Like many recruiters eager to hire data scientists and analysts, Melanie Murphy eagerly awaits any opportunity to visit Stevens Institute of Technology.
At a recent networking event for the Business Intelligence & Analytics program at the School of Business, Murphy, vice president of consumer analytics at Bed Bath & Beyond, spoke with dozens of master’s students about how their analytical insights create value in business.
“The program is so well balanced, from data, to different types of analytics, to the business intelligence perspective — and the students are incredibly smart,” said Murphy, whose company recently hired a half-dozen Stevens students and a handful of interns.
Dozens of recruiters on campus
Recruiters from about 20 companies, including Robert Half, UBS, Jefferies and L’Oreal, attended the event to meet and ask questions of students about their research, which was presented in a poster show.
“At Stevens, it's not only about learning to code, it's also learning how to think, and how to choose the right approach to solve a business problem.”
Dr. Anthony Scriffignano, senior vice president and chief data scientist at Dun & Bradstreet, said Stevens students are particularly prepared for the workplace because their education isn’t limited to just the latest technologies. The data scientist of tomorrow, he said, will need to be a capable storyteller who makes the case for allocating limited resources effectively.
“More and more in business, we need people who have those technology skills, but who are also able to understand a problem and ask the right questions in trying to find solutions,” said Dr. Scriffignano, a member of the program’s board of advisors. “The more tools and technology we get, the less focus we have on the ‘softer skills’ — and not having those skills will limit your success just as much as having the wrong Hadoop clusters.”
Uniquely, the Business Intelligence & Analytics program incorporates business and management threads alongside data science and analysis, creating well-rounded professionals who offer immediate impact at work.
'Curious to learn'
Stevens students, Dr. Scriffignano said, “are very curious to learn. Every conversation I’ve had here is peer to peer — so when I say, ‘Did you think of this?’ they’ll say, ‘Wait, but if we do this, then what happens to that?’ ”
Shuting Zhang, the president of the student BI&A club at Stevens who will graduate in December 2018, said she appreciates conversations with managers during research poster shows.
“I had two posters today, and one professional pointed out a way my projects are related that I hadn’t thought of before,” she said. “He gave me suggestions on how to improve my work in ways that could be useful to a business.”
Those insights are what Zhang wants as she enters her final semester at Stevens, following bachelor’s and master’s programs in chemical engineering at University of Wisconsin-Madison and a brief career in industry “where I didn’t use data, modeling or coding; I started working with a data scientist and realized how much cooler his job was than mine.” She hopes to work as a data analyst, has completed one internship with Wiley and is currently doing one with Prudential.
“The Business Intelligence & Analytics program gives us broad exposure to a lot of different fields, which is helpful as I think about what industry I’d like to work in,” Zhang said. “At Stevens, it’s not only about learning to code, it’s also learning how to think, and how to choose the right approach to solve a business problem.”
An excellent partner in exploring business analytics
Gary Winant, assistant vice president of human resources information services for L’Oreal USA, said the HR and IT offices at his company have found Stevens an excellent partner in their early forays into analytics. L’Oreal brought in a Stevens team to examine turnover in a particular department, and use predictive tools to recommend solutions.
“The students here come ready to work,” Winant said. “I met with the students twice and was impressed by their commitment. We came back to them three months later with additional questions and even though the project was over, they took the time to respond in detail.”
Several recent alumni of the program also were in attendance, including Ephraim Schoenbrun, who graduated in December and has completed an internship with UPS.
“My professors are industry professionals, so they have valuable relationships and are up to date on analytics techniques used in the field,” he said. “And because the program is nested in the business school, there is a focus on presenting business solutions to stakeholders, whether or not they have technical backgrounds.”
That’s why Murphy, of Bed Bath & Beyond, is so fond of employees from Stevens.
“That’s one criticism of my team, that we have a tendency to be too technical,” she said. “It’s really important to have those business-facing skills — and you can tell, in talking with these students, that they’ve had that experience of getting in front of people and sharing ideas.”