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What can I do with my degree?
The X and Y factor
Two realizations have brought Kristoffer Gjerde to his current position: He has always been good with numbers, and he realized that skills in business analytics would make him stand out.
In spite of the furious pace in technological development, human beings are still essential in doing business and probably always will be. Particularly people who are able to serve as the link between man and machine. In Kristoffer’s case, this means automating tasks, analysing data and designing models that are crucial to decision-making.
“Everyday life as a consultant is very versatile, says Kristoffer, who works with Ernst & Young in the business area Advisory.”
His projects may involve everything from assisting a local bank in mapping out its advisory services and making them more efficient, to designing a tool that automates reports for a major client.
“As a junior consultant, I work very hands on. I might bounce ideas with a senior colleague, but I will perform the actual analysis which a project manager then delivers to the customer.”
New skill on the block
Despite the recent years’ growing interest in the field, there is still a shortage of people with knowledge in business analytics. Kristoffer noticed the trend while completing the bachelor programme in business and administration at BI, and decided to go in this direction. In retrospect, he believes it would have been helpful to start earlier.
“Being introduced to the field already at bachelor level is very valuable. At least if you’re considering a master’s degree within the same subject area, or if you are more interested in strategy or HR and want to use it as a basis for a master’s degree in management. The data is everywhere.”
Kristoffer ended up taking a master degree in France, since the opportunities to study business analytics in Norway at the time were rather limited. However, he does not believe a master is a requisite for getting a job.
Make yourself useful
“Today, it’s more difficult to settle for a bachelor as we kind of live in a «everyone has a master» world. However, with bachelor degrees that provide specialist competence, things are a little different. In this case, I believe there definitely is a job market for those with bachelor degrees. At least for those who are really good at what they do.”
To become a good analyst, you need theoretical knowledge from business, mathematics, statistics as well as data visualization. You may however be off to a rough start in working life if you have not additionally acquired some practical skills, says the young consultant.
“My experience is that you can easily be thrown into the deep end. You are told to use a given tool for a given task and deadline. Therefore, the ability to use various tools is indispensable. As a consultant, you must also be able to communicate clearly. Your model may be as good as any, but if no one uses it, it does not have any value.”
A quantitative career path
Since business analytics involves expert competence, Kristoffer believes that it also requires a certain kind of interest. And one of the things you ought to be particularly interested in, is numbers.
“You have to find some level of joy working with Excel or doing something with a set of data. Moreover, you have to be curious about technology. What is new today might be out-dated tomorrow, so you have to be fairly interested in what is going on, and in keeping up to date.”
As the field is gradually expanding, he believes there will be more room in the future for generalists who are familiar with the concepts and areas of application.
“The use of data in an organization requires that the people in leadership positions are aware of possibilities and limitations. From that perspective, the subject may be suitable for many. You don’t have to be a hardcore data analyst, but you have to understand what purposes data may be used for and what the value of it is."
Not just machine learning and AI
There are a lot of buzzwords attached to business analytics and Kristoffer admits that the most sophisticated techniques and models are not always used in everyday work. Sometimes it is a matter of getting an overview and making simple graphs, whereas other projects may involve the design of sophisticated models to reveal money laundering or the financing of terror.
“Then we intervene and typically create machine learning models to identify the transactions that are highly likely to be illegal. We call this red flag-analysis.”
According to Kristoffer, Norwegian companies are quite advanced when it comes to having data available and the will to experiment with new technology. However, he stresses that projects cannot be cutting-edge every time.
“Academia is quite a few steps ahead of what we have been able to implement in business. Consequently, one must focus on implementing the next step in line. That may not always be the latest thing with deep learning and all that, but you have to make people embrace the improvement it represents. In a way, you must start with the foundation before building the rest of the house.”
We always try to interview former students in working life, but certain programmes are so new they have yet to produce their first graduates. In this case, you instead get an industry expert's perspective on the future of the field and current job opportunities.