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How Statistics, Computer Science and Storytelling Changed a Career

Alumni_ Amanda DeryAmanda Dery MSBA ’16 enrolled in the Bentley Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) with high hopes of advancing up the ladder of EMC’s data science team. A year into the program, it happened.

“At the end of my rotation in EMC’s Business Operational Rotation Program, I was the first rotator without a master’s degree to be offered a full-time role on the data science team,” recalls Dery, who at the time held a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Boston University. “However, I knew that growth in this role would be challenging without advanced training so I started to pursue my master’s degree at Bentley almost immediately.”

The pivotal moment when Dery “knew that graduate school was a must” happened because she felt she lacked deep expertise in statistical modeling and data manipulation. She chose Bentley because it covered three major components of data science: statistics, computer science, and storytelling.

“I was looking for a very specialized degree; Bentley’s MSBA program exposes you to a wide variety of analytics techniques and I found that every class was directly applicable to what I was doing at work,” says Dery, who used modeling techniques from classes like data mining, time series and customer data analysis. “I also liked the fact that Bentley’s MSBA is within the business school versus a computer science school. This makes a huge difference because business analytics and data science are all about solving business problems.”  

Dery worked full time while taking classes in the evenings for two years, during which she was promoted to data scientist. After completing the MSBA, she accepted a position as senior data scientist at Virgin Pulse working on the analytics of health, wellbeing and employee engagement. She says that her work days “revolve around data manipulation, statistical analysis and the presentation of the results.” She most enjoys combining two passions: analyzing data and impacting people’s health.

On Dery’s career agenda: managing a data science team. “By leading a data science team, I can focus on the strategic aspects of identifying where data science can help a business problem. As a leader, I can lead brainstorming sessions that work to break down the business problem and provide guidance to my team on how to bring those thoughts to life. Finally, I can work with my team to bring the story together and present it back to the business in a compelling way.”

Circling back to the top three skills Dery learned at Bentley:

Data manipulation. “Data is provided in many different formats and it is important to know what form the data needs to be in for each type of model and how to code the variables that you need.”

Deep statistical modeling techniques. “Bentley offers classes that teach a wide variety of techniques, from the statistics behind the model to the common pitfalls. I still refer back to my class slides for key assumptions of some of the models that I use less frequently.”

Storytelling. “Through my work experience I have seen that regardless of how accurate a model is, the business will not use your results unless it is explained to them in a way that makes them want to buy in. Nearly every Bentley class had a class project, which afforded us the opportunity not only to practice modeling, but also to practice crafting the results into a story.”

Dery says her confidence is high, and the toolbox of modeling techniques she learned at Bentley has accelerated her career path, thanks to an ability to tackle increasingly complex projects.

“Right now, many companies are only just starting to leverage this data and need someone who can tell them what to do with it,” she says. “After completing this program, you can help them analyze how their business is doing and make recommendations as to how it can be improved. If this sounds like something you want to do, then Bentley MSBA is the right program for you.”