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Marketing Analytics Grad Student Cuts Teeth on Big Data

By Samantha Beavers

Katie Cobb never imagined that she’d end up pursuing a career in data analytics – or marketing, for that matter. On the path toward becoming a dentist, she faithfully chipped away at a biology degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She took all the necessary prerequisites, built up sufficient dental experience and even scored within the 98th percentile on the Dental Admission Test (DAT).

On paper, dentistry seemed like the perfect fit. But by the time she received her letter of acceptance into dental school, she realized she wasn’t smiling.

Ultimately deciding not to move forward with dentistry, Cobb took time to refocus and identify her passions – which led her to the Master of Management, Marketing Analytics concentration (MMA) at the Poole College of Management. “I realized that what initially drew me to dentistry was the pure integration of STEM and art. And my desire for a career that combines these two things didn’t dissolve after stepping away from dentistry,” Cobb says. “After much research, I found that marketing analytics offers this same integration – and I realized that this was a career I was truly passionate about.”

With marketing, Cobb realized she could channel her interests to pose solutions to complex business challenges around the globe. And NC State’s MMA program, she says, offered the curriculum and training she was looking for.

“I think there’s a tendency for professional programs to grow complacent and fail to keep up with the changing landscape – but because data analytics is a rapidly growing field, it’s extremely important to stay up to date on the latest technologies, solutions and strategies. So I loved that the MMA program was new,” Cobb explains. “And a family friend of mine who is a graduate of NC State raved about Poole College of Management, so I knew I would be in good hands.”

While marketing analytics has been a big transition from dentistry, Cobb has enjoyed navigating a new field – and has found that the community at Poole College is eager to see her succeed.

“The information is so new to me, but that is what makes it fun. I am a lifelong learner, so navigating a different field of study has been exhilarating to me,” Cobb explains. “I’ve also felt so welcomed and appreciated here. The program directors, professors and advisors are wonderful and have helped me so much.”

The opportunity to connect with students from a variety of backgrounds, Cobb says, has also been a highlight of her experience.

“Even being online, I have made quite a few friends in my cohort,” she says. “And I have really enjoyed networking with classmates who can tell me more about the roles they’re in. They’ve been able to share what they like or don’t like about their roles and make recommendations to me based on my particular interests. I’m learning so much about all of the different routes I can take and soaking it all in before I dive headfirst into my career.”

And all the time she spent preparing for a career in dentistry, Cobb says, wasn’t in vain.

“With a bachelor’s degree in biology, I certainly have a much different background than most of my classmates who majored in business or other similar degrees – but I believe this sets me apart and allows me to bring in new ideas and perspectives that may be overlooked in this field,” she explains.

As for prospective students who have a passion for data analytics but who are afraid to make the jump from a different field, Cobb encourages them to learn from her experience.

“I was terrified to let go of the only thing I had ever known, but I have truly never been happier,” she says. “So just go for it – and don’t be afraid of what other people might think. It took me a lot longer to step away from dentistry than it should have simply because I was afraid of the backlash – but I have had such great support and more words of encouragement than I could have ever imagined.”