The Makings of a Good MMA Candidate
By Samantha Beavers
From retail and restaurants to airlines and agriculture, data is everywhere. And while data holds unlimited potential for businesses to maximize their marketing efforts and increase ROI, it also tends to lie dormant. Across industries, many companies lack the analytics professionals they need to turn data into actionable insights – leading to a climbing demand for analytics skills around the world.
To train leaders for this fast-growing marketplace, Poole College of Management developed the Master of Management, Marketing Analytics (MMA) concentration. Blending together the fields of marketing and data analytics, the online program equips students with cutting-edge analytics techniques to navigate a data-rich environment, make smarter decisions and tackle complex problems with innovative solutions.
But what makes for a strong MMA candidate? Which individuals are well-suited for the program? And what kinds of work experience, career goals and personal characteristics should applicants have? MMA program director Rishika Rishika helps prospective students determine whether the program is the right fit.
Who is the MMA program specifically designed for?
RR: The MMA program is particularly geared toward working professionals, so it’s designed to be flexible enough to work with any working professional’s schedule. It can be completed part-time and fully online, with asynchronous classes that students take at their own pace. Because of that, the majority of our current students are full-time professionals who want to specifically focus their careers on data analytics.
What kind of backgrounds are a good fit for the program?
RR: The MMA program is ideal for marketing professionals who want to adapt their skillset for a shifting market. Several of our students are in senior management positions and realized that while data drives many of the decisions they need to make, they don’t know anything about analytics. They’re developing these analytics skills to make better decisions in a dynamic environment.
The program is also well-suited for working professionals interested in a career change or those seeking an advancement opportunity with a foundation in applied analytics. Many working professionals have great knowledge of their fields but don’t quite understand how to work with data and don’t want to get left behind. By developing this skill set, they can keep up with the times, become more effective in this data economy and grow in their careers.
What about recent undergraduates?
RR: While our primary target is working professionals who can come in with some managerial skills, we do have a set of fresh undergraduates currently in the program – and we love having them. These are individuals with a particular interest in analytics and a specific path in mind for their careers – and they’re taking time to hone these analytics skills before they go into the market.
So for recent undergraduates with a passion for analytics and a desire to supplement their bachelor’s degree with expertise in marketing analytics, we do encourage them to apply. If they have a strong interest in moving up the ladder in business and demonstrate a commitment to developing the skills to get there, they may be a good candidate for the MMA program – even if they don’t come in with managerial experience. And if they have some statistics classes they’ve taken that demonstrate an interest in data analytics, that’s a plus, too.
What technical skills or experience do you expect students to come in with?
RR: While some background in statistics and programming is nice to have, this background isn’t necessary. All of our instructors understand that there are students coming into the program who haven’t had this kind of exposure, so we start with the basics and build upon that.
To ensure that every MMA student has the foundation they need for the program, our Business Analytics Initiative has developed a core set of classes where students will be trained in the skills we want them to learn. All our analytics students will take that core sequence of courses to get the basic capital they need to succeed. Specifically, they’ll learn to handle large amounts of data and be trained in analytics software and data modeling techniques.
Sometimes students ask us how they can prepare for the program and we suggest a few classes they can take online through different platforms. If they’re interested in opportunities to develop some of these skills in advance, we have options for them – but this is certainly not a requirement.
What career goals should applicants have? Where can this degree take graduates?
RR: While this program trains students in all the latest and state-of-the-art analytics techniques that employers are looking for in the hiring process, it also has a specialized focus on marketing theory and applying analytics tools to marketing problems. So ultimately, MMA candidates should have a love for marketing, an understanding of the importance of marketing and a real desire to develop their career in marketing analytics.
They should recognize that marketing is the face of a firm and understand that if they cannot communicate about their products and innovation to the right group of customers, there’s no way they can survive for long in the market. So they should have a real passion to use data to implement robust marketing techniques and give companies a competitive advantage in this ever-changing economy we live in.
All to say – the skills they learn in the program can be applied in a number of ways to advance a wide variety of careers. But at the heart of it, MMA students should be interested in climbing the ladder in their marketing careers. This degree can launch them into a lot of different roles – marketing analyst, marketing researcher, business analyst, business intelligence officer, business researcher and so on.
What are some personal characteristics you’re looking for in candidates?
RR: We’re looking for curious, passionate individuals who are ready to make a difference. They should have a drive to solve real-world problems. And, of course, they should have a particular interest in analytics. When I sit down to do interviews with applicants, I really try to assess this – because at the end of the day, this is a highly skilled type of program that requires time. There will be classes that will take time from your busy life, so we want to ensure that we have passionate students who will devote time to work diligently through these challenging courses. So we’re really looking for time and passion – two key things.
Another thing we’re looking for is good communication skills. Here at Poole College, we’re passionate about thinking and doing – so we have a very hands-on curriculum. Students do a lot of group work in their classes and every student is also required to do a business practicum where they work with one of our corporate partners to solve a real problem using real data. So in addition to having good data analytics skills, they’ll also need to have strong communication skills to interact with clients, present their findings and really succeed in this collaborative environment.
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