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The magical world of data through the eyes of an MBA student

By Ryan Joshua Mahindapala - Posted on 13 August 2020

MBA student Ryan Mahindapala reflects on the study of data within the programme, helping him be 'future ready'.

According to Harvard Business Review, working as a data scientist is the, “sexiest” job of the 21st Century. It is and has been the driving force behind innovation, research and many other fields. The potential for high growth in one’s career development catches the attention of many young professionals seeking new opportunities and a higher income. In the digitalised world, information is the most important commodity and without a doubt, data scientists are at the forefront of this commodity trade. 

Learning data analytics, however, is no easy task (to be “sexy”, one must pay the hefty price!). As a student on the MBA programme currently doing the Analytical Support for Decision Making (ASDM) module, I not only see it as a hurdle to overcome in order to graduate but also a gateway to the future. A data-driven approach to decision making is the way forward and I am glad that I am learning it on the MBA course. 

So, what exactly is data? Data science is about infrastructure, testing and learning to better understand a business and its customers to enable better decision making. The data analysis process is aimed at, inter alia, predictive modelling, reducing inefficiencies and operational blockages in business, enhancing performance measurement capabilities and maximisation of profits. Essentially, it forms the backbone of strategic and sound decision making within an organisation.

My first brush with analysing data came during the ASDM module. At first, it was all just numbers to me, and it looked very much like statistics and maths rolled into one. Coming from a legal background, numbers and maths were not my strong suit. However, the very reason why I started doing an MBA was to broaden my horizons and pick up new skills. I decided to keep an open mind and take things as they come. 

Enjoying the process is the most important thing for me. Studying the module really got me thinking about how decisions were made by organisations and I began to explore further into data analytics and how it can be applied across industries to achieve desired outcomes. I would say that my first experience with data analytics gave me the confidence to embark on a journey of exploration that has led me on the path of a “digital transformation” from picking up digital skills and taking short courses on Datacamp and SQLZOO to reading up about data protection and cyber-security. I also participated in data modelling virtual boot camps and had coffee meetups with tech industry “gurus” to share ideas and engage in discussion on development areas in the data field. 

Just like how one would approach any other area of study, I think that having a good grasp of the concepts and a strong foundational knowledge of the subject area is the first thing that needs to be done before you can have fruitful conversations and discussions in that particular area and the ASDM module gave me just that.

The online realm is truly limitless. With big data, there really is no limit to the amount of information that you can find on a particular subject. The challenge lies in picking the relevant information, analysing it and presenting the relevant data in a way that clearly communicates your objectives. The skill of dissecting and organising massive amounts of data is invaluable. Seeing the world from a data analytics point of view really provides a new perspective and dimension to everything around me. I think that I have gained a more in-depth understanding of the world. The study of data analysis has told me that everything is a numbers game and that decisions should not be made arbitrarily but through tried and tested methods measured over time by way of careful and meticulous data processing. As a result, we can create a lean system of working and wastage will be significantly reduced. Sustainability can, therefore, be achieved and taking a data analytics-driven approach to problem-solving is one effective way of doing so.

I am tempted to focus my MBA project on the domain of data analytics with significant development into the territory of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning but keeping the core of the project in my area of expertise, that is, law, social justice and equality. I would think that this is going to be a challenge. Drawing links from seemingly unrelated fields of study and bringing many ideas together under one overarching thesis statement is going to be an uphill task. That said, I am sure the synergies created through the combination of these areas of study can potentially create surprising results. For example, the combination of psychology and management culminates into the creation of many popular people management concepts, one of which would be the famous Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a theory widely used in multiple industries and has been a guide for many organisations, large and small, to implement effective change management initiatives.  

The MBA has sparked my curiosity in the world of data. I am often perplexed by many things that happen in the world. We live in a competitive landscape where challenges keep changing. We have to constantly interact with the world and make sense of it by identifying patterns and subsequently, extracting insights to help us evolve, change and adapt to our surroundings. The next step that I wish to take would be to learn programming. I think that would greatly complement what is taught on the MBA course. Time to take the plunge once again, beat the odds and emerge future-ready! “Sexy” only comes to those who are willing to take the risk.

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