Master of Science in Business Analytics students put their skills into practice by teaming up with tech enterprise Netrality Data Centers.
How does a growing operation effectively narrow down a large pool of prospective clients to something more manageable? To meet that challenge, graduate students in Adelphi’s Fall 2023 Applied Machine Learning course gained real-world skills by creating data-based models of potential customers for a tech enterprise that provides network services at 18 centers around the United States.
Jared Mroz, MS ’22, is a longtime IT and data analytics professional who earned his MS in Business Analytics and now teaches as an adjunct faculty member at Adelphi. His Applied Machine Learning course emphasizes experiential and applied learning, underlined by an extensive project partnering with Netrality Data Centers. According to one of his students, Kalpana Rajkumar Tiwari, “Navigating the realms of Applied Machine Learning with Professor Mroz was akin to unraveling the secrets of data alchemy.”
“The firm has about 290 current customers and nearly 2,000 other prospective clients,” Mroz said. “The problem the class teams tackled was how do we use a data-centric way to identify a customer profile and distill the prospects to about 20 who are more likely to be best fits.”
Coding With a Purpose
Using algorithms and processes they learned in class, the teams tried numerous approaches to understanding and using the available data to apply to the situation. Mroz notes that the course emphasized coding with a purpose. Coding and related tools “really only click when you see it in context, when you have an actual problem to solve.”
The teams of three and four students shared weekly progress reports with the Netrality representative and their class colleagues. Mroz noted there were good interactions, shared feedback and cross-fertilization among the groups in the class.
“We were very impressed with how the students applied their learning to a real-life business challenge we are facing at our company,” said Rob Dell’Unto, Netrality vice president for sales. “I’m optimistic that their findings will lead us to uncover incremental business and additional revenue for Netrality. We look forward to working with future students and Professor Mroz on another project.”
The culmination of the student teams’ efforts took the form of presentations as course finals—attended by Netrality representatives Dell’Unto and his sales operations director Matthew Spissell, members of the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business advisory board, and Willumstad School Dean MaryAnne Hyland, PhD. “I wanted to build this environment that was both scary and supportive at the same time,” Mroz said. “The customer is here for the product, I’m here for the grade, and the rest are here to make you nervous. And that’s pretty much how it worked—it went well.
“All these models and algorithms are just tools in your toolbox,” he added. “Once you learn what they do, you can decide which one works the best for a problem. Try it, adjust, and if it doesn’t work, try another. I treated them as if I were their manager—a natural fit, really, as that’s how we operated at work, similar idea.”
Netrality’s Spissell lauded “the technical knowledge the students of this class demonstrated throughout the engagement. They quickly learned the unique characteristics of our business and each group developed a unique approach towards applying their skill set towards solving our prompt.”
Students Embrace the Challenges
Dean Hyland was impressed with the results and notes that it’s the sort of approach that helps make the Adelphi experience innovative and substantial. While students had moments of apprehension about the project and presentations, they embraced it in the end.
Tiwari, who is pursuing her MS in Business Analytics, said that Mroz’s “mentorship not only demystified complex theories but, through our collaboration with Netrality, we sculpted insights from the raw clay of real-world business data.”
Duy Lee ’22, also a business analytics master’s degree student, said, “We were asked to make sense of raw data and turn them into useful insights to help inform Netrality’s search of potential clients. The class was practical, extremely hands-on, so everything we had learned in a particular session, we put to use immediately.”
Mroz will teach the course again this spring semester, working with Netrality but likely on a different challenge. He is also open to other organizations that might be open to collaborating for future courses. Those interested can either email email@example.com or reach out through his LinkedIn page.