Tag Archives: business analytics

Getting the most from your Data Science Masters Program

Enrolling in a master’s degree program in data science or business analytics is no small feat. It takes a lot of time, determination, and money. It can all be worth it as a more fulfilling and higher paying job might be in your future. However, just earning the degree does not guarantee a job in the future. Here are a few tips to maximize your master’s degree experience and enhance your chances of landing that great job.

  • Create a Project

    This one is big because it helps with all the other tips. Pick a project that is unique to you. It should be interesting and fun. There are tons of open datasets available. The project can be any topic from something big like world education to something smaller like your own coffee consumption (for some of you that might not be small). All that matters is that it involves some data and you work on it. The project will help you learn new things and determine what is enjoyable. It will even give you a good discussion topic for future job interviews.

  • Determine the portion of data science you enjoy

    Is it visualization, programming, modeling or something else (see Getting Started with Data Science Specialties for a list of specialties)? Then tailor as much of your program around that as you can. You will excel more at things you enjoy, and data science needs teams not individuals who think they can do everything.

  • Attend local meetups or conferences

    Depending upon where you attend school, this might be easy or difficult. If your local area does not have a data science group, start one.

  • Present

    If you are ever offered the chance to speak to a group, take it. Whether it is a class, local club, church group, or a backyard barbecue; take advantage of the opportunity. Many people are not good at this skill, and practice will only make you better. Also, university settings are great places to practice. They are safe environments and the worst that is going to happen is a not perfect grade. Don’t wait until the stakes are high to begin your practice.

  • Make yourself visible to the data science world.

    Share the slides from your presentations. Better yet, share the video if available. Make sure when a prospective employer searches for you online (and they will), they can easily see a trail of artifacts that demonstrate your interest in data science. You should probably have a presence on some of the following (you do not need them all): LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Quora, Stack Overflow, GitHub, Youtube, Slideshare, Speakerdeck.

  • Connect

    Find some local data science people in your area and connect. Offer to join them for coffee or lunch. Attend their presentations and get to know them. This can be others learning data science as well as more seasoned experts.

What others tips do you have for those currently enrolled in a data science masters degree program?

The 3 Stages of Data Science

Businesses everywhere are racing to extract meaningful insight from their data. Many organizations are spinning up data science teams and attacking problems (some more successful than others). However, one of the challenges is determining the current stage of data science within the organization. Next is determining the desired stage of data science.

Below are 3 stages of a truly mature data science organization.

1. Dashboards

The beginning stage of data science is dashboards. It is all about answering “How much?” and “What happened?” by looking at reports of historical data. If done well, it might even help an organization answer “Why”. Many organizations will refer to this phase as Business Intelligence.

The dashboard stage can be very expensive for an organization, in terms of people-hours and money. It usually involves investments in:

  1. Data Warehouse or some other storage environment, for storing the data in a single location for easy reporting
  2. ETL (Extract Transform Load) Tools for manipulating, combining, and moving data to the data warehouse
  3. Reporting Tools for displaying the results and allowing users to “explore” the data

Here are some common questions that can be answered via traditional dashboards:

  • How many customers live in each region?
  • What were the sales on Black Friday?
  • How many patients visited the hospital last month?

As you can see, there are large amounts of value that can be gained by this phase alone. It is critical for a business to clearly understand past performance. Unfortunately, this phase is where many businesses stop.

2. Machine Learning

The real “science” of data science does not begin until the second stage which is machine learning. It focuses on estimating quantities that cannot be directly observed. This could be what movies a customer will like, the price of a company’s stock tomorrow, or the causal effect of a particular advertising campaign. Machine Learning uses the data from the first phase and applies statistical or other methods to gain additional insights.

Think of machine learning as answering the following:

  • When a customer moves, will he/she spend money at a hardware store?
  • When a credit card purchase is made, what is the probability the charge was fraudulent?
  • What is the expected lifetime value of a new customer?
  • If a hurricane is coming, what will people buy? (pop tarts? it is true).

Notice the connection between an event and some outcome. The value of machine learning comes from estimating the causal outcome of potential events. This phase is filled with terms such as: machine learning, data mining, and statistical modeling. The machine learning stage is all about looking into the future!

3. Actions

Determining the actions to perform, is the third and final phase. It tries to capitalize on the results of machine learning in order to take appropriate actions. The following actions might be suitable for the events identified in the predictive section above.

  • When a customer moves, send a “welcome to the neighborhood” packet with coupons to nearby hardware stores.
  • Decline the fraudulent charge or deactivate the credit card.
  • If the new customer has very high expected lifetime value, provide some special treatment or offers to ensure the customer becomes a customer for life.
  • When a hurricane is approaching, place Pop tarts near the front of the store.

As you can see, good machine learning from the second phase can lead to clear actions.


Claiming success in Data Science is all about conquering all three stages. Each stage builds upon the previous stage. If you have put in the effort to complete the first stage, why not continue to the second and third stages?

Data Analysis by Data Type

Data analysis is performed in many different fields and on many different types of data. Most fields call it something different. The following list comes straight from Jeff Leek’s Data Analysis Coursera class.

Name of Data Analysis by Data Type

The type of analysis is very similar for all fields, but what separates data science and machine learning from the others is the 3 V’s of big data. Data science and machine learning deal with a greater Volume of data, Variety of data, and Velocity (speed at which new data appears) of data. Because it is becoming cheaper and easier to store massive amounts of data than ever before, I think the other fields are beginning to realize the potential in big data. Signal processing is definitely becoming an area with big data, due to the fact that electrical sensors are everywhere.

What are your thoughts? Do you see any real differences in the data analysis performed for the data types above?