Introducing our new blog series, "Breaking Rank," in which we look beyond rankings and illustrate information about MBA programs that you may not otherwise find. Read below to learn more about Boston College Carroll School of Management's Data Analytics courses, which teach students valuable skills to apply to real-world situations and thus are a key component of the program's curriculum.
Today, there is no denying that big data drives the business world, and the need for analytics skills among business school graduates has become more essential than ever. Responding to this need, the Carroll School of Management at Boston College has made Data Analytics (DA) a key component of its curriculum and requires its MBA students to take three core DA courses in order to graduate from the program. In addition to training students in hard skills, like how to program in SQL, the DA component also provides students with broader, cross-functional perspectives, for example teaching them how to apply quantitative models to real-world situations and management decisions.
We recently spoke with the Carroll School’s Dr. Pieter VanderWerf, associate professor of the practice in Operations Management, and Jessica Poracky, second-year MBA student, about the DA component of the Boston College MBA program.
Dr. Pieter VanderWerf, Associate Professor of the Practice
Why does the BC MBA program require students to take three data analytics courses to attain their MBA?
Analytics is quickly becoming embedded into every function of business. It’s getting to the point that you encounter big data analytics no matter what your job is. Our students are finding that they go to interviews for positions with titles like “Market Specialist” or “Financial Manager” and are asked about their exposure to mathematical modeling. We’ve committed to a curriculum that would give all our MBAs a solid practical knowledge of all major aspects of analytics so that they can work effectively with the quantitative specialists as well as stand out among job candidates.
What are the most valuable skills students come away with from the data analytics courses you teach?
I think it’s understanding why the math and data management are done as they are. It’s important to know the mechanics, but that only allows you to work on problems you have seen before. It’s the manager that understands the reasons behind the mechanics who can participate effectively in new projects. It’s the manager that understands the methods who sees what the results of a model mean for the actual running of the business and can serve as the interpreter between the quantitative people and the businesspeople.
What do you enjoy most about teaching these courses?
The students who approach me at the end of the semester and say, “I never really thought I was much of a math person, but I get this stuff.” And they do.
Jessica Poracky, MBA ’18
How have the data analytics courses influenced your career path?
One of the reasons I decided to come to BC was to take advantage of the data analytics component of the core curriculum, as I have always planned to focus my MBA on business analytics. I have three years of pre-MBA work experience in pharmaceutical advertising and knew that I needed to strengthen my data and quantitative analysis skills to make a pivot into consulting, my desired career path. The analytical thinking and data software training we received in the core courses definitely helped me make a successful career pivot. After graduation, I’ll begin work as a consultant at Gartner.
What has been your favorite project from the data analytics courses you have taken?
I loved the Management Science class—an elective course that elaborates on the data analysis foundations built in the core Data Analytics 1 course. In this class, we designed sophisticated financial and optimization models to perform parameter analyses and gain insights into real business problems. Over the course of the semester, my approaches to designing a model, in terms of both model complexity and clarity, significantly improved. I was able to apply these new skills to my other classes at BC as well as to a fall internship with Partners HealthCare.
Why are these courses essential to a well-rounded education in business?
These classes are essential because data is everywhere—we’ve reached a point where companies rely on data to shape key business strategies and decisions. Anyone looking to add significant value to their organization should be able to think critically about data and practically articulate its impacts.