How are you tackling big data and analytics?

By: Katelyn Godoy
Business person analyzing financial statistics displayed on the tablet screen

The topic of data analytics comes up in seemingly every organizational conversation these days. More and more, effort is being poured into harnessing the “power of big data” and attention is focused on “data-driven decisions” as the way to objectively inform organizational strategy. If you can’t prove your point with well-analyzed data, you are sunk.

Data analytics for a competitive advantage

Unfortunately for many out in the workforce, the concept of “big data” wasn’t necessarily around while they were pursuing an education. Or, if it was, it was something to be left to the mathematicians and engineers, and demonstrable data analytics experience had not yet become as commonplace as spreadsheets, presentation skills, and leadership experience. Almost overnight, a foundational understanding and baseline skills for analyzing large sets of data has become a significant competitive advantage in any employment marketplace, and organizations are clamoring to both recruit talent and upskill existing teams with data analytics competencies.

Michael Ryzewic
Michael Ryzewic, co-founder and chief data officer of Rosie Applications

Michael Ryzewic, co-founder of the software company Rosie Applications Inc., was facing this challenge as he found himself switching roles from chief technology officer to chief data officer. Although he completed his undergraduate career with two bachelor’s degrees, one in mechanical engineering and another in astrophysics, data analytics was simply not something covered in his collegiate curriculum even though he was on a math and sciences track. As he transitioned roles, he recognized that he did not have the right skills in place to fully embrace his new responsibilities. In order to address these identified gaps, Ryzewic completed eCornell’s Data Analytics online certificate program.

“Despite a strong basic background in regression and data analysis from engineering school,” Ryzewic explains, “almost all of my skills in financial scenario analysis are self-taught. I took a course in 2006 on how to build Excel sheets, and I found the ‘formal’ approach very useful. I thought the Data Analytics certificate would be a good opportunity to expand my skills in this area and better understand how to do this type of analysis the right way.”

From analysts to senior leaders, opportunities for all

Christopher Anderson, professor at Cornell University, is the author of the Data Analytics certificate program and eCornell’s Data Analytics 360 online certificate. He also teaches a three-day intensive course, Data Analytics for the Hospitality Industry, as part of the Professional Development Program (PDP), an executive education, on-campus offering from the School of Hotel Administration.

Anderson says participants ranging from analysts to senior vice presidents could benefit from all three of these data analytics professional development opportunities, as their subject matter is wide-ranging.

“The certificates and course provide senior leaders with a better understanding of the opportunities that can come from more data-driven approach to decision making. At the same time, anyone in an analyst’s role will gain with the skills necessary to perform the analytical approaches they’ve learned in great detail throughout the course or certificate,” he explains. “A critical element is making both of these audiences aware of what can—as well as what can’t—be done with analytics. And we spend a bit of time covering the common mistakes that often arise through the improper use of statistical approaches to decision making.”

A flexible learning experience with immediate benefits

Chris Anderson
Chris Anderson, professor and author of the Data Analytics certificate program

Participating in an online certificate program is one of the best ways for busy working professionals to improve their skillsets, interact with faculty, and apply what they’re learning to real-world scenarios from day one.

“The online certificates draw upon many different industries and types of problems when illustrating concepts, but one of the truly unique and beneficial aspects is that we also permit students to bring their own data and problems into the course projects,” says Anderson. “This allows students to take the concepts and tools and put them to work as they are going through the certificate.”

Although Ryzewic was more familiar with a “traditional” educational environment and was surprised by the extent of the program’s flexibility, he found that the online approach worked to his advantage.

“I was actually pleased to realize that while my fellow cohort students were available, I wasn’t required to coordinate with them or tackle any changing schedule logistics. It was far easier than I’d originally imagined to integrate the coursework into my daily routine,” he says.

Tools and outcomes for your career

Ryzewic, reflecting on his experience, says that he’ll be able to take what he’s learned to form compelling arguments and ensure that the data his company is using to make decisions is based on a strong foundation. He completed the certificate course having learned the formal vocabulary and importance of sample selection and statistical significance.

“I would encourage anyone looking to increase their understanding of basic statistical and forecasting tools and how to use them to take this course,” he says. “It’s especially valuable to be able to apply the project framework to a set of real-world situations that you’re experiencing at work.”

Could your data analytics skills use a refresh?

Cornell offers three options for professionals to study data analytics both online and in the classroom. Each program provides a hands-on approach in which participants may use their own data to better understand, address, and create new opportunities from their organization’s challenges.

Online options:

Classroom option: