Parents love talking about their children… They take any opportunity to tell everyone how great their kids are. Today, I, the BIA Program Coordinator, Nataliya Korchagina, alongside many other program's ‘parents’ – the Program Associate Dean - Peter Madott, the faculty team, and the Program Advisory Committee - would like to take this opportunity to tell the world how amazing ‘our kid’ is.
Experienced Associate Dean with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Strong education professional skilled in Managing People, Programs and Projects, Recruitment and Development, Teaching, Program Development, Research, E-Learning, and Adult Education.
Educator with 20 years of work experience in government, higher education, and research with an outstanding record for launching sustainable executive and graduate educational programs with global partners (Harvard Business School, Clark University (US), EU Universities). Currently, the coordinator of the Business Insights and Analytics program, Nataliya also teaches various courses in the BIA program based on innovative and hands-on educational methods.
Yulia Kosarenko is a principal at Why Change Consulting Inc. working with various industries to grow mature Enterprise Architecture and Business Analysis practices, plan and execute digital transformation programs, and use analytics to make better business decisions. Yulia’s career spans more than 25 years of bringing IT and business together in insurance, education, logistics, banking, payments, and pension investment industries. She is the author of the books "Business Analyst: a Profession and a Mindset" and "Business Analysis Mindset Digital Toolkit".
The Humber BIA Program was launched in Fall 2020 with only one cohort of 40-60 students per year at the Lake Shore Campus. Two years later – in Fall 2022, we will have 8 cohorts per year with more than 600 students at the Lake Shore Campus and the International Graduate School.
As one of a few post-graduate programs in the field, we mainly compete with master’s degree programs, and we differ immensely from such programs in the pre-requisites that applicants are to meet, in tuition, and program content. Every master’s program expects their future students to have previous education and/or experience in the area. Our program is open for students with an undergraduate degree in any field and no previous experience in data analytics. The tuition for a master’s degree program is obviously much higher. The Humber BIA program provides its students with a broader education in data analytics and business whereas master’s degree programs offer a very specialized training in a specific analytics area. We are very clear that if we want our graduates to succeed, we need to teach them not only how to code or crunch numbers. We need to equip them with a strong ability to make business decisions based on data they have in front of them. The Placement component and the Capstone course provide students with an opportunity to gain real-life experience in data analytics before applying for full-time positions.
The results of the first cohort graduates speak for themselves. 16 out of 34 were able to finish their placement in Term 4, and six students are currently doing their placement. Six students have already secured full-time positions by the end of the last class.
To give the reader a more realistic idea of the program, Nataliya has talked to some of the program’s graduates…
“I am a strong believer in the importance of data in any decision making. Hence, as a future business leader that I aspire to become, I wanted to learn how to leverage data to make better decisions.”
I remember how two and a half years ago Nadiia came to my office and said, ‘I have an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. I have no experience in coding or software languages. However, I have a strong desire to become a business analyst. Nataliya, do you believe I can apply for the program?’ My response was, ‘our program is exactly for people like you… But you will have to work hard!’
Today, Nadiia graduates from the BIA program as the first and, so far, the only recipient of the BIA Excellence Award. Her overall GPA is 91.2. Her name was among the names of the students recognized on the Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 Dean’s Honors Lists. Nadiia was the lead on her team’s Capstone project, and her contribution to the success of the project was formally acknowledged by the project industry sponsor – Rahi Tajzadeh – during the final Capstone presentation. Nadiia got two offers for Placement and an informal offer for a full-time position by the end of the classes. Anybody would admit that these are “pretty great” outcomes for a person with no data analytics experience and education just two years ago. Here is what Nadiia told me about her program experience:
When I met you, I was concerned that I would not fit the program requirements. You offered me a good understanding of the program and what this industry was all about. You convinced me to join the program.
Term 1 was very challenging but very helpful. I had a very positive experience. Our professor in the Introduction to Data Analytics course – Yulia Kosarenko – helped me structure the entire area of data analytics. Hence, I have a clear roadmap that I was able to follow through all the Terms while working on the Capstone project in the final Term.
Having gone through the first two Terms, I decided to use an academic break to get a data-related job to start building my resume in the field. I would strongly encourage all future students to do the same. Such work experience might help them apply the knowledge and skills obtained in the first half of the program as well as demonstrate to future employers that they have some work experience in the field.
In Term 3, I spent a lot of time applying for different positions to secure my placement in Term 4, and I was able to get an offer for a position of a data engineer intern at Guiker – a startup company. It was a great position, which was something between data analysis and data engineering. The position allowed me to apply multiple competencies, such as SQL, Python, data visualization tools, etc. By the way, the interview process for this position required completing a technical take-home project, which was a combination of SQL queries and building a dashboard in Tableau. I had never had any experience with Tableau back then. The interview was in Term 3, whereas the BIA program offers the course on Tableau in Term 4. So, I had to do a lot of self-studying on Tableau to complete the project. The company was very happy with the results, and they hired me. Another important fact that I would like to share here is that when I was done with my placement the company asked me to refer anybody from the program who could continue working as an intern. I recommended one of my Capstone team members – Honghu Li. He is extremely knowledgeable, passionate, bright, and hard-working. I know he is going through an interview process with the company, and I hope he will be able to get this position.
Nadiia’s advice to other students: Don’t rush to do a placement in Term 4. Take your time and do it after you are done with all the courses. This will give you an opportunity to devote all the time to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to your employer, potentially get a full-time position, and avoid multiple nervous breakdowns while trying to do it all at once in Term 4.
"Lots of self-studying and working on real-life projects outside of the program were the things that set me apart and showed my passion to a potential employer."
Christina E. Pierre is one of those who anyone can call a very successful BIA graduate. Christina’s overall GPA is 86.5, and her name was among those who were recognized on Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 Dean’s Honors Lists. She landed her Placement as a Business Performance Analyst Intern at RBC in Term 4. Christina also got two full-time job offers from RBC on the last day of the Program and faced a hard challenge – which of the two positions to choose. She was able to handle this challenge and chose a position of a Business Operations Analyst in Cash and Payments. This position will allow her to support multiple teams and look for ways to make business processes more efficient.
As a self-publishing author of e-books, Christina’s interest in data analytics arose from her need to understand how data could help her understand the target market and drive her sales in a more effective way. However, once she started digging deeper into the area, she realized how exciting, big, and valuable the area of data analytics was. Thus, she recognized a strong need for further education. Having researched multiple programs, Christina selected the Humber BIA program. With her previous majors in Environmental Studies and English, she needed a program that would give her the foundational as well as advanced knowledge in data analytics. The BIA program met her expectations in a sense that the courses were designed for people with no preliminary background, and she was able to successfully manage the pace while also working. Christina also believed that two years in the program would give her enough time to get solid basis in a completely new area. An ability to go through Placement was another factor that made Christina choose the Humber BIA program.
Reflecting on what made her successful in the program, Christina believes that there were a few strategies that helped her build this success. Although the program was not overly challenging to her technically, Christina was constantly taking free online courses on different platforms, such as LinkedIn Learning, to compliment the BIA program courses on SQL, Python, Marketing Metrics, etc. Also, throughout the program she was trying to practice her newly obtained knowledge by applying them to various real-life projects within her own self-publishing business. Her ability to passionately describe her experience in a Python project when she had worked on creating an alert on cryptocurrency prices impressed her interviewers during her placement interview at RBC.
Christina’s advice to other students: If you want to differentiate yourself from the crowd of other job applicants, make sure you understand business concepts behind numbers. What made me stand out in my job search and resulted in landing a full-time position at RBC is my ability to derive business insights from data and communicate these insights effectively to my audience.
Another student – Stephanie Nguyen - is graduating from the BIA program with a full-time position of a Data Analyst at ThinkData Works. Stephanie joined the BIA program with an undergraduate degree in neuroscience and cognitive science from the University of Toronto. The key feature that made Stephanie select the Humber BIA program over other programs was a Placement component, and she was able to successfully leverage her placement to get a full-time offer. Stephanie was the lead of the Capstone team working with the InStore Product Ltd. to develop a data visualization solution to improve the company’s inventory and sales management. I talked to Stephanie to share her story, and this is what she said:
Everything started with the Career Development course with Rocca Morra. What I learned through the course is that if one wants to succeed in their job search, one needs to be intentional and proactive. So, within the last year, I have been trying to be intentional about different steps that I wanted to make in my life.
For example, when you approached us with a request to start forming our Capstone teams, I knew that I wanted to lead the process of building a team and then leading my team through the Capstone project. I was very clear that it was important to have a group of committed and knowledgeable people who would enjoy working together on the most important project of the program. I also understood that, as a leader, I would be able to understand all the fine details of a real-life project and would be able to leverage this in my job interviews.
If we look at my job search process, I was not applying for multiple job postings. I would target specific positions at companies with the culture and values that would be a good fit for me. If I applied for a position through LinkedIn, I would always follow up with an HR person or a hiring manager. That is the process that I have been following for all my applications. Why? Two reasons… First, I wanted to show my interest and commitment. Second, I wanted to learn about the position and the company more. A job posting is like a resume. You can't get everything about a person from a resume, and you can't get everything about a job or a company from a posting either.
This approach allowed me to get a part-time co-op placement position as a Field Data Scientist at ThinkData Works – a Toronto start-up company that creates various analytics tools for managing data at every stage of the lifecycle. The beauty of working at a start-up company is that one can take on various tasks and practice multiple skills. At this point in my career, I want to practice as many data analytics skills as possible to specialize later.
Finally, while working at my placement position, I was constantly communicating with my company managers about opportunities to practice my technical skills and expressing my interest in working for the company full-time. As a result, I got an offer for a permanent full-time position on the same team.
So, if I want to give one advice to other students, I will definitely say, “be intentional and proactive in everything you do in life.”
Ethel Watemi is an international student with a previous BSc Degree in Accounting came to Canada from Nigeria to pursue her passion to acquire analytics and AI skills to prevent financial crime. Throughout two years of studies at the BIA Program, Ethel has demonstrated very strong leadership skills acting as a formal as well as informal team leaders on various team projects. Having applied a clearly defined strategic approach to a job search in a new business environment, Ethel was able to secure and successfully finish her placement as a Student Business Analyst at Fidelity Investment Canada by the end of Term 4. Here is what she said in her conversation with the BIA Program Coordinator:
As an international student, I was clear that it would be harder for me to go through a job search process, given that I hadn’t had any previous exposure to job searching process in the Canadian job market. Hence, I was keen on understanding what the best strategies would be to succeed in the process. Having approached different people for insights, I realized that my main strategy should be a very proactive and broad networking. In addition to conventional ways of increasing her network through Humber, LinkedIn, attending different recruitment events and so on, I was actively participating in Black student communities that offered students diverse opportunities to apply for jobs. Having leveraged this strategy, l was able to secure a placement position at Fidelity Investment Canada. The Placement program included more than 40 students, and I was the only one from Humber College.
The interview process for this position consisted of two stages – a behavioural interview and a technical interview that required that I should demonstrate skills in statistical analysis and Excel. I didn’t find the interview process challenging, as I felt strongly equipped with the skills tested during the interview.
While working with the Process Improvement and Data Reporting team at the Finance Department, I created multiple reports and score cards for different departments using Excel and Tableau. In general, I should say that the skills that I had gained in Big Data 1 and 2 courses, Data Analytics 1 course, and Communication and Data Visualization course helped me the most during my placement. I really benefited from the placement program with Fidelity Investment Canada. In addition, to an ability to apply my technical skills, I was able to improve my communication and leadership skills, as the company offered multiple sessions to all interns in the Program.
Ethel’s advice to other students: Be creative and proactive in your professional networking. Start a networking process as early as you can and go broad.