In a recent blog by Next Generation it was highlighted that with regards to ‘Data Science, AI and Analytics, there is massive demand and not enough talent’.  This is a universal challenge for businesses of all sizes when it comes to sourcing talent for the constantly evolving job specifications within the Data Science & AI community. With this in mind, since the Award’s inception a key initiative was to help create the next generation of Data Science Talent.  Each  year the DatSci Awards takes great pride in ‘paying it forward’ by funding full time fees (€13,950), with proceeds from ticket sales for a global student to attend the MSc in Business Analytics at UCD Smurfit School.   This course was recently ranked 13th in the world in the QS World University Rankings.

The 2018/2019 recipient of the Scholarship was Eoin Cotter. We caught up with him recently to get more insight into his journey so far.

How did your Business Analytics journey start?

It is an honour to be the 2018/19 recipient of the Derek O’Connor MSc in Business Analytics Scholarship funded by Next Generation’s DatSci Awards.

My initial foray into Business Analytics began with a second-year Commerce module. The Bachelor of Commerce degree gave me insight into the whole gamut of business disciplines and analytics is the one that piqued my interest the most. So, when deciding on my next move after graduating last year, a Masters in Business Analytics was high on my list. The Smurfit Masters was the stand-out offering from my perspective, due to its broad focus on both technical and business aspects, its impressive faculty and facilities, and its prestige (now ranked 13th globally). For these reasons I applied and accepted a place on the programme. Once I received my degree results I applied for the scholarship, admittedly with low expectations. Happily, I was shortlisted and invited for an interview. The interview went well in front of subject experts from Next Generation, CeADAR and UCD MIS, and the following day I was informed that I had been chosen for the scholarship.

How has the Scholarship helped you?

The scholarship has had a positive impact on my life for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, I see the scholarship as recognition and reward for hard work. My receiving the scholarship is a culmination of long hours of work to receive first-class honours which qualified me to apply for the scholarship; independent learning to develop my data science skills; and continuous commitments to expand the boundaries of my comfort zone and develop my leadership potential. The scholarship has taught me that hard work and perseverance eventually bears fruit and does not go unnoticed. This now acts as a great motivator for me looking to the future.

Secondly, it is no secret that a Masters’ programme is a significant financial commitment. While the return on investment is demonstrably high – particularly for analytics at this point in time – the scholarship has allowed me to avoid the hardships of financing the course myself. Next Generation should receive plaudits for its tangible commitment each year to developing the next generation of data science talent

Finally, and heavily linked to financial support, is the freedom it provides me going forward. I feel there are no sunk costs weighing me down (not that they should anyway, as decision and behavioural analytics has taught me). I’m excited to choose my next career move without financial and psychological burdens influencing my decision.

What can you tell us about the programme?

The course itself has surpassed my expectations. Semester one provided a strong foundation in statistics, programming and optimisation methods, as well as providing a broad framework for the field of business analytics to give context to everything being learned. This has enabled more advanced topics this semester, such as data mining, statistical and machine learning, and advanced operations research. My favourite thing about studying business analytics is the vast array of skills that are developed. I am constantly simultaneously expanding my knowledge of mathematics, computer science, business and analytics-specific topics.

The real advantage of the Masters, however, is the community of people that you are exposed to. The Smurfit MSc in Business Analytics student cohort is approximately 70% international and academic backgrounds vary significantly. Being exposed to these different cultural and intellectual viewpoints has been an eye-opening and invaluable experience to me. As well as this, attending events such as the DatSci Awards and other conferences throughout the year as part of the Masters programme gives exposure to a calibre of professionals and potentially career-changing networking opportunities that would not be available elsewhere to someone so early on in their career. I have also had the chance to tutor classes for the undergraduate commerce module where it all began for me; this has been a great way to improve my knowledge of the subject and also enhance my public speaking and presentation skills.

During the summer term, all that has been learned throughout the year will be put into practical use through the Capstone projects. These are conducted in pairs in conjunction with top analytics employers and UCD MIS faculty. My project is focused on process mining event log data in healthcare. I was keen to take on this topic because it is a relatively underhyped area that takes an age-old analysis technique and applies advanced data science to make tangible business improvements.

What is next for you?

Once this all wraps up in September I will again have to decide on my next career move. While I’m young and have no significant commitments in life I am keen to take on roles that might not be available to me as my career progresses. In the short-term, I have ambitions to work in a small company or a start-up, and also gain some international experience. Whether or not analytics or data science is in my job title, I know that it will play a significant part in any role I take on. Success in any field requires strong decision making, and the Masters has developed in me a mindset whereby the analytics techniques I’ve learned can be used as a way to enhance – and sometimes automate – human decision making. This is a mindset I hope will stick with me throughout my career and I believe is essential for any young professionals to develop.

UCD Smurfit School are now accepting applications for the 2019/2020 Scholarship, entry deadline is 28th June 2019. Full details can be found on the UCD Smurfit School website.