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Analytics: The Most Critical MBA Skill

Jun 20, 2022

As Big Data gets bigger, demand is soaring for professionals with business analytic skills.

Business analytics is more important than ever before.

Fortune recently spoke to a number of leading industry experts, including the dean of Columbia Business School, who stressed the importance of MBAs being comfortable with data as more roles require MBA grads to go beyond the traditional business skillset.

“As businesses evolve, I’ve seen MBA grads evolve, as well,” David Nenke, president of Digital Student Solutions and former general manager of Amazon Explore, tells Fortune. “The expectation isn’t that you can code. It’s much more around being comfortable with the data and then being able to wrap it up and communicate it more broadly across the organization.”

COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL DOUBLES DOWN ON BUSINESS ANALYTICS

At Columbia Business School (CBS), business analytics has become a pillar in the MBA core curriculum.

Costis Maglaras, dean of the business school, says that CBS has integrated the core curriculum with more data-related topics, such as algorithmic decision making and machine learning.

“About seven years ago, we became a lot more deliberate to roll out more courses in that era,” Maglaras tells Fortune. “That’s when we introduced these Python classes; this is when we introduced the sequel to business analytics—Analytics in Action. This is a project course where we bring in engineering students together with MBA students. It’s when we grew the tech strategy course.”

Nowadays, MBA grads are expected to have some knowledge and experience in business analytics and data—regardless of industry.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to a tech firm,” Maglaras tells Fortune. “When you go to a consulting firm and you do a project right now in consulting—at BCG, Bain, your favorite strategy consulting firms whatever they may be—in most cases the team will have some business folks (MBA types, let’s call them); they’ll have data scientists; they’ll have designers; they’ll have user experience experts. Teams like that will be 40-50-60% of the projects that take place in these firms.”

Back in 2018, The Wharton School also put all its chips behind business analytics as the business school added a plethora of courses in business analytics to its MBA curriculum with the hopes of meeting employer demand.

“Companies tell us the secret sauce is that they want people with business knowledge who understand analytics,” Eric Bradlow, faculty director and co-founder of Wharton’s Customer Analytics Initiative, told PQ then.

As industries evolve, so does business school curricula. And, at Columbia Business School and Wharton, MBAs today are being taught a modern business skill set—with an emphasis in business analytics.

“The skill set that people need to succeed in business right now in their careers is rapidly evolving because of technology,” Maglaras tells Fortune. “If you had come through this school in the ’90s or in the 2000s and you wanted to become a marketing professional, you’d be tooled up in a very different way than had you graduated a week from today.”

Sources: Fortune, PQ

Next Page: MBA Resume Advice

When it comes to MBA resumes for B-school, experts say applicants should highlight personal strengths and achievements over technical skills.

“We’re not looking for the laundry list – the laundry list that you might have to put in your actual application,” Sue Oldham, associate dean of MBA operations at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, tells US News . “We’re looking for areas of interest and professional affiliations.”

HIGHLIGHT EXAMPLES OF LEADERSHIP

Business schools are looking for leaders, and the MBA resume is a perfect opportunity to showcase why you deserve a seat. Experts recommend highlighting experience that demonstrates strong leadership.

“If you formally manage one or more people, don’t leave that information out,” Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, says. “Even if you supervise and mentor someone informally, that should go on the resume as well. If you have played a role in training peers, subordinates, or even those senior to you (perhaps on a new type of software), include that on your resume. Anything that shows how you identified an opportunity and took the initiative is a great thing to have.”

Technical skills, while important, play less of a role on your application resume—especially when compared to examples of leadership.

“Business schools aren’t looking for coding prowess or investment knowledge,” according to Shemmassian Academic Consulting. “They’re looking for applicants who have the potential to make a lasting impact in the world through business. They’re looking for game changers, for innovators, for future CEOs. They don’t care if you can derive Black-Scholes with your eyes closed; they care about whether you can lead a team, think critically, collaborate with others, and achieve great feats of business that leave a legacy behind you.”

KEEP IT TO ONE PAGE

While it may be tempting to try and include everything on your MBA resume, experts stress the importance of keeping it to one page and one page only. If you do want to include additional information, such as passions or interests, adding a line or two at the bottom of your resume will suffice.

“A good test for what works for this section: does this added information separate you from the pack?” according to Shemmassian Academic Consulting. “Is it something you want to be asked about in your interview? Does it round out your resume in a way that paints a fuller picture of yourself?”

At the end of the day, your MBA resume is a summary of you, and keeping that summary concise is key.

“It’s a snapshot of who you are,” Oldham tells US News.

Sources: US News, Stacy Blackman Consulting, Shemmassian Academic Consulting

Next Page: Columbia MBA Essays

Columbia Business School’s Kravis Hall at night, one of two buildings on its new campus at 130th and Broadway

At Columbia Business School (CBS), ranked 7th in PQ’s ‘Top Business Schools’ ranking, being different matters.

While the B-school is traditionally known to be a top finance program, CBS is home to non-traditional, out-of-the-box students. And when it comes to admissions, CBS seeks out students who are a strong fit to their community and culture.

“With CBS, it really is a holistic approach, but the fit is VERY important,” according to Stacy Blackman Consulting. “They want to know why CBS—that is a big part of their culture. They want to know you’re going to fit in.”

Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently delve into the 2022-2023 CBS essay prompts and offered insight into what exactly CBS admissions officers are seeking.

ESSAY 1

The first essay prompt asks applicants:

Through your resume and recommendation, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what is your long-term dream job? (500 words)

While this essay is about your short- and long-term goals, Blackman says CBS is looking to understand who you are and how you’re different from the typical, “ideal” applicant.

“Don’t try to be an ideal applicant,” Blackman says. “Instead, reveal your genuine personality, motivations, and goals.”

To do this, it can be helpful to add perspective to your current situation and your goals.

“For example, perhaps you want to be a general manager of a company or division,” Blackman says. “But right now, you have been working primarily in marketing. Subsequently, you might take classes in finance and strategy and take part in consulting projects while interning at a start-up. All of these will provide experience for your general management path.”

ESSAY 2

The second essay prompt asks applicants:

We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams, co-curricular initiatives like the Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership, which aims to equip students with the skills and strategies necessary to lead in an inclusive and ethical manner, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program. Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally? (300 words)

This essay is designed to gauge your fit to the CBS community and culture. Before writing essay number two, Blackman suggests doing proper research into what makes CBS unique.

“For example, read the website, watch admissions sessions online or visit in person, and try to network with current and former students,” Blackman writes. “As a result of this research, you will know the school well.”

You’ll then want to tie your individual goals to the attributes of the CBS program. Blackman also recommends highlighting how you, as a student, will add to the culture and community of CBS.

“Think about the unique skills and experiences you will share,” Blackman says. “Columbia wants to meet students who have a strong desire to attend their program. In conclusion, show your passion for the school and make the case for your admission.”

ESSAY 3

The third essay prompt asks applicants:

Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)

While your first and second essay are more focused on your professional and academic goals, the third essay aims to showcase who you are as a person. Blackman suggests choosing a topic based on your personal tastes and interests.

“For example, if you are a reader, you may pick a favorite childhood book,” Blackman says. “What do you remember about the story, and did it kindle your reading passion? In contrast, a movie might have spurred emotions. Consider what was memorable about the film, and how you felt. You may associate a specific song with a meaningful relationship. How did the song impact your life?”

Above all, the topic of your third essay should offer admissions officers insight into what makes you, you.

“Make sure you use specific examples that help the reader understand how you think and feel,” Blackman says. “Finally, your essay should provide an understanding of your personality and motivations.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, PQ

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