Clarion’s Master of Science: Applied Data Analytics program has enabled me to develop a foundation for a wide variety of the most popular software and programming languages utilizing powerful algorithms to predict and uncover insight within large data sets. My competency and confidence level has improved drastically over the past 18 months having developed a core foundation to the entire data analysis process including “cleaning” data, missing values, outliers, partitioning, and building predictive models using a variety of machine learning algorithms. Data warehousing, ETL processes, and working with SQL databases are all valuable in structuring data before the analysis begins. The graduate program utilized real world situations in a variety of industries including: real estate, healthcare, financial, social media and prediction of an array of topics. Multiple big data certifications obtained throughout the program and being invited to present my predictive analytical work at the 33rd Annual Spring Conference of the Pennsylvania Computer and Information Science Educators (PACISE) was a tremendous confidence booster. I feel the program has certainly opened up many new ideas and opportunities in the tech industry. I have had multiple recruiters inquiring about data consultant and data scientist positions even before graduation.
I started my career as a BI Developer and had interest in learning data analytics/data science, which eventually made me to enroll in this MS ADA Program. Before enrolling i have no clear idea on big data/machine learning and their applications in the current market. But this program really made me to expose to different kinds of tools which is really needed as this field emerges everyday having no clear boundaries. But MS ADA Clarion program really empowered my thinking and enhanced my knowledge relating to data analytics, data science and big data. This program has given me immense confidence to move my profession from traditional BI to advanced level in the field of information systems. This program is really helpful as it has very good hands on experience for applications/tools which are currently used in almost all industries. This program also has elective courses like python programming which helped me to understand how programming can be used for machine learning or handling different kinds of data for analytics. As a part of this program, implementing capstone projects made me to work on the SAS application using real world data sets and gain SAS certification which is really helpful as SAS is a de facto analytics tool.
I had graduated from Clarion University in 2000 with a BS in Information Systems and had been working in the analytical field in healthcare field since right after graduation that year. I had been out of school 15 years when I found out about this program and it completely piqued my interest. I was at the point in my career where I wanted to gather more tools to help me advance my career in healthcare. New software companies were approaching my health system all the time and it was overwhelming to think about which company to go with, how to fit it in with what we had, how easy would it be to use, etc. I wanted to have the knowledge to challenge what they were presenting, to know what would be best, to speak intelligently to my boss about it. I had learned a lot on the job, but I wanted more focused learning and I felt that what I had read online about this degree fit the bill. I didn’t have a lot of programming experience, so I took an intro to programming class (C#) in the Spring of 2016 so I would be prepared for what was coming, which was a smart move. Learning about data warehousing, data mining, Excel analytics solver, SSAS/SSIS, SAS, Tableau, all were key tools in performing the tasks that are needed. I felt that we had the appropriate training with these tools and I can see where I can apply them to the real world. Even having a refresher in database management with SQL, I felt that it reinforced the base knowledge to build upon from there.
The Big Data Analytics course was also so informative, learning about HADOOP, Amazon Web Services, Google Big Data, IBM Watson Analytics, they are all so present in the analytical world right now. Some of the software that I currently use at my job is transitioning their platform to Amazon Web Services in the near future, so I feel that I will have the right knowledge to carry on conversations with the vendor and make educated statements about how that will impact our pricing, our performance, etc.
I manage 5 analysts currently and with my new knowledge of Tableau, we are actually in the early stages of purchasing that software and streamlining all of our health system’s monthly/biweekly reporting packages to that platform for easier presentations and the ability to deliver dynamic reports instead of the static reports of the past. One in particular are our zip code reports, where they show where patients are coming from. In the past, we had refreshed the data quarterly and highlighted what we thought would be presented, only to be lacking if a question was asked about a particular region. With a static report, you can’t get at any of the underlying data. With Tableau, all of that data will be there. So not only will we be able to show the data graphically on a map, the presenter can change the criteria on the fly, or drill-down into the underlying details to answer questions that come up. It will be a lot of work because we have a lot of different reports that we currently deliver, but in the end, the rewards will definitely pay off.
Learning predictive analytics was also so interesting, and also very present. All CEOs seem to want to know what next steps are coming, how to model what outside factors can impact the changes, etc. The big “what if” analysis. Having the tools to do that I felt was so important. I feel like I am a more valuable employee now because I have these tools and can put them to good use. I can see where down the road we can build models of our service line areas, our geographic areas, etc. and use that to predict what could happen. Because the government sets the trends for reimbursement, for coding, billing, etc. we can use that knowledge and build models around it to see what kind of impact it could have on our business, and our bottom line.
The most fun class of all of them was Data Visualization. After we had gone through all of the steps to analyze our data, it was the final step to organize the outcome and display it in a meaningful way. Putting together the story of the data and the steps involved into a dashboard that the audience could understand was so helpful. A lot of the time, the end user knows the data (such as the zip codes, the types of surgery, etc) but they don’t really know how you got there. They don’t also necessarily need to know all of the technical steps behind the scenes, but being able to put this in front of them and show them the same data they had been seeing in the past in a new way is really exciting and I think will go a long way.
The only class that I was less comfortable with was Project Management. I thought the class would have been more of a survey type class, such as knowing all of the phases of project management, the steps involved, etc. Instead, I felt that the class we took was actually preparing us for being certified in Project Management instead, which maybe some are interested in that path. We signed up for the course via a separate website (outside of D2L) where all of the quizzes and exams were given, along with all of the reading materials. I felt that the reading materials and quizzes did not prepare us at all for the exams. Every question was multiple choice, but one of the possible answers was always “none of the above,” so I ended up questioning what I thought the answer should be. I studied more for that class than any of the other classes I took for this degree, and I still struggled to get the grades I did. The group project and paper was definitely relevant, and it was a fun part of the class at the end. I can see where project management is relevant to a data analytics career, but I felt that this class was made harder than it should have been.
Lastly, I want to mention what a great professor you were. Your lectures were so informative and provided enough information via you tube videos, articles, excerpts, etc that we had more than enough resources to help us learn what we needed to. You were also very understanding since most of us have full-time jobs while taking this course if we would need a little extra time to complete projects. You also answered emails quickly if we had issues, and really put us in touch with the other classmates so we could learn from each other. I felt very lucky to have gone through these courses with you leading us.
I feel so much more knowledgeable about this field of study and feel that I can build on what I have learned. So far, I have been fortunate to have been promoted within my own organization. I am now the corporate director of decision support in the Penn Highlands Healthcare system. Previously, I was the director over just one hospital. I feel that I have a lot more to bring to the table now that I have my degree, having been exposed to all of these new tools. I feel more confident about my approach to data analysis and modeling, and I feel like I am a more valuable employee because of this.
The MS in Applied Data Analytics has been an excellent program to be involved in. As a student with no computer science background I found the program to be very user friendly with an excellent course selection. With today being such a data driven society, the program focused on the main data/ business tools to set students up for success in the future as an analyst. The analytics program gave us insight on how data is influenced on different career fields. The program got each student to open their eyes and determine the best solution to help different lines of the business. From AirBnB to the Healthcare field, this program has given us the opportunity to explore data and determine solutions to best benefit the different case studies we were able to work with. I have no doubt this program has set me up to find a best fit job in the analytics field and take the next steps to a career in the data driven world. Each class focused on different tools to help build the resume and show jobs what we are capable of doing. I am now just looking in the analytics field and hope to obtain a job within the next 6 months in the field. I would not hesitate to recommend this program to anyone who is interested in the business analytic field.