September 29, 2016
This fall, the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics welcomed the inaugural class of Master of Science in Business Data Analytics (BUDA) students, and this first class set the bar high with exceptional students like Sarabeth Porter.
Porter, a native of northern Georgia and recent graduate of Georgia Southern University with a degree in mathematics and a minor in finance, serves as a business intelligence and data analyst for General Motors in Austin, Texas. To build upon the early momentum of her career, Porter knew a graduate degree in business data analytics from WVU would take her to new heights.
“I actually do a little bit more development than analytics right now, and that’s part of the reason I am getting my master’s – to move into more of an analytics role at GM,” Porter said. “Also, I’m hoping it will help me move into upper management within GM. I think it’s going to make me more competitive for promotions and for better roles in the future.”
When it came to choosing a data analytics program, Porter did her research. She found many data analytics programs forming in universities around the country, but discovered that the program at WVU was the best fit because it is housed within the business school.
“A lot of the other programs are in statistics schools, which is cool to me because my undergrad was in math. While data analytics does involve a lot of statistics, a large part of that is being able to write well and being able to present your research. With it being in the business school, it teaches you the communications skills associated with being a data analyst, too,” Porter said.
Porter’s interest in data analytics began when she was working toward her undergraduate degree. With a minor in finance, she said she already had a taste of the business mindset that prepared her for the BUDA program.
“One of the classes I took in my undergrad was operations research, which is a big part of analytics, was math modeling. You’re modeling problems with a large amount of variables and you’re figuring out ways to optimize profit or minimize cost using math modeling,” she said.
And that problem-solving facet – that’s a key draw for Porter. She said she is excited that data analytics gives her the ability to help others.
“I started my undergrad as a nursing major, and I switched to math because I really like math. I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it, and then whenever I discovered the field of data analytics, I was really excited because it’s math and statistics, but it’s really applied, Porter said. “You’re solving problems, and you get that aspect of, kind of like in nursing, of helping people, but with numbers, which is so cool to me. You’re solving problems and helping the business, and in turn, you’re helping the customers. It’s like a mix of math, while still being able to solve real world problems and help people.”
As with any applied or technical field, Porter says business data analytics has its challenges. With this degree, Porter says she will be available to detect and defeat those challenges.
“I think the most challenging part is making sure the data you’re collecting is reliable because you’re making huge decisions based off of it. You want the data to have integrity. For example, one way GM uses analytics is by figuring out whether or not they need to make a recall on certain items. They have to make sure before they make a recall that it’s actually something they need to do, and so they need to make sure the data they collected is reliable,” Porter said.