Why do you think corporate recruiters are planning to hire more MSBA graduates, as you said earlier, up to 62% more in the coming year?
Well, I think this is still an effect of the rise of big data. I know ‘Big Data’ is a term that’s perhaps a decade old now, but data is even more prevalent now than it was 10 years ago. People describe it as a bubble perhaps, and you might even acknowledge it to be somewhat of a hype, but it doesn’t mean that the hype goes away. The hype becomes establishment.
So I think people still need big data. And the challenge is that the needs of companies have changed as well. For example, companies like Google that rely on data to do targeted advertising, they want to do more and more with data than they already do. Companies like Amazon use it as a critical component of their supply chain optimization, and it’s a critical competitive advantage for them. Anyone who wants to enter an online retail market and wants to compete with Amazon needs these skills. As more and more services are provided online, supply chains have to adapt. So I don’t think there is a trend downwards, and I think the numbers that we see are in line with the expectations that have materialized over the last 10 years.
What are some examples of the big, complex business problems MSBA graduates might be working on?
In our online MSBA, we have a capstone project that people have to do at the end of the curriculum, and we do this with corporate partners. One of them was Tata Consultancy Services who was working with a large package delivery firm to develop improvements to last-mile delivery – a critical component of delivering goods to people in their homes. The bulk of the cost actually comes in the last mile, and any improvements there are super interesting. This is an example of a complex business problem where data is important, quantitative analysis is important, and where a business element is important.
So what is the business problem? Sometimes people get packages delivered to their home multiple times per day by the same delivery agency. This, of course, is inefficiency. Is there a way to consolidate these packages and incentivize people to do that? The team had to formulate opportunities to consolidate deliveries, identify data that might be useful, do a cost analysis, run a simulation, run an optimization of that simulation; and then present a report with very clear guidelines and recommendations on how people can be persuaded to participate.
I think that’s an example of a complex problem that has all these different facets — from analytics to data to optimization methodology to business translation – that an MSBA graduate might be asked to tackle.
Are there any differences in the online and in-person MSBA programs besides length and mode of delivery?
It’s still the same curriculum. The only difference is that we have moved the capstone project. For the online folks, the capstone is one semester long. We partitioned that into four different mini experiential learning opportunities for the residential program.
What do you see as advantages of an MSBA in the job market?
Well, I think the most important advantage is, if you’re interested in a career in analytics, an MSBA combines the skills needed for data science with business knowledge. In our online program, we have professionals from all over the spectrum. We have people from Disney, from logistics companies, people who work with supply chains, or in consulting.
I think the MSBA is a great starting point for advancement. Without an MBA, it’s difficult to get into advanced managerial positions. I could imagine that some of the folks that are taking our MSBA program might later want to do an MBA, especially because we’re focusing here on recent graduates, and they’re not yet ready to level up to the broader education an MBA gives you.
What is special about the Tepper MSBA?
I think what’s special is that the faculty teaching this program are full-time faculty, and they are doing cutting-edge research in this area. As you know, Carnegie Mellon is one of the top schools in business analytics, machine learning, optimization, operations research and so forth. Having an opportunity to work with faculty and have contact with faculty that are really doing the research themselves, I think is a fantastic opportunity for students. That’s number one.
Number two, many of us have actually worked with or are working with industry – either through our research projects or as consultants – and we have a fairly good understanding of what is important and how to package it in the best possible way. We designed the curriculum in a very deliberate manner. We did not take courses, say, from the MBA program and just put them together to make this degree. We developed new courses that are very well aligned with one another to get to the outcomes we want.
That’s great. Well, what else didn’t we talk about?
Well, I think it may be good to mention that this is a nine-month program. It’s two semesters, short and sweet, but very intense. This is still Carnegie Mellon; you will have to work hard. But I think that is something that is appealing, especially for people who are coming out of undergraduate studies. They can maybe take off a summer, or do a summer internship, and then start this program and be very well prepared for their future careers.
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