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Data Analytics: Ask the Right Questions

Public Service Announcement: If you’re not intimately familiar with formulas, functions and tables in Excel, you really want to get your hands on an advanced Excel tutorial before starting the Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics. Is it critical? No, but if mathy things are not your happy place, please give yourself this gift.

Other than that, the class is pretty much about using the tools we’ve learned in Access and Excel to creatively solve ‘word problems’ We’re about half-way through the semester and things are definitely starting to fall into place.

We started with some easy (in hindsight) financial problems to ease us into creating functions in Excel, and now we’re pulling data sets off the Internet, using Excel tools to clean the data and exercising our developing skills by figuring out how to structure the “questions” that we’re asking. It sounds so simple, but really, it’s anything but.

On one of the first days of class, a student mentioned an application they’d heard about that delivers data findings based on common-language queries, kind of like a Google search. Dr. Olson noted that, yes, it will work to a certain degree, but your results will depend upon how you phrase the question, and how you phrase the question depends on your depth of knowledge. So, no matter how robust the tools get, the quality of the outcome will always rely upon that very human ability: critical thought.

Opus Magnum will follow Ghislaine’s progress through the certificate program. A native New Yorker by way of Texas, Ghislaine has a long career in marketing from large multi-national corporations to small niche agencies. Ghislaine completed her St. Thomas MBA in 2008 and in her own words, “I liked St. Thomas so much I went to work for the organization.”