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Should business and engineering schools develop joint programs?

Businesses are increasingly using data-driven methods to make business decisions. Hence, there is a need for people with both good business skills and programming/quant skills. Finance/Accounting PhDs  and other business PhDs do have such skills, but they are few in number, are costly to hire, and the majority anyway prefer academia. This limits businesses to mainly hire bachelors or masters level candidates.

However, a majority of the business students (MBAs) do not have sufficient quantitative and programming skills to be able to adequately do the quant part of the job. A single course teaching introductory statistics using basic Excel for analysis is nowhere near adequate, as far as quant skills go. It is difficult for a quant neophyte to do the quant analysis, understand the results from the analysis and use it effectively to make business decisions.

On the other hand, most folks with programming experience do not have the expertise to adequately do the business part of the job. While they may be able to do a great job of programming, they often find it difficult to understand the business side of things, what is the business decision being analyzed and what analysis would be appropriate to address these issues, and how to leverage the results of the  quant analysis to make good business decisions.

To address this gap, should business and engineering schools come together and develop a joint program, where the graduates have both sets of skills? Some schools may already be doing this.

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Comment by Srinivasan Krishnamurthy on April 22, 2013 at 12:05pm

Jeffrey Ng raises an interesting point -- should we treat them as IT or business graduates? I think this strikes at the very heart of the question I raised. We are typically treating the data science folks as specialists in one or the other area since the majority of the graduates do not have adequate skills BOTH on the tech and the business side.

I think a newer vision is needed, where we look upon them as tech specialists (who can harness the power of tech for data analysis) who are business savvy (can do the data analysis and use those results for making business decisions).

One may ask - can we not have two people, one to do the data analysis and the other to make the business decisions? In my view, the problem arises because these two types of people have very different mindsets and "speak" different languages. Communication becomes a big issue due to the lack of familiarity with one or the other.

Comment by Jeffrey Ng on April 21, 2013 at 1:47am
coming out from the dual degrees in IT and businesses, I find the specialization in both fields useful. The challenge is for the employers to have the right position for the graduates. Should they be treated like an IT or business graduates? And very often when it comes to job applicant screening, employers will only consider one aspect of their training and ignore the other half. The benefits of both training would only be obvious when they starts to become a manager.

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