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A Journey into the Derek O’Connor MSc in Business Analytics Scholarship

Recent scholarship recipient Eoin Cotter shares his experience.

DatSci Award

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 a whole range 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. 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 undergraduate results I applied for the scholarship, admittedly with low expectations. Happily, I was shortlisted and invited for an interview with subject experts from Next Generation, CeADAR and UCD MIS. The interview went well in and the following day I was informed that I had been chosen for the scholarship.

Positive Life Impact

Firstly, I see the scholarship as a recognition and reward for hard work. Receiving this scholarship is a culmination of long hours of work and commitment to receive a first-class honours which is a requirement.  Motivated by this, my independent learning and data science skills developed strongly. Expanding the boundaries of my comfort zone, my leadership potential benefited hugely also.  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.

Financing

Secondly, it is no secret that a masters programme is a significant financial commitment. 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 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.

The MSc in Business Analytics

The masters programme has surpassed all of my expectations. Semester one provided a strong foundation. Statistics, programming and optimisation methods, as well as providing a broad framework for the field of business analytics gave great practical context to learnings. This has given insight into 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 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 UCD 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 great networking exposure. Industry professionals may offer career-changing opportunities that would not usually be available to someone so early 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.

Summer Term

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. It combines age-old analysis technique and applies advanced data science to make tangible business improvements.

What’s Next?

Once this all wraps up in September I will again have to decide on my next career move. While I am 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 skills and this masters has developed analytics techniques in my mindset. I’ve learned this 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 professional to develop.


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