Data, Data Everywhere

How online masters in analytics graduates are discovering unique ways to advance their careers through data-based insights

October 04, 2021 | By GTPE Communications
Visual data complexity and big data concept.

Wherever there’s data, there’s an opportunity for analytics to make a difference.

After all, data streams through every industry. Thanks to the technology boom of the last 20 years, organizations are inundated with more data than they know what to do with it. Industries such as computing, business, statistics, and operations research all converge through data, helping companies decipher everything from market trends to patterns of human behavior. However, they need people to analyze this data to make it understandable and relevant for business decisions. That’s where a degree in analytics comes in.

“Skills in analytics and data science are widely applicable and in high demand across nearly every industry,” says Joel Sokol, professor of industrial and systems engineering at Georgia Tech and director of the Master of Science in Analytics degree on campus and online.

Now is a better time than ever to develop skills in data analytics. Since 2012, the field has seen a 650% job growth and the demand for data scientists has increased by an average of 50% across banking, financial services, and insurance sectors in just the past year alone. Based on the current trends, this growth is only the beginning. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in data science will increase by about 15% through 2029, much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations, which is only 4%.

Launched in 2017, Georgia Tech's online masters in analytics offers career-boosting expertise without constricting on-campus course hours. It’s an affordable, interdisciplinary program that learners can customize to meet their professional goals.

“Our program at Georgia Tech offers students the opportunity to learn from leading experts in a variety of fields like AI, machine learning, data visualization, statistical modeling, and business analytics,” says Sokol. It also offers a practicum, allowing students valuable real-world experience applying what they have learned to current analytics and data-science problems for companies and organizations, providing an additional experience that can differentiate them in the marketplace.

We reached out to a few recent data analytics graduates to glean some insight into the career impact made by this increase in knowledge. In a variety of fields, and for some of the biggest employers in their industries, it is clear they are making a difference with their newly acquired tools and expertise.

Decisions out of Data

As 2020 graduate Cory Jez explains, the percentages can make all the difference in the world of big data.

“The analogy I like to use is that the 51 percent blackjack player is a millionaire and the 49 percent blackjack player is broke,” says Jez. “There are only two points of difference there. It's more complicated than that, obviously, but analytics really is a framework for making decisions under uncertainty.”

Jez now serves as director of sports science and analytics for the Austin Football Club. Once the exception to the rule, “Moneyball” style analytics in professional sports has become an industry standard.

“A single game generates a couple of million data points,” Jez says. “It's my job to help distill that down for coaches, managers, and stakeholders in a way that empowers their decision-making process.”

A life-long sports fan and economics major, Jez found himself lured in by big data – first in fantasy football statistics and then, increasingly, as a key part of his professional skill set. After taking a data science bootcamp, he made the leap and set his sights on an online master's degree from Georgia Tech. He credits the program with boosting his skillset to succeed in the sports industry.

“I think the biggest benefit of the data analytics program is that it exposed me to so many methodologies within the space, whether it's Bayesian statistics, or all the different variations of regression modeling, or simulations, or types of data visualization in a specific class,” Jez says. “Now, when I approach a problem, I feel like I've got this really wide array of tools in my belt that I otherwise may not have known or been exposed to.”

The Story Behind the Pattern

As a product manager, Catherine Kromkowski sees analytics as absolutely invaluable. It’s a swift means of understanding the product, its customers, key problems, and key opportunities.

“Fundamentally, analytics is the process of analyzing raw data to identify trends and opportunities,” Kromkowski says, “but more thematically, it’s a tool to discover the larger story behind certain patterns.”

In Kromkowski’s case, that larger story concerns social media’s impact on our lives. After graduating from the program in 2020, she accepted a job as a technical product manager on Facebook’s Social Impact Team, which aims to improve the lives of users through the implementation of powerful new tools.

“I use analytics quite frequently for better product design,” Kromkowski says. “If you understand the product levers, each feature improves. So if we move one product lever, what does that do for the end customer? We identify the customer trends, how they're using our product, and what our target market should be for the product.”

Like many working professionals seeking an advanced degree, Kromkowski decided to take the plunge while already working full-time. The program's online flexibility allowed her to earn her Master’s while also taking on additional job opportunities.

“It was just a natural fit that allowed me to pursue both my personal and professional interests,” she says.

Seeing Through the Uncertainty

For many professionals, analytics is just a natural career progression. After Anna Hoffman joined Microsoft in 2016, she found herself increasingly immersed in data science and analytics.

“I started to really get excited about the possibilities,” Hoffman says “How you can take data and solve a mystery, figure out what it means, look at it in different ways and even make predictions for the future. That’s pretty powerful.”

Hoffman set her sights on Georgia Tech’s online masters in analytics program and solidified her grounding as a data and applied scientist. She was also able to complete her practicum at Microsoft in 2020 while already working full-time for the company. Now, as part of Microsoft's Azure Data team, she works in program management but has also branched out into customer adoption and evangelism-related activities.

“I produce content for platforms like YouTube and Microsoft Learn, but I have been able to extend my job to analyze telemetry data in order to understand how to retain our customers and ultimately grow our business,” Hoffman says. “That’s where a lot of my passion lies.”

Wherever the data goes, whatever industry or community it flows through, valuable insights are there for the picking. As Catherine Kromkowski is quick to point out, analytics tools are absolutely essential to improving the modern world.

“Every industry has a need for analytics to know how and where to invest their time and resources,” she says. “So I think we're seeing that data and data analytics are really gaining a seat at the table in all of these industries, which is the benefit of having this background from Georgia Tech.”