By Chris Elliott
Photo by Luke Rutan

Today, there are more devices gathering more data about more people than ever before. Even one person with ordinary technology — a smartphone, a Fitbit, a car designed in the last decade — has a second-by-second record of their footsteps, heartbeat, gas mileage, and more. There are billions of data points, and they’re ripe for analysis and interpretation.

Seattle Pacific University’s School of Business, Government, and Economics has introduced a new 20-week certificate program that offers training in one of the most sought-after areas of expertise: business analytics and data science.

Organizations depend on data to make decisions, and the roles of those who handle data are highly valued. Accelerated programs like SPU’s Business Analytics and Data Science certificate can bring students up to speed in only a few months.

Taught in partnership with Seattle-based marketing agency Insight Consulting, the first 10 weeks of this course cover data visualization, analytics techniques, the programming language SQL, and computer programs such as Tableau and Excel. In the second half, students learn how to find meaning in data and how to handle it responsibly.

For some, who are early in their careers, it’s a launch pad. Maurice Butts, a senior finance major at SPU, enrolled this winter to build on the business degree he will complete this year. The combination, he hopes, will make him a strong job candidate in the field of data science. His plan? “I’m trying to take this course and teach myself enough to get a job doing it in a couple of months.”

Shauna King considers it a stepping stone. After 20 years in software testing, she’s pursuing the certificate to help her make a move. The jobs that catch her attention now, she says, are all about data. “It will be a great next step for me, given the current growth of the data analysis field and my background doing a different type of analytics work as a software tester.””

Ben Olson
Instructor Ben Olsen ’10 works with a student in SPU’s Business Analytics course.

There’s more than technical training on the docket, however. This program is housed within SPU’s Center for Integrity in Business. Executive Director Gene Kim believes that this program meets a need both for job-seekers and for companies.

“There is so much brokenness in today’s business due to this notion of ‘maximizing profit’ for shareholders at all costs,” Kim says. “Only when people understand the role and vision of business, and the importance of ethical decision making and integrity, can business can be whole again. We hope to bring that element in all our continuing education classes, just as we do in all our educational programs at SPU.”

Not all companies are conscientious about the information they collect, he explains. Keeping in line with SPU’s emphasis on “another way of doing business,” concerns about privacy, security, and ethics are deeply integrated in the
program.

Ben Olsen ’10, senior program manager for data and analytics at Microsoft, teaches the course and developed its curriculum. “The good that data can do is incredible,” he says. But this potential, Olsen believes, goes unrealized when data is handled irresponsibly. Data professionals have a clear ethical burden: “We have to tell the truth.”