Nearly two years after the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences decided the field of data analytics needed a set of standards, 17 people earlier this month became the first to earn the INFORMS Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) credential.
INFORMS launched the CAP program as a way to ensure professional standards as enterprises rush to find candidates to fill data analytics jobs. Many people expect there to be a shortage of data analytics professionals over the next few years as educational institutions and training organizations struggle to catch up with demand. Others, though, believe the shortage of data analytics professionals doesn’t exist and fault enterprises for applying exceedingly narrow or high standards to candidates. Meta Brown, a business analytics consultant, says enterprises should consider candidates with diverse backgrounds and look within the organization for talent to train.
Data Informed communicated with five of the CAP certification holders—all of them highly educated and experienced in the analytics field before they sought this new credential. Below are their responses to questions about their backgrounds, plans and views of the INFORMS code of ethics for analytics professionals.
Alan Austin Seeks a ‘Unified Model’ of Business and Data Expertise
Alan Austin is the director of business development for Breakthrough Consulting Group in Provo, Utah, that specializes in Six Sigma, quality, and project management training and consulting.
On what got him interested in data analytics: I don’t think of myself as a data analytics professional, although data is obviously a driver in what I try to do. When INFORMS began discussing a Certified Analytics Professional initiative, I was drawn by the fact that what was being proposed encompassed not only data science, but also quantitative (statistical and operations research) methods and business acumen. That balance made a lot of sense to me and was a nice fit for my background and experience. I like the definition of Analytics currently being used by INFORMS: “Analytics is the scientific process of transforming data into insight for making better decisions.”
About his background: I have a bachelor of science in statistics from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the University of Houston. I had a heavy emphasis on statistics/operations research (as well as finance) during my graduate work. As a result of my educational background, I have always been analytically oriented regardless of where and in what capacity I worked.
On his career in analytics so far: My first job after graduating from BYU was as a mathematical statistician for the U.S. Army. That’s probably the last time I held a position that was purely “analytics-related.” Since that time I have worked as a consultant, quality manager, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. However, being data-driven has always been a core tenet of my management approach. One of my MBA professors pounded it into our heads that “if you don’t know the numbers, you don’t know.” That same data driven, analytically oriented mindset has been something I’ve tried to remember and practice, regardless of my role or responsibility.
On his career goals in the analytics field: My goal is to fully integrate the three primary competencies reflected in the CAP—business acumen, data science, quantitative methods—into a unified model that allows organizations to take advantage of the unprecedented access to data and computational ability now available. The possibilities are incredible.
Views on the INFORMS ethics pledge for data analysts: I think it is important to clarify that the Code of Ethics is for those seeking to be recognized as Certified Analytics Professionals. It is both appropriate and important for any certification process to clearly articulate that which is and is not acceptable behavior for practitioners. As a Certified Analytics Professional myself, I am happy to comply with the aforementioned Code of Ethics and expect all of my fellow professionals to do so as well.
Sri Krishnamurthy: The ‘Analytics Revolution’ Has Just Begun
Sri Krishnamurthy of Malden, Mass., is a senior computational finance consultant at MathWorks, a developer of technical computing software, who has helped more than 50 customers build analytical solutions for financial decision making.
On what got him interested in data analytics: In graduate school, I studied various data processing and machine learning techniques to let systems make better decisions on behalf of humans. In 2005, I was working in Citigroup and had an opportunity to work for the analytics framework team. That opened my eyes to the possibilities and the wonderful domain of analytics. Since then, I have been an analytics practitioner in various roles at Endeca (now Oracle) and MathWorks.
About his background: I have had various senior technical roles at large corporations mostly in customer facing engineering roles and solving their analytical problems. I have an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. I got my MS in Computer Systems Engineering and another MS in Computer Science from Northeastern University and an MBA from Babson College. I am also a Charted Financial Analyst (CFA).
On his career so far in analytics: I have been practicing analytics since 2005. At Citigroup, I developed fixed income analytics for pricing fixed-income products. At Endeca, I developed analytics based dashboards for performance metrics. The system saved more than $50m for a large technology company. At MathWorks, I was a computational finance specialist and consulted with various companies developing financial analytics applications. I have also taught Business Intelligence, Analytics and Visualization as an adjunct lecturer at Babson College.
About his career goals in the analytics field: After spending more than 10 years working at various corporations, my Babson College lessons are inspiring me to become an entrepreneur. I aspire to be an entrepreneur providing analytical software and services to my customers. I have had the good fortune of working with more than 100 customers understanding their data and analytical needs and providing analytics based solutions since 2005. I intend to continue practicing this dynamic and fast evolving field. With increase in data, companies are striving to make sense of the data they are collecting and this has turned into huge business opportunities for companies.With big data, smart computing and innovations in technology, I think the timing is right to leverage these opportunities and provide entrepreneurial solutions. I think we are just at the beginning of the upcoming analytics revolution and am eager to be a part of this exciting journey.
Views on the INFORMS ethics pledge for data analysts: I think data analysts have a unique value add in business processes since they are the fact-finders and are responsible to investigate, process and relay their findings to help their businesses make better decisions. I think the INFORMS ethics pledge for data analysts provides a framework to reiterate their commitment to the data analytics field and uphold the tradition of learning and practice in the data analytics profession.
Rami Musa: Solving Problems in Manufacturing and Supply Chains
Rami Musa is an operations management consultant in the Supply Chain of Center of Competency at DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware.
What got him interested in data analytics: I am a quantitative person by training and now by nature. I do believe in the power of the emerging evolution of data to information to knowledge in order to make better decisions under any sort of risk. I deal with data on a daily basis at my current job at DuPont.
About his background: I have expertise in applying analytics (optimization, simulation, spreadsheet) to solve problems in operations of manufacturing, logistics, and supply chain management. My education includes a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering from Virginia Tech, an M.S. degree in industrial engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Jordan’s University of Science and Technology.
On his career in analytics: In my present and previous jobs, I have been using analytics techniques such as optimization, discrete event simulation, Monte Carlo simulation, metaheuristics, and spreadsheet modeling to solve problems in the area of manufacturing and supply chain operations.
On his career goals in the analytics field: To become a leader and promoter in the area of analytics in the manufacturing industry.
Views on the INFORMS ethics pledge for data analysts: In the future, our dependence of data will increase massively. Those of us who will be dealing with data (analysis and modeling) will have the responsibility and duty to deal efficiently and ethically with all the stakeholders affected by the obtained data and generated solutions and results, such as colleagues, society and employers. I believe the INFORMS code of ethics is a great binding document to meet with highest standards in our career now and in the future.
Satjeet Singh: Data Analytics Brings More Possibilities to Research Models
Satjeet Singh is a supply chain and operations management consulting based in Lewisville, Texas.
On what got him interested in data analytics: I have been working as a consultant building and using mathematical models, primarily in the supply chain arena. Data analytics enhances these models through a wider availability of a) computing tools and platforms, b) richer visualization set, and c) multi-component data sources (“Big Data”). In that sense, data analytics enriches the quality of the solution by a) allowing for more data dimensions, and b) reducing the bias and dependency on simplifying assumptions.
About his background, analytics career and goals: I have an engineering and optimization background, with a focus on supply chain planning and modeling domain. I have worked in the area of supply and inventory planning using simulation and optimization based tools. [My goal is] to work on interesting problems as a consultant or in-house practitioner.
Views on the INFORMS ethics pledge for data analysts: I think this is a great idea and it enhances the reputation of the profession. This is especially pertinent given the privacy considerations in dealing with consumer data. Further, by requiring that clients be presented with options, capabilities and limitation of the methods, it would foster a clearer picture of the analysis. Just as a suggestion: Like the CFA Institute has in their Chartered Financial Analyst program, there could even be an ethics section in the CAP test.
Matt Windham: Analytics Opened a New World
Matt Windham is the Director of Analytics at NTELX Inc., a small analytics and IT consulting firm based near Washington, D.C. that provides consulting services to federal and commercial clients across the following domains: safety and security, health and human services, finance, and logistics.
On what got him interested in data analytics: I was introduced to “Advanced Analytics” (also known as data analytics, among other names) just a few years out of college when a consulting company was looking for someone with my skills—an amalgamation of math, stats, and programming—to do work in the intelligence community. It was just a few years [after] 9/11, and I found the idea of working in the intelligence community electrifying; so, I jumped at the chance to apply my skills to the improvement of our nation’s security. I have since changed companies and focus, but that initial experience with analytics opened my eyes to a new world.
On his background: I have a B.S. in applied mathematics from North Carolina State University, and a M.S. in mathematics and statistics from Georgetown University. My career has been spent primarily supporting federal clients in the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, and Treasury.
On his career in analytics so far and his goals: My prior experience in an analytics-related position has always been in a consulting capacity to either a federal or commercial client. My goal is to succeed at exactly what I am doing now—building a successful, high-quality analytics consulting practice.
Views on the INFORMS ethics pledge for data analysts: I think this is an important element of building a culture of ethical behavior across the CAP community, and branding the CAP credential with high ethical standards. However, in order for the paper to be meaningful, other measures should be taken by INFORMS including: 1) professional education requirements for CAP holders that include a focus on ethics, 2) stated code of ethics for INFORMS members, and 3) raising awareness of ethics issues across INFORMS via workshops, publications, and classroom training.