Harvard Business Review declared in 2012 that being a data scientist is the “sexiest job of the 21st century.” Glassdoor last year claimed it’s the “best job of the year.” And in a February Business Insider article, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s chief economist said, “It’s one of the hottest and fastest growing jobs we’re seeing right now.”
Enter UCLA Anderson’s MS in Business Analytics and its newly appointed executive director, Paul Brandano. Paul earned his MBA from UCLA Anderson in Management and Marketing in 2006. After earning his MBA he worked for IBM becoming a Business Analytics Software Specialist before returning to Anderson to serve as the Executive Director for Marketing of Management Field Study Programs. This month, he became the Executive Director of Anderson’s new Masters of Science in Business Analytics – and that’s the program we’re going to discuss today. Welcome, Paul!
Can you give us an overview – what is the MS in Business Analytics at Anderson? [1:50]
Business Analytics has been part of our MBA program for a long time – in every one of our programs, quantitative analysis is a component (marketing, finance, operations, etc). But when you look at the world today, the data is growing, and the demand for an increasingly complex set of analytics is increasing with it. The tools for analysis also grow, and you get a very complex environment.
When I was at IBM, I saw there was often a gap in the marketplace between the people in IT who understood the technologies, and the managers who were looking for that real-time feedback. We see an opportunity to create a liaison – a person with an MS and the analytical training and skills to understand new technologies, with real business communication as a foundation.
What does the program consist of? [3:50]
It’s a 13-month MS program. We wanted it technically oriented. Students start with a five-week intensive course (off-site, asynchronous). This is focused on making sure you have the skills to be successful – you take four courses in that first five weeks to acquire a strong business/technical foundation.
Then there are two full (10 week) quarters of courses, followed by a summer internship, then a final fall quarter on campus before going on to your first job.
Courses include: fundamentals of business; data management; prescriptive modeling; and an industry seminar each quarter (including case studies).
What are the options for the industry seminar? [6:36]
We’re initially focusing on internet, entertainment, and healthcare. These are areas where big data technologies are being applied each day, and where data scientists are in high demand.
We also have many centers on campus focused on these (and other) key industry areas.
If you look at Anderson as a school, we differentiate on that practical/experiential learning component – every student will have done something in the real world, working for a real company.
Business Analytics is a mushrooming field. What’s distinctive about UCLA’s program? [8:50]
We specifically put it in the business school. Business analytics programs can often be in the engineering school, the CS department, stats, etc.
I mentioned earlier that gap in business practice between IT and business – we saw an opportunity to put it in the heart of our business school. Our faculty wanted to draw on advanced quantitative methods, and it was a great fit.
What are you looking for in the admissions process? [10:00]
A person who is first and foremost a quant – who has a tremendous skill set. But they have to have a bit of a poet in them as well – they have to understand the nature of business, and create unique insights that can be communicated to a CEO, CFO, chief of marketing. So they need to communicate well. And they need to be able to take complex unstructured data-sets and turn them into new and better decision-making on the part of a company – so there’s a bit of artistry in it.
We’re looking for someone who did really well on the quantitative side of the GMAT/GRE.
What about work experience – is it required? Preferred? [12:50]
We’re primarily looking for strong quantitative aptitude and an interest in business. There isn’t necessarily a work requirement – if you have a strong computer science background, we believe you can be successful right out of undergrad and we take a certain number right out of undergrad.
If we were to be approached by someone who wanted to retool after some years of work experience in IT, we’d definitely consider that person.
Most of our applicants are probably one to two years out of undergrad. But it’s wonderful to have people with more work experience, too. Our answer will evolve as the program grows.
We’re looking to bring in as diverse a class as possible.
What is the application process? [15:05]
We’re admitting our first class for the fall.
Go on our website, register for an info session. You apply online. There are two essays (and a third optional essay). The topics are standard – why MSBA, why UCLA Anderson, why now? And a personal history statement. We ask for test scores, undergrad educational experience (transcripts, international diplomas, etc). Pretty standard things.
We’ll be down-selecting the pool to a group that we’ll interview – we’re looking to make offers quickly, and have a class in place by mid-summer. We start in November.
What is your target class size – both this year and ultimately? [17:33]
Space is always our limiting factor. I expect our first year’s class to be around 25-50 students, growing up to 60-65. A useful comparison is our sister program, the Masters in Financial Engineering, which grew steadily and then opened a second section.
How many do you plan to interview? [19:00]
It depends on the fit of the applicants. But about twice as many as we accept.
What is the interview like? [19:50]
It’ll be one to one, typically audio only. We’ll ask quantitative questions.
How does the MS in Business Analytics differ from a MS in Stats? [20:45]
The spectrum of applications for a MS in Stats is probably broader, since you can use that in a lab setting or as a stepping stone to other science fields. We’re seeing this through a business filter – so we’re taking a business oriented approach to the questions.
We’ll use similar tools you might learn in a stats or applied math degree – but with a business orientation/application.
How do the field placements work? [22:25]
This program will allow our students to apply their skills in real time to customer questions.
A client could come to us with data and our teams would pull datasets together with new insights. Our capstones will be oriented at companies no matter the size or type – helping create new insights.
What is next year’s application timeline? [28:05]
We’ll be following a traditional MS tour timeline – getting on the road to meet with people in early fall.
We’ll open in three rounds next year: one deadline probably in late October, one in the winter, and one in May.
This timeline will be a great advantage for us next year.
We want to be as precise as possible in our search – we’re building a program for the right skillsets. I see it almost like an athletic coach recruiting exactly the right people for a team.
I should also say that internet, entertainment, and healthcare are really a starting point – every industry is thinking about these questions. We anticipate demand all over the place.
Is there any discussion about a joint MBA-MSBA? [30:50]
There’s no official discussion, but we’ve spoken about the connection points. We already have joint programs between the MBA and other degrees at UCLA, so it’s something to think about.
We’re starting out with a pure fulltime program. But in the future it would be in our interest to think about our connection points.
Any advice for people interested in applying next year? [33:46]
Look at what this program is really about and think about your interests. It’s a short time-frame – just 13 months. So it’s helpful to come in with some idea about how you might apply your skill set – how you want to impact the world with your degree/skills.
This is a program we’ve built over a long period of time. It started with discussions with faculty about tools they were using, and developed with conversations about jobs/recruiting.
It’s a really compelling story as we’re getting ready to launch our first class.
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