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Ivey students use analytics to change the way organizations do business

  • Dawn Milne
  • |
  • Oct 5, 2020
Ivey students use analytics to change the way organizations do business

L-R: Jake Anderson, Talissa Watson, and Akshay Seepala

This past summer, Ivey’s MSc Business Analytics students gained real-world experience, invaluable connections, and summer jobs that could lead to high-potential careers. It was all part of the Ivey Analytics Lab (IAL), an eight- to 10-week summer practicum built into the MSc Business Analytics program. Students hone their skills through either an analytics-driven research project or a work placement within an IAL partner firm in an analytically driven role.

We spoke to three students – Jake Anderson, Akshay Seepala, and Talissa Watson about their IAL experiences.

Jake Anderson, MSc ’21 Candidate

Position: Data Analytics Intern for Humi, May 4 to August 28, 2020

Format: Virtual

Making an impact: Anderson was challenged to build Humi’s background data infrastructure, which required him to pull data from various customer relationship management systems, aggregate it, and create dashboards to inform the company about everything from product development to revenue forecasting. He also built various tools for the company, including one to evaluate growth and changes in the business over time, and one to measure the accuracy of sales representatives’ estimation of the value of a deal.

The takeaways: In building out Humi’s data flows, Anderson had exposure to many sides of the business, such as product development and sales management. Through the experience, he learned how business is driven by personal connections.

“Successfully selling something, such as the license to use a piece of software, is much more than getting someone to buy it. It requires personal connections at every step of the process – from demoing, to closing a deal, to software implementation, and to ongoing support and feedback,” he said. “A successful sale doesn’t just mean a won deal, it means positive public reviews, friendly referrals, ongoing subscriptions, and upsells.”

He also learned that to perform advanced analytics, businesses must be committed to providing ongoing investment and support for the long-term project of building and maintaining the proper strategic digital infrastructure.

Anderson said Ivey’s MSc program helped to build his intuition for how modelling and analytics is useful and feasible within business contexts.

“This intuition allowed me to effectively and efficiently engage in side projects in my spare time, which added significant value over and above what was expected from me by supervisors,” he said. 

Memorable moment: After working virtually throughout the internship, a highlight for Anderson was meeting his co-workers in person on his last day. His department organized a small party for him at the office, in keeping with COVID-19 safety protocols, that included a catered dinner, games, and gifts.

“It really was an impactful opportunity to meet all of my coworkers in person. There’s some level of deeper connection that just can’t be fully established virtually,” he said. 

Akshay Seepala, MSc ’21 Candidate

Position: Analytics and Strategy/Operations at Bosco and Roxy's, May 4 to August 16, 2020

Format: Virtual, except for one visit to the site

Making an impact: Seepala was tasked with researching the best way to manage resources and inventory on the production floor of Bosco and Roxy's, a gourmet bakery specializing in dog treats that is co-owned by Jaymie Crook, EMBA ’17. After a detailed analysis of the production operations, he built an Excel model to mimic the company’s current enterprise resource planning system.

The takeaways: In addition to being introduced to how food industries function and the intricacies of a B2B business, Seepala learned about the complexity of Operations Management and the opportunities to equip businesses with analytics and technology.

He said Ivey’s case-based learning experience helped him to analyze businesses and understand how they function based on various contexts.

“This helped me to understand Bosco and Roxy’s business, find root causes to the problems, and to strategically structure the problems to get to the best optimal solutions,” he said. 

Memorable moment: A highlight for Seepala was a visit to the production facility to help him to understand the operations side of the businesses.

“The factory smelled delicious,” he said. “And that is how I got to know that the treats were made of human-grade ingredients and the designers are amazingly artistic.”  

Talissa Watson, MSc ’21 Candidate

Position: Analytics Intern for the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, May 4 to July 31, 2020

Format: Virtual

Making an impact: Watson worked on two specific projects. One was focused on the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in manufacturing where she looked at data to model and visualize the significance of gender in employment outcomes during the pandemic months. The other required her to adapt a tool to conduct a risk assessment of the top 82 per cent of Ontario manufacturing subsectors amid the reopening of the economy during the pandemic.

The takeaways: Watson said she learned a lot about time management while juggling her internship with professional development activities outside of work, such as the Pro Bono Analytics Club, as well as how to present information to an audience of varying technical levels. She also learned how important data implications are for the betterment of society.

“Through the gender project, I was able to note the income and labour force representation disparities between women of different characteristics in manufacturing,” she said.

Doing her internship during the pandemic also gave her unique insights on the implications of the crisis on the manufacturing sector.

“I was able to understand the fragility of our current business ecosystems to sudden changes in environments due to events such as a virus. For example, in the news, I saw virus outbreaks within a variety of manufacturing sub-sectors and was able to understand why this may have been the case through my data analysis,” she said. “These findings informed conversations I had with my colleagues about business operational structures and the need for job transformation in the post-COVID-19 world we will soon experience.”

Memorable moment: While working on the gender-diversity project, Watson had a chance to interview women in manufacturing roles to understand their experiences within this male-dominated environment and the difficulties they have faced as women in the field.

“This made the data component of the research project feel more valuable along the way, as it humanized the experiences of those we saw merely in numerical values,” she said.