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USF Muma College of Business partners with Jabil to offer Citizen Data Science program to employees

USF faculty and Jabil participants

While every company is interested in harnessing the power of analytics and data science to improve its business, employees with a deep understanding of how to interpret those mountains of data are few and far between.

St. Petersburg's Jabil, an electronic product solutions company providing global electronics design, production and product management services to electronics and technology companies that reported nearly $18 billion in revenues in 2015, and the USF Muma College of Business, known internationally for its faculty expertise in analytics and big data, teamed up to address that skill gap with a new, non-degree-seeking "citizen data science" program that began in March and finished at the end of July.

The flagship initiative sent nine USF faculty members from the Information Systems & Decision Sciences Department to Jabil for 16 Fridays spread out over a five-month period. The first cohort was comprised of 16 mid- to senior-level Jabil employees, who came equipped with a business problem from their own job to solve using data science.

Muma College of Business faculty taught and advised Jabil participants as they worked on their projects, using advanced data management techniques, statistics and statistical programming, predictive modeling, artificial intelligence, big data systems, and business and economic principles.

The program, one of very few of its kind, fits well with the Muma College of Business' strategic emphasis on analytics and creativity and its goal of business engagement, taking academic research and knowledge and translating it directly to the business world.

The course was the equivalent of a compressed version of a few graduate-level courses but customized in a highly relevant manner for the company – imparting a significant amount of information in just a few months. These citizen data scientists are now well-versed in data analytics, advanced database management, big data, statistics, predictive modeling and economics and business principles and are going to be applying all this to a range of internal projects for Jabil with potentially high impact.

Jabil Enterprise Architect Kenty Adams said that the success of this program has resulted in a long waiting list of people who want to get into the next cohort of the program, which begins in September. It also may lead to similar programs with Jabil in Malaysia and China.

"Having employees well versed in the capture, analysis and use of data will serve Jabil well as we continue to underscore ourselves as an innovative industry leader in the supply chain space," said Adams. "The projects our citizen data scientists are working on hold the promise of valuable return on investment by allowing us to innovate in our operations and in the services we can offer our customers. The participants and I are very grateful for the quality of the teaching, hands-on approach and excellent professors."

USF Professor Balaji Padmanabhan, who launched this program along with Adams and faculty members Matthew Mullarkey and Kaushik Dutta, said that these kinds of programs represent the future of collaboration between business and academic researchers.

"Data science is now a must-know not just for the geeks in an organization but for every up-and-coming executive who has the opportunity to drive efficiencies and margins through data-driven thinking and automation," Padmanabhan said. "It was truly a delight to work with the team to create a unique non-degree executive program at the level of depth and intensity needed to create citizen data scientists."