An Expert Interview with Dr. Sudipta Dasmohapatra
Dr. Sudipta Dasmohapatra, program director of Georgetown’s M.S. in Business Analytics program, explains how the new online program prepares students for successful careers as business leaders.
Can you provide a brief overview of the program at Georgetown?
Absolutely. The Georgetown Master’s in Business Analytics program is offered at the McDonough School of Business. It is an online, 16-month comprehensive analytics program, designed with the goal of preparing future business leaders and managers who are interested in learning how to understand and use data to create, sustain, and share value. This program especially has been designed to meet the needs of the current marketplace. We have about 18 different courses in the program and a capstone project. And we integrate four key learning themes in our entire curriculum.
The first is data analytics, concepts, and tools, and this includes various statistics courses, machine-learning courses, and natural language processing. Secondly, we have the managerial business foundation courses, which highlight how the data is used across different business functions, and it includes marketing, strategy, finance, operations, and economics. The third cornerstone is computing tools and technology, where the students can learn about programming tools, data infrastructure, and big data processes.
Finally, our learning theme in value-based data analytics includes courses such as data privacy and ethics, psychology of big data, and how to bring organizational change with a data mindset. The students in this particular program will be prepared to lead in key growth sectors where graduates with deep business analytic skills are highly sought.
How would you categorize the faculty’s expertise and experience?
The students will study under prominent faculty from the McDonough School of Business. We have many full-time faculty members from McDonough and across Georgetown who will be teaching in the program and are experts in each of the learning themes described earlier. The program itself has some asynchronous interactive content. But also, every week there will be synchronous live sessions in a virtual environment where the students will be able to meet their faculty members teaching in the program and their peers. So, there are many chances for them to interact with the faculty.
Does the program feature a cohort model? Will students get to know other students and see them in other courses as they work towards completing their degrees?
The cohort model is a defining characteristic of the Georgetown MSBA program. In the MSBA, the students enter the program together, and they will remain together throughout its duration. The cohort model is particularly beneficial for students that are reentering a higher education setting after some time in the professional world, creating a shared learning experience that features enriching discussions of real-world business issues, with a diverse group of professionals that are coming from a variety of fields.
Additionally, the students’ ability to build relationships in the cohort courses makes going through this 16-month program less stressful, providing the support that many may feel that they need. Another key advantage of the cohort model is that it enhances the speed of learning while encouraging both academic and professional success among the students.
There are many different master’s level programs — you can get an MBA in data analytics, data science, or business analytics, as examples. How would you characterize the difference between these graduate-level programs?
That’s a great question. The MBA provides the students with a breadth of knowledge that covers various business functions, from marketing, to economics, to management, to operations. The MBA with a data analytics or business analytics concentration generally includes a few broad analytics courses that help the student specialize. For example, a data analytics concentration helps MBA students think about data as one of the resources that helps them to make business decisions.
The students in these MBA programs with a concentration in data science or business analytics will most likely get a broad overview of the application of data analytics to improve business outcomes. On the other hand, the MSBA program is a specialized program fully dedicated to data and analytics for students who are looking to develop a data-first mindset, combined with rigorous analytic skills. Both are necessary to prepare them for a career where analytics is the key to making better business decisions. The courses in the MSBA program are both theoretical and practical, offering hands-on experience using machine-learning and data.
The MSBA program will appeal to individuals who are interested in developing mastery of data science techniques for practical applications. I would say that, depending on a students’ career ambitions, pursuing an MBA with an analytics concentration could be the right choice if students with business backgrounds want to gain familiarity with data analytics. Another difference would be that an MBA program generally takes two years, whereas the MSBA program is an average of 12 to 18 months. Our program at Georgetown is 16 months long.
Are there certain areas in the field that you find students in your program are most interested in?
The MSBA program is designed to prepare students for analytics and data science leadership roles in a variety of industries that use data. It could be consulting, financial services, risk management, technology, supply chain, retailing, etc. We believe that most students of this program will be prepared for advancing their careers or jumping into a career in data science and business analytics with the goal of leading their teams or managing projects. The entire curriculum has been created in such a way that students will learn to solve a variety of business problems based on the concepts and tools that they learn in the class.
Every single course in the program includes a practical and applied component. We have business foundation courses as well in the program, such as marketing analytics, customer analytics, financial technology, or operations analytics and economic modeling. These courses will build upon the technical foundation courses to expose the students to data science applications across various industries and business functions.
How is real-world application integrated into the courses?
Students will learn about concepts and their practical applications within each course in the program. The cornerstone of the program is the capstone project, which applies all the program’s study of concepts, methods, and tools to a challenging business data analytics assignment, with a project sponsor. The capstone projects are meant to integrate, synthesize, and demonstrate data science knowledge in a multifaceted way.
Graduates are going to show readiness to use data science in real life. And ideally, the students are going to be able to add this to their resume, show it to employers, and even use it to start a career. The capstone projects will be drawn from real-world problems and may be conducted with both industry and academic partners.
For the capstone, how do students obtain program sponsors? Are there options provided by the school, or is it on the student to find them?
We are leveraging our existing program connections across the United States, as well as faculty connections with the industry, in order to find sponsors for our students. These capstone projects will be conducted with industry, government, or academic partners and in any application field you can imagine, from healthcare, to retail, to financial services’ firms, to education.
So, the capstone project teams will consist of student members who will be carefully selected into their teams based on the needs of the project. The capstone project will be kicked off during their second residency, at which time students will learn about their projects and their teams.
How would you characterize the wide variety of different industries this program touches on, as well as the career opportunities offered for graduates?
That’s a great question. Today there is a booming interest in data analytics — this is really a global phenomenon. Employers are recruiting more data science professionals going into senior management roles than ever before. In fact, in 2018 there was a workforce report by LinkedIn where they declared a national shortage of more than 151,000 professionals with data science skills. If you go to Glassdoor or Indeed, or any other similar platform, they report data science and analytics jobs as the largest number of jobs in demand.
So, companies are finding themselves in desperate need of leaders who can understand how to effectively use large data sets, and who are guided by ethical considerations to make key decisions. They are looking for people who can both manage data and understand business. The Georgetown MSBA program provides students with not only the technical skills and business applications, but also the so-called power skills that are required to be successful for any of these leadership roles that require analytics knowledge.
Students graduating from the program can go into a variety of positions including data scientists and managers, machine-learning scientists, business analysts, or pretty much any analytics and data science role that you can imagine. One of the things that makes our program very different and unique is that students working in core business function areas, such as marketing, or finance, or operations, can obtain the data skills necessary to draw powerful insights from data, which gives them an advantage over their peers who don’t have that knowledge.
In your own experience, what kind of salary numbers have you seen from graduates?
That really depends on what kind of skills the student is learning in the specific program they are in, as well as the number of years of experience that the student has coming into the program. The salary can vary from around $70,000 all the way to $200,000. If a student is a data scientist in an industry, doing consulting, they’re likely to be on the higher side of that range, but depending on the role it could be a little less. While the range of salaries is pretty broad, students who are graduating from the MSBA program can leverage their peer connections across Georgetown and MSB to gain that six-figure salary.
What do you look for in terms of a potential candidate? Is there an ideal set of traits, skills, background, and experience?
Georgetown McDonough prides itself in its holistic approach to admissions decisions, where overall fit is more important than single metrics. When we are looking for applicants, they have to be aligned with our values and our mission to have a positive impact on society. We are looking for collaborative team players who we believe will add value to their class and to the larger Georgetown community. We accept students into the program who can think quantitatively and show curiosity about data. They should be motivated and keen to learn the skills and programming languages that can help them draw insights from complex data. If you were to ask me about formal coursework, students need to have taken undergraduate level math, and some technical courses will be a plus.
Candidates need not have any formal statistics or programming training. However, if the students want to be competitive, it would be great for them to have taken data science and programming or statistics courses either at a university or through an online learning environment. We have suggestions regarding those preparatory courses and platforms on our program website.
What kind of support does Georgetown offer students who might be working full-time and trying to succeed in this program?
Our timeline is 16 months, and in these 16 months, we will be providing both conceptual and practical knowledge at a pace which will be comfortable for working professionals. We are not cramming everything into two or three semesters like many other programs. Our goal is to create a highly effective but flexible online learning environment. The courses are lock will have asynchronous content, with interactive recordings and readings that students will be able to learn during their free time. Synchronous content, which includes live sessions, will build on the asynchronous content with case studies, projects, and application.
As student profiles come in, we make absolutely sure that the students will be able to provide the time commitment that is required to go through this program at a very comfortable pace. When any student joins our program at Georgetown, they will become a member of a very caring community of faculty and staff and students. And we will provide them with individualized attention to help them achieve their goals. I also previously mentioned the cohort model, which will allow students to enhance their learning from each other’s experiences as well.
Are there career services for students and graduates that can help you take off and find job opportunities?
Absolutely. Across the module, we have various career and professional development activities woven into the program. We actually have a dedicated career coach for the MSBA students. The focus of our career team is to provide one-on-one coaching professional development, leadership skills, exposure to various roles that the students may come across when graduating, and a plethora of other activities to prepare the students for their roles of choice when they graduate.
If someone’s curious or unsure about this kind of program, what kind of advice would you have for them concerning their next steps?
Data is a language that successful leaders speak today and will speak in the future. We have launched the Master of Science in Business Analytics program with a futuristic vision, and we have carefully integrated the concepts, tools, and applications in business within the curriculum. There are hundreds of programs across the nation that are providing some kind of analytics content. So, I would ask the students to look through the curriculum. Who are the faculty teaching in the program? What kind of career assistance are they providing? Do your research. Think about your goals when selecting the appropriate program for yourself.
If a student is interested in this particular program, I would ask you to look at the program overview page on our website and try to find as much information as you can. Alternatively, you can request more information about the program and talk to an admissions advisor, who will be happy to guide you along your career path. Our focus is student success and we are always happy to talk with prospective students about whether this is the right program for them, or if there are other programs that better fit their goals.
What kind of advice would you give someone who wants to transition into a career in data analytics?
If students who are working in, say, core business function areas like marketing or finance or strategy or operations get this degree, it will provide them with the opportunity to get their hands dirty with programming and technical skills in addition to conceptual knowledge. This is going to provide that extra edge over anybody else who doesn’t have those data analytics skills. If you want to enhance your career and draw powerful insights from data, you will gain a significant advantage over your peers if you have this degree.
Do you have anything else that you wanted to touch on?
One key aspect of the program is the focus on value-based analytics. Students are going to learn about how a data-based business decision can impact their economic bottom line, as well as how to think through ethical decision-making by using data and creating sustainable strategies to have a positive impact on the environment and society.
So, if students want a program that is a little bit different and incorporates these futuristic problems that society is going to face, they absolutely should look at our program — our focus is on developing a holistic data mindset. Key concerns like data ethics and privacy are completely incorporated into our program. And not only is this threaded into each course across our curriculum, but we also have specific courses in the program that focus on these topics.