Only a little over a year old, and Georgia Tech’s interdisciplinary M.S. in Analytics program has something to brag about: its 100 percent employment placement for its first graduating cohort this past summer. When asked about these impressive results, Joel Sokol, Fouts Family Associate Professor and director of the M.S. in Analytics program, said, “There is an increasing need for top-flight, top-trained analytics talent locally, regionally, nationally, and even worldwide.”
The analytics world significantly lacks qualified employees. In 2011, the McKinsey Global Institute determined that by 2018, the U.S. will face a shortage of 140,000-190,000 employees with deep analytical skills, and a shortage of analytics-trained managers by 1.5 million. Employees who are well-versed in analytics are in high demand – and that demand will only increase in years to come. This “deep need,” as the program’s Corporate Relations Manager Candice McLemore describes it, results from “so many companies that have all this data, and they don’t know what to do with it. The companies that are going to be most successful in the future are the ones making data-driven decisions.”
Sam Franklin, Head of Decision Sciences at 360i, a New York City-based digital marketing firm, concurs: “Data-driven decision-making is fundamental to running a successful business. Large amounts of data are continuously generated by every part of an organization, from HR to logistics to marketing. That data is full of hidden opportunities for organizational improvement and growth.” These opportunities, explains Franklin, created by such intense data generation, are why “realizing their full potential requires thoughtful, creative analytics professionals.”
And the graduates of the M.S. in Analytics program at ISyE are particularly well-placed to help propel that data-driven future forward and meet the challenges of the opportunities Franklin describes. This is partly because of the training they receive in the program and partly because of the strong qualities the students themselves bring with them on entering the program. As Sokol explains, “We have an outstanding set of students. They come in with a wide variety of backgrounds: Some have academic backgrounds in analytics-related fields while others might not. The common threads we look for in all of them are intelligence, creativity, quantitative talent, ability to communicate well, and overall outstanding potential for success in analytics.”
Take Gautam Krishna, a summer 2015 graduate who was hired by 360i as a data scientist, as an example. He helps his company’s clients make data-driven decisions in their paid social media campaigns. Krishna received his undergraduate degree in IE from a university in India, and then after working for a few years, he came to Atlanta from India in 2014 to enter the M.S. in Analytics program.
When asked why he selected GT’s ISyE for his graduate work, Krishna explained, “The advanced statistics courses, combined with the computing courses, provides a strong base for building/learning new approaches and tools. Compared to my previous work experience (before the M.S. program), now I feel more self-reliant and confident in dealing with data and generating insights from the data.”
Rufus Frazer, another summer 2015 graduate, speaks to a similar experience. Prior to entering the program, he had worked as a math teacher, earned his MBA, and worked for AT&T “doing something,” he says, “that might be called ‘analytics’ but wasn’t strictly within the job title; they started pushing me more toward project management work and as I started looking around at AT&T at what I wanted to do, it was more in the analytics field.” He focused on the program’s analytical tools track, which helped refine and extend what Frazer learned from his MBA work. Frazer now works for Ernst & Young as a traveling consultant based in Philadelphia.
In fact, Ernst & Young made Frazer a job offer in November 2014 – well before Frazer had graduated from the program. This is typical for M.S. in Analytics participants. Sokol says, “The combination of student quality and program quality is reflected in the number of employers asking to meet our students in the hopes of hiring them. Many companies even make offers before our students have even completed their first semester of coursework, an indicator of how much they value our students and the education we give them.” In fact, GT’s M.S. in Analytics is the only program in the United States that brings together top 10 departments in statistics/OR, computer science, and business-quantitative analysis in its interdisciplinary approach.
Summer 2015 graduate Ari Siesser was hired by Atlanta-based Cardlytics, a digital advertising company, as a senior analyst. He calls what the program graduates learned “data literacy,” explaining that “increasingly we’re relying on numbers to answer questions that humans might have tried to answer with intuition before. We want data-driven decision making, and not management using their gut to influence decisions – and to explain your results in ways that people care about.” He says that the business classes he took as part of the program helps him convey the results so that they answer the “so-what” question, rather than just being about the numbers.
360i’s Franklin notes, “Georgia Tech’s M.S. in Analytics program’s interdisciplinary approach is the key to developing versatile data scientists who are able to tackle a wide variety of analytics problems.” And it is part of the equation, along with the high qualities that program participants bring with them, that has contributed to the graduates’ 100 percent job placement. This is an achievement of which program director Sokol is justifiably proud. Adds Frazer, “The M.S. in Analytics program is putting it all together.”
More on the program
What makes Georgia Tech’s M.S. in Analytics program unique compared to most other programs of this type is its interdisciplinary approach. The Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), the College of Computing’s School of Computational Science and Engineering, and the Scheller College of Business offer coursework in business intelligence, data analytics, statistics and operations research, machine learning, big data, visualization, and more.
Students take required courses offered by all three schools, and what McLemore calls “boot camps” or other special sessions in leadership, creativity, ethics, programming languages such as Python and software like SAS, advanced math and statistics, and communications. About the latter she explains, “One of the biggest things that we’ve heard from employers is that communication skills are very important – particularly verbal communication – not just being able to crunch the numbers, but be able to solve problems and communicate with nontechnical people about what that data means.”
Fifty percent of the curriculum is in electives. After taking the boot camps and foundational courses, students can select electives from one of three tracks: an analytical tools track, a business track, or a computational data analytics track. They then select a personalized set of coursework from over 40 possible electives. The program also includes a mandatory applied analytics practicum experience working with a company on an analytics project.
For additional information, visit the program’s website here.
Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering