One master’s degree from Northwestern University is probably enough for most people. Not so for Melissa Bull, who holds a master’s degree in engineering management from the McCormick School of Engineering. But Bull completed that degree in 1997, and during the 15 years she worked in the insurance industry she noticed a strengthening trend toward the use of analytics, the data management and statistical analysis that drives decision-making in industries such as marketing, health care, and finance. “I worked with others who understood analytics, and I could see that’s where many industries were headed,” says Bull, who in 2010 began working as a program manager for analytic application development at SymphonyIRI, a global marketing research company in Chicago. “I have at least another 20 years in my career,” notes Bull. “It was important to get a deep refresh in my education.”
When Bull looked for an analytics program, she hoped to find one at Northwestern — “I love the school” — and discovered that SCS launched a Master of Science in Predictive Analytics (MSPA) online program in September 2011. By January 2012 she had enrolled. “This program is perfect for me,” says Bull, the mother of 11- and 12-year-old boys. “It’s flexible and saves commuting time. I work full time and needed a program I could do in the evening.” She began her studies with Introduction to Statistical Analysis, taught by Phillip Goldfeder, a business consultant and applied mathematician. Next came Predictive Modeling I and II, taught by statistician Chad Bhatti and econometrician Vivek Ajmani, respectively.
Bull has discovered that strong bonds can be forged in a virtual classroom. “The study groups have been fantastic — we’ve built a real sense of camaraderie,” says Bull. “Some of my classmates are already working in the field of analytical modeling and they bring that experience to our discussions.” Bull has interacted online with classmates in the Chicago area and on both coasts. And recently she discovered that someone from her study group had taken a new job — at the same company where Bull works.
“If you love exploring and discovering the messages buried within layers of data — messages that have the potential to set new directions for a company — then analytics is the field for you.”