"A lot of questions you get are open-ended, and an analyst has to come in and breathe life into the project"
Business Analytics & Statistics - Alumni
Reshma Shah has moved seamlessly from a background in retail and marketing into the ecommerce space. She graduated from the Haslam College of Business in 2010 with a master’s in management science and applied statistical strategies, and she has since served in analytics roles with several national brands.
Currently, Shah is lead data analyst at Chewy.com, a pet product company. “I lead most of the advanced analytics processes,” she says. “I take a question and find out where to get the needed data, and then use software to analyze it using statistical concepts like forecasting and modeling.”
Shah used SAS in a previous role at Daugherty Business Solutions in Atlanta, where she worked primarily as an operations research analyst for department store giant Macy’s. She shifted to using R, open source analytics software, when she became a senior ecommerce analyst at Staples. “I get all the data into R, write the script with all the things I want to do with the insights and put that directly into the internal databases,” she says. “Then I pull those insights together into a presentation and take it back to the company’s C-level leadership.”
Shah says her time at Haslam built the confidence she needs to pursue an analytics question, create a plan and uncover insights for her company. “In the program, we had assignments, but they were unstructured, which is really what it’s like in corporate America,” she says. “A lot of questions you get are open-ended, and an analyst has to come in and breathe life into the project.”
Data is not always about numbers, Shah notes. “It’s also text, videos and pictures,” she says. “There will be a time when as an analyst you have to advance your skillset from numbers to other areas, including artificial intelligence. Five years ago it was all about big data, but now it’s more about learning to leverage the data that’s there to get better, stronger insights.”
In the future, Shah sees herself leading a company’s analytics and data science functions. “I think I’ve made pretty decent progress in this space, because my background is retail and I’ve moved into ecommerce,” she says. “I think the future is going to be online, with mobile- and AI-based smart devices, rather than brick-and-mortar retail stores.”