Brandeis International Business School

Solving the data puzzle

A conversation with Prof. Blake LeBaron, director of the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program

Finance Prof. Blake LeBaron is director of the MSBA program.

Finance Prof. Blake LeBaron is director of the MSBA program.

To some, it’s an impenetrable puzzle of information.

But to others data represents a big opportunity for business growth and innovation.

Brandeis International Business School designed the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program specifically to teach students how to harness the power of data and apply it strategically in the world of business.

“Firms want employees with business savvy who also know the latest computing tools — a jack-of-all-trades type,” said Blake LeBaron, MSBA program director and the Abram L. and Thelma Sachar Professor of International Economics. “Our students are very good at that. They’ll give their employers a lot of added value out of their data.”

The MSBA is in high demand at the International Business School. After launching in 2018 with 45 students, enrollment is on the rise. LeBaron believes the program’s popularity is in response to a rapidly changing business landscape.

“Our students see what’s coming,” said LeBaron.

Companies across industries are awash with data. At the same time, high-powered computers can now easily crunch through it all in search of trends and connections. As a result, managers are increasingly looking to hire employees with a combination of business and analytic skills.

“We know what businesses are looking for,” said LeBaron. “The MSBA is designed to meet that demand and equip our students with the skills they need.”

During a recent interview, LeBaron shared more insights into the data analytics revolution and what job opportunities are available for MSBA students.

Data has the business world abuzz. Why now?
There’s no question that we’re responding to a huge need in the business world. Many businesses are flooded with data on day-to-day operations, their customers and their products. In recent years they’ve replaced pencil-and-paper activities with apps, and that’s generating all this data. Businesses know there is good information in their data, but they don’t know how to find it. We’re teaching our students how to do that.

What skills are students learning in the MSBA program?
On the analytics side, we’re teaching our students a mix of basic statistics and econometrics, R and Python languages, and machine learning — which means artificial intelligence and algorithms. On the business side, the MSBA program has built-in flexibility so students can focus on marketing, finance or operations. Some students are even taking a health analytics class over at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

What types of jobs will students land after graduation?
This is still a developing field. They will have training as a data analyst, and that can mean different things. In a big firm they may be more specialized, looking at data visualization, for example. In a smaller firm, they may be generalists responsible for data visualization, data cleaning, database management and data analysis. And they’d be relying on their business and finance knowledge to know how that data fits into the business. These are skills that earn you a seat at the table during decision making, talking about how to use the data to improve a product or target certain customers.

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