Back to School: An Educational Data Prediction Comes True
It’s that time of year. Students – both young and old – grab their books and head back to class. And among these students are data leaders looking for ways to hone their skills so they can handle the challenges and opportunities that our new data-driven world presents. You may remember that earlier this year, I predicted that educational opportunities will explode in 2017. My data prediction also stated that these new educational programs will not just focus on solving critical data issues, but will also incorporate the core skills every data leader needs: communication, change management, and collaboration.
Well, it looks like my data prediction is coming true. A new program at Columbia University in the City of New York is catching the eyes of novice and seasoned data professionals alike. The Columbia University School of Professional Studies introduced a new Master of Science in Applied Analytics program that brings together the core capabilities that the next generation of data leaders need: leadership, management, communication, and applied analytics. The curriculum is up to date and its faculty and advisor staff includes top notch practitioners, scientists, and entrepreneurs who bring in a wide range of experience and expertise in fields that will become super important including machine learning and AI, data visualization and design, data architecture, and digital transformation. The ingredients I am bringing to the team are data governance methods and practices that maintain a balance between cost, value creation, and risk exposure with one encompassing goal in mind: unlocking competitive advantage and maximizing value from the application of big data.
What I really like about the program is that it addresses both sides of the data equation: the human side and the technology side. Too often, data leaders focus too heavily on one side. CDOs often focus on data management without a real understanding of applied analytics on large data sets and the intrinsic dynamics of data scientist teams; while many times data scientists lack the communication and leadership skills required to drive true transformation. At Columbia, they look to balance both sides equally.
The human side of the curriculum focuses on the communication, change management, and collaboration required to create a data-driven culture. We all know that “being data-driven” is a goal of most organizations today. But making that transformation – and capitalizing on the great value data can provide – isn’t straightforward. A holistic approach requires strategizing for years ahead. In fact, I would argue that data poses a huge risk. On one hand, there is control, which focuses on locking down the data and restricting access. But on the flip side, there is enablement: giving data citizens access to data so they can uncover insights and capitalize on its true value. This risk comes when organizations lean too heavily towards one side, preventing their organization from realizing data’s true value. Good data leaders know they need to find a balance in this contradiction. And the courses at Columbia aim to arm students with the skills they need to successfully navigate both the challenges and opportunities that data presents.
The technical side of the course is exactly as you would expect. It focuses on the frameworks and methods, the hands-on application of data architecture, and technologies (including R and Python) favored by data scientists. The courses also go one step further by putting applied analytics in a bigger context by teaching students how to define a long-term analytical practice and how to make it effective and sustainable.
The program also involves a practical element – a capstone project that enables students to bring together everything they’ve learned and apply it to a company’s real world data challenge. The students will identify the challenge presented to them in the context of data analytics, review data sets, and create a series of recommendations on how the sponsor company can overcome the challenge. The recommendations will (hopefully!) deliver both human and technology solutions that the company can implement. As an advisor for the capstone projects, my role will be to coordinate communication between the students and the sponsor companies, help them articulate the problem accurately, and ensure they have access to the right people to help them build a recommended solution.
Clearly, Columbia University is a leader in the education of the next-generation of data leaders. As I said in my data prediction earlier this year, I expect to see more of these types of programs emerge both in colleges and universities as well as within companies. Collibra University is ahead of the curve, providing data governance certification programs to eager data citizens. If you haven’t checked it out yet – be sure to stop by: it’s free! The course catalog has more than 100 courses and our team is adding new courses all the time. We recently launched three learning paths which make your journey to become a data steward, community manager, or platform admin achievable in less than 12 hours. Also, stay tuned as our team is launching a complete new training program and classroom handbook in the coming weeks.
Pieter De Leenheer is cofounder and Chief Science Officer of Collibra. He leads the company’s Research & Education group, including Collibra University, an online learning platform for data governance and data science education. Prior to cofounding the company, De Leenheer was a professor at VU University of Amsterdam. Today he serves as adjunct professor at Columbia University and as visiting scholar at several universities across the globe, including UC San Diego and Stanford.