forward to seeing how they can bring value to these organizations in the future.
Learning with Guest Speakers
Hearing from a variety of guest speakers allowed students to gain a comprehensive picture of the potential career opportunities in the analytics field. More importantly, guest speakers shared how their organizations leverage data analytics and provided insight into the path to success.
James Dailey, currently a Consultant at Ars Quanta, spoke about how he built a career in analytics through a number of high-profile positions at companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon. His work included using analytics to improve ad effectiveness, developing multi-touch attribution modeling to determine the correct investment into marketing channels, and building regression models to determine key product attributes. From Dailey’s perspective, the three keys to building a career in analytics are communication skills, technical skills, and domain expertise; this advice resonated with students and reflected skills they were currently gaining.
As the Director of Business Development at Adidas, Dave McNabb shared how he championed the use of data for informed decision-making, and developed the process of leveraging analytics in his department.
Dave’s challenge is to use the large quantities of data generated daily to develop actionable insights and commercialize new products faster than the competition. As a business management graduate from the University of Montana, McNabb inspired students to see the potential career path achievable with their degree.
Jeff Gartner, also a UM graduate with MIS and Accounting degrees, is putting his analytics skills to work as the Director of Buyer Insights at Etsy. Jeff provided insight into how school work compares to “real” work. Unlike class-assigned projects with well-defined expectations and clean data sets, projects at work are often ambiguous, the scope is always changing, and the data are messy. Having the right mindset to tackle difficult problems and the flexibility to adjust to new developments are key to succeeding in high-paced environments. Gartner’s tips for success were applicable to all careers, but especially for individuals looking to gain traction in the analytics field.
As an Implementation Consultant at Fast Enterprises, Josh Sanders manages the GenTax software for the Department of Revenue in Montana. Josh is involved in a n umber of unique projects to help the State make better use of their data to cut costs. For example, Josh used analytics to determine which residents were most likely to respond to a direct mail campaign reminding them to file their taxes. With a hands-on demonstration of his software tools, the presentation provided insight into ‘a day in the life’ of an analyst and the impact of strong technical skills.
These speakers were notable guests from the year, and students also heard from professionals at companies such as Starbucks, Moderna, FiveThirtyEight, IBM, Atlassian, RedFin, Washington Corporation, ALPS, and Microsoft, and benefited from their expertise and the opportunity to network.
After a second successful year, the MSBA faculty and staff are aiming to make year three even better.
Incoming Student Highlights
The incoming cohort is full of intelligent, go-getters who are excited to dig in to the rigorous year ahead.
Anna Marbut, with a degree in Linguistics from Reed College, is already putting her analytics skills to use as a data intern at Submittable working on text analytics and information retrieval. Anna’s unique knowledge of language and speech has paved the way for her focus on Natural Language Processing, and she is especially looking forward to learning more text analytics and dabbling in machine learning. Previously, Anna spent five years working as a Veterinary Technician and is using her experience on the small Alpaca Farm she currently lives on with her husband.
Thomas Ray is entering the Master’s in Business Analytics program with a background in Finance and International Business from Montana State University. Having excelled in the pre-requisite courses over the last year, Thomas is excited to be part of “such a unique and innovative program”. When he’s not managing employees at Five on Black or enjoying summer in Missoula (rafting, hiking, fishing), Thomas spends some of his free time working on projects in Python to prepare for the year ahead. Thomas is looking forward to expanding his data science toolkit, diving into some machine learning, and putting his analysis skills to work for the Big Sky Poll.
Kailey Norman graduated from UM in 2017 with a BA in Marketing and Management, and wanted to gain more technical skills. Over the fall 2017 and spring 2018 she completed the MSBA pre-requisites and especially enjoyed the Intro to Consulting class. This experience led to an internship at Fast Enterprises as an Implementation Consultant. While shadowing individuals in the data warehousing and analytics department, Kailey realized how interested she is in expanding her analytical skills for exciting career opportunities in the future.