University of Tennessee

UT Professors Discuss What it Takes to Be a Top Data Analytics Graduate

March 5, 2015

On top of having technical capabilities and real-world experience in a new and rapidly changing field, analysts need people skills and the ability to work in teams to succeed in the modern business world. In a recent article published in Informs’ newsletter OR/MS Today, Haslam professors Chuck Noon and Ken Gilbert discuss what it takes produce this quality of analytics graduate.

Although the demand for data analytics professionals is growing daily, businesses have high standards for the type of employees they want to fill these positions. Amy Buckner Chowdhry, CEO & co-founder of the Silicon Valley firm Answerlab, describes the graduates that her company wishes to hire as “unicorns,” i.e., mythical creatures that do not exist.

According to Noon and Gilbert, developing unicorns is not just about curriculum and industry exposure but depends greatly on recruiting the right students. Part of the selection process at the University of Tennessee is an applicant interview to help answer the following question: Would this person get hired for an industry position?

Noon and Gilbert go on to state that a successful business analytics program needs seven elements to matriculate the best students:

  1. Strong corporate relationships for placement, curriculum development and strengthening faculty research and teaching.
  2. A recruitment policy for both STEM and non-STEM majors that provides a path for both groups to a successful career in business analytics.
  3. Applicant screening that keeps the employer in mind.
  4. Hands-on business experiences for students throughout the program.
  5. A broader focus on business skills. Students should understand how analytics fits into the larger company goals.
  6. An emphasis on soft skills such as teamwork, leadership and communication.
  7. In-depth subject matter expertise across students’ chosen areas of focus.

Informs members can read the full article including details on some of UT’s curriculum strategy, here.