Guest Speakers Share Real World Experience with CIS Students

Posted: Thursday, December 3rd 2015 at 10:15 AM

Professor Sury Ravindran’s Applied Business Intelligence class has had a number of guest speakers during the Fall 2015 semester: Sara Baker (‘15 MBA), who works for General Motors; Lucy Sullivan and Connor Swan, from NAU IT Services; Subha Venkataramani, practice manager at Sogeti, Inc.; and James Skelding, vice president at Dell, Inc. These professionals shared their real world experiences relating to skills students are taught in the class.

Being able to visualize data is an important step in making a useful analysis. Students learn to gather data and then organize it into a data warehouse or data mart before analyzing it. They learn to create dashboards and analyze data using statistical techniques such as clustering and regression to predict outcomes in a business.

“The students learn these concepts before doing lab exercises that show them how to apply analytics methods,” Ravindran said.

The guest speakers help show these abstract concepts in a concrete way by explaining how they’re used in their jobs.

For example, Skelding and Venkataramani described how companies create visual analytics dashboards, and what Dell and Sogeti do with techniques like regression and clustering. This helps make predictions regarding customer sales, retention, employee churn, and more.

“The techniques they learn in class are not just obscure academic concepts which have no relevance; they are actually used by companies to improve their efficiency, productivity, and profitability,” Ravindran said.

Students had the opportunity to ask the speakers questions at the end. Besides specifics about each professional’s position, they also wondered what skills companies tend to look for in new hires, and the overall consensus was on the importance of critical thinking as well as thinking outside the box. The ability to look at data and determine what can be done with it or how to best analyze it is one of the top skills employers look for in the industry.

Guest speakers help bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world. By hearing first-hand experiences, students are better able to imagine the possibilities available to them after graduation.

Categories: students fall 2015 2015 guest speaker sury ravindran applied business intelligence alumni general motors sara baker gm lucy sullivan connor swan nau its sogeti inc subha venkataramani dell james skelding