The first time you walk into the front entrance building of Imperial’s South Kensington campus from Exhibition Road, the beauty and grandeur of it is startling. I recall standing in the entrance atrium looking up past the enormous glass panelled walls toward the ceiling 80 feet above me and feeling an imposing sense of smallness. It was a familiar feeling, similar to that which I had felt when standing in Barcelona’s famous Sagrada Família Cathedral; created in a past where beauty was the main objective, and cost, of seemingly little importance. But this building is not from the distant past. The super modern and minimalist building was built by Foster + Partners (an innovative architectural practice whose other projects include The Gherkin and Wembley Stadium) just 10 years ago and is home to Imperial College Business School where I am studying on the new Master’s course in Business Analytics.
Being part of a pioneering new course is exciting. But there is an element of uncertainty involved too; the age of Big Data is just beginning and whilst it is certain that the skills taught on this course will be immensely valuable, it is uncertain where exactly we will fit in and how we will add the greatest amount of value to society. But this uncertainty makes it all the more exciting. As our course organiser, Kalyan Talluri, explained during induction week, we have the unusual opportunity and privilege to be able to go out into the world and define our own roles in businesses.
I think this element of uncertainty has also helped attract such interesting and impressive people to the course. They are risk takers and they are dreamers. Whilst this may not be an unusual combination of qualities for young people studying business to imbue, they are set apart by their highly developed quantitative and analytic approach. As somebody who studied pure mathematics as an undergraduate and places great value in ordered thinking and logical reasoning it is a relief to find myself in such good company.
Having said this, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the course has not been entirely quant focused. A careful balance has been found between the quantitative, the qualitative and the technical, enabling us to develop our softer skills, which include teamwork, presenting, and networking, alongside the harder more technical skills. We have been told that these softer skills are crucial to our success as a data analytics professional. A recurring message from the industry insiders and our lecturers has been that no matter how good your analysis is and how confident you are of your solution; your impact within a business depends on your ability to explain your analysis to non technical people (and especially to those with the power to implement change).
We’re now starting the second half of our first term and the next few weeks leading up to the holidays promise to be busy ones. Our new modules in Optimization & Decision Models, and Network Analytics have a large component of coursework and group work, and this coupled with it being high season for job applications and interviews ensures time is at a premium. They did say the course would be intensive! More to follow shortly…
Holly is studying for our MSc Business Analytics programme.