Marketers Seeks Insights from Huge Datasets
For decades companies have been collecting data about purchasing patterns and how advertising and promotions drive sales. In recent years, however, a confluence of technological innovation, lower-cost computing, and consumers' increased willingness to interact with manufacturers has created a powerful new tool - big data.
Marketers now can combine disparate databases to derive insights into consumer behavior and buying patterns that couldn't be discerned before. In addition, the advent of big data opens new doors to business school graduates who have the quantitative skills coupled with the strategic mindset to take advantage of the data revolution.
Earlier this year, five executives spoke at a Chicago Booth-hosted panel discussion, Chicago Conversations: Big Data in Marketing. The session, exploring the possibilities of data-driven methods in a field traditionally driven by past practice and intuition, engaged the Gleacher Center audience of 375 alumni, corporate partners, business leaders, prospective students, and current students.
The panelists were James Dodge, '93, vice president at Nielsen; Anuj Marfatia, '08, program director of predictive and business intelligence solutions marketing at IBM; Jim Maurer, '00, group vice president for US analytics at Catalina Marketing Corp.; and Laura McCorvie, senior vice president for customer growth at Kraft Foods. The session was moderated by Michael Krauss, AB '75, MBA '76, president of Market Strategy Group. (For another perspective on this issue, see "Management Lab Tackles the Elusive Problem of Big Data.")
The revolution in big data can be explained through what Marfatia called "the four Vs": volume, the sheer capacity of data that is available; velocity, the speed at which data is being generated and captured; veracity, the dependability of data; and variety, the broad spectrum of data available from sources ranging from customer relationship management (CRM) systems to social media.
"Organizations have to figure out how to quickly and accurately garner insight from all this information and more importantly be able to act upon it, so they can make the right decisions at the right time," Marfatia said.
For example, manufacturers can get access to lots of information. And the more insights they have about purchasers, the more efficiently they can plan inventory, manufacturing, and distribution. At Kraft Foods, the link that big data affords between consumer internet activity and sales has proven to be invaluable.
"People download coupons. This gives you an indication of what they are planning to do," McCorvie said. If 1,000 people download a recipe for mac-and-cheese in Tampa, Kraft has a better idea what products to deliver to grocery stores there. "Out of stock is a missed opportunity," she said. "We gain supply-chain efficiency by leveraging data." It takes training and experience to unlock the value from big data. "There are great careers to be had being experts in using the data, deriving insights," Dodge said. Nielsen is getting data every week from 90,000 stores in North America, each of which may stock 50,000 items. "All that data only yields insights when you approach it with the right set of analytic tools and methods." Basic competency in big data also will be required of students who don't wish to become quants but aspire to be business leaders, Dodge added.
Catalina recruits data scientists with high-level quantitative and technological skills. "We need people who are able to work in modern, client-server environments," Maurer said. "They also need a broad business perspective along with the ability to personally get in deep with data." That usually means they need to have written code at some point in their career, he added.
"Along with the need for data scientists, employers talk about the need for marketers who can understand the voice of a data expert and use it as part of the decision-making process," said Janice Farrar, associate director, employer relations for Career Services. This is one reason employers are drawn to Chicago Booth marketing talent, she added.
Every MBA needs to take this seriously, said moderator Krauss. "If I were starting in business, I would take more statistics and game theory. Advanced analytics. You need to understand the tools and techniques." - J. Duncan Moore, Jr.
Start-Ups Seek Booth's Entrepreneurial Talent
More than 200 Booth students and representatives from 60 start-ups mingled at the second Start-up Networking Night held in May at Gleacher Center.
The event, sponsored by Career Services and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, was created to help students expand their networks within the burgeoning entrepreneurial community in Chicago and offer start-ups a place to seek out talent.
Sadia Sindhu, assistant director, employer relations for Career Services, said three times as many companies participated as compared to the inaugural event last year and student attendance more than doubled. "The bump in attendance is tied to increased demand among students for start-up opportunities and heightened recognition of the value Booth students bring to the start-up space," she said. "The companies are able to get to know a range of students and ultimately recruit the talent they need to move to the next level."
Kasra Moshkani, '12, cofounder of HireBrite, a company that connects students with internships and jobs at start-ups, also helped Career Services and the Polsky Center coordinate this event. HireBrite launched a webpage that helped students research in advance the start-ups that would be attending. Students could upload their resume for the companies they were most interested in meeting, and prior to the event, start-ups received resumes of students interested in their firm. Moshkani has six on his team and came to the event looking for potential interns. The Booth experience helped him get started, he reflected. "I probably wouldn't be here without all the programming, mentorship, and support the school offers." - Kevin Davis
Photo by Mike Marcotte
Connecting Alumni to Senior-Level Opportunities
Career Services has a track record of forging partnerships with corporate recruiters who post entry-level MBA job opportunities for graduating students. An initiative in recent years to proactively reach out to companies with senior-level opportunities now has broadened the job set to include more director and executive level, as well as midsenior and manager level positions.
For employers, this means gaining access to Booth graduates with the subject expertise and experience that comes with having established successful careers. For alumni, the postings can open a fast track to the most sought-after jobs in business and present interesting possibilities for graduates considering a change in their field or career.
"Career Services continues to seek job opportunities for graduates, including those who are advanced in their careers," said Sadia Sindhu, assistant director, employer relations for Career Services.
Firms post jobs on Booth's Global Talent Solutions (GTS), the school's exclusive job board. Job seekers can not only search postings on GTS, they can specify parameters through a search agent to seek out targeted companies or industries. Then the system emails postings of interest. Job seekers can post their resumes on the Resume Database for Alumni and Part-Time Students (RAPS).
Just over half of the jobs posted on GTS in the past two years have been for senior or midsenior positions. Blue-chip companies that recently have hired Booth graduates for senior positions include Nike Inc., Morgan Stanley, American Express Co., and New York eyewear marketer Warby Parker.
Greg Leong, '02, found out how useful GTS was when he was looking for a career change after a decade working in banking and private equity.
"I was looking for a change and wanted something that had a public-policy perspective," Leong said. He had set up a search function with GTS a few years earlier.
Last year, the search function highlighted the opening for his current position, Singapore-based principal investment officer in infrastructure and natural resources at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an arm of the World Bank Group.
"Ironically, I have a ton of friends in IFC and World Bank Group but had not heard about this position until I saw it on the site. This popped up and looked interesting," he recalled.
Leslie Joy Taylor, '02, associate director, employer relations for Career Services, Asia, who worked with IFC to post the job, said there is strong demand for executive level talent in the region, both by established companies and younger developing businesses.
Meanwhile in London, Ryan Regan, '99, was looking to fill the role of finance director for Rangespan, the e-commerce software company he cofounded in 2011.
He worked with Leslie Plaisted, associate director, employer relations for Career Services, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, to identify candidates with the right qualifications and experience. The system produced 10 candidates, including Kate O'Neill, '11 (EXP-16).
O'Neill was looking for a move after completing a finance project for Amnesty International. Before that she had spent 10 years at accounting and consulting giant Deloitte.
She spotted the position on GTS but had not yet formally applied for the job when she received an email directly from Regan, who had flagged her resume in RAPS.
"Getting an email like that certainly turns the table - you're going to respond to that," she said. She quickly scheduled an interview and landed the job. "If I find 10 jobs on GTS and 10 jobs from a generic job search, there is a much higher likelihood of finding the right job through GTS."
"She certainly turned out to be a good fit," Regan said. RAPS, which is efficient and full of strong candidates, is a preferable alternative to an expensive executive recruiter, he added.
Seeking higher-level positions is "part of our daily conversation," said Angelene Iozzo, assistant director, employer relations for Career Services. "The more companies we meet, the more their ears are perked." - Phil Thornton