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Analytics Magazine

How will analytics certification impact your career?

September/October 2013

Candid comments underscore successful launch of Certified Analytics Professional (CAP®) program.

Compiled by Gary Bennett and Peter Horner

When the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), the publishers of Analytics magazine, set out to establish the first-of-its-kind analytics certification program, the organization had two constituents in mind: analytics professionals and the organizations that hire them. Along with helping analytics professionals boost their careers and elevate themselves in the marketplace with the Certified Analytics Professional (CAP®) designation, the program was also designed to help hiring managers identify qualified analytical talent. Less than six months after its official launch, the CAP® program is apparently succeeding on both fronts.

To ascertain the initial response and potential impact of the CAP® program, INFORMS Marketing Director Gary Bennett and Analytics Editor Peter Horner devised a simple, three-question e-mail and sent it out to a random sample of the 49 individuals who had earned the CAP® designation as of Aug. 1. The survey was not scientific; the authors just wanted to take the pulse of the newly created CAP® community and garner feedback. The three questions:

1. Why did you pursue certification?

2. How did you prepare for the exam?

3. How do you expect certification to impact your career going forward?

The insightful feedback follows:

don buckshawDon Buckshaw, CAP
Chief Operations Research Analyst
SAIC

 

Why did you pursue certification? The certification was a nice way to finish a three-year effort to reinvent myself as a data scientist instead of an operations research analyst and demonstrate that I had achieved my goal.

How did you prepare for the exam? The exam has three subject areas. The first had an operations research slant with topics such as optimization and discrete-event simulation. The second had a data analytics slant with topics such as data mining and predictive models. The third involved lifecycle project management, including problem framing and model sustainment. I was comfortable with the operations research material after working 15 years for an operations research support organization. I was also in the last semester of Northwestern University’s Predictive Analytics Master’s program, so I was well prepared for data analytics. Helping to teach an INFORMS Soft Skills Workshop in the past prepared me for the project management portion. But I still reviewed the study guide studied rusty areas.

How do you expect certification to impact your career going forward? Taking the test was a personal goal that provided tangible evidence to prove I had successfully transformed myself. It is too early to tell if the certification will become important to the community or employers, but it is a nice differentiator. The CAP provides an instant level of credibility with customers who want to start a new analytics initiative and need guidance.

Thomas W. ChesnuttThomas W. Chesnutt, CAP
CEO, A&N Technical Services, Inc.

 

Why did you pursue certification? Certification is an important broadening of the understanding of analytics and its associated skill set. Understanding how to better communicate dispersion and improve understanding of risk are necessary ingredients for improving the transparency and robustness of decision-making.

How did you prepare for the exam? I ordered copies of most of the textbooks mentioned, took the sample test (listed areas of least comfort), studied the books (with more time in less familiar areas), listed unfamiliar jargon for follow-up and revisited old texts. Pursuit of the unknown opened up new potential applications for my practice area in improving efficiency in the water industry.

How do you expect certification to impact your career going forward? Besides improving professional relationships with other peers in analytics, I have had clients inquire as to what those funny letters mean. It has opened pathways to new conversations that I might not have had in the past. Quite frankly, however, I went through the CAP certification primarily for intrinsic and not extrinsic reasons.

Beth NielsenBeth Nielsen, CAP
Operational Analytics Manager, Quintiles

Why did you pursue certification? I love the idea of a certified analytics professional; that an independent group has verified that I have the education and experience to solve analytical business questions, and also that I have the soft skills needed to explain what I did!

How did you prepare for the exam? I looked over the sample questions to make sure that I understood all of the concepts and could easily answer the questions. For a few of the questions I researched the terminology. I knew the concepts, but wanted to make sure that I didn’t waste time or misunderstand a question due to wording. While taking the actual exam, I asked myself: If this situation came up at work, what would I do? I felt confident with my answer when framing the question in this way.

How do you expect certification to impact your career going forward? I have hopes that the certification will positively impact my career since it is an independent assessment of knowledge and understanding of business analytics. It can be used as a marketing tool with our customers to show that we take analytics seriously. Since analytical skills are required throughout all industries, it’s important to have a gold standard for the business analytics field.

K. Matthew WindhamK. Matthew Windham, CAP
Director of Analytics, NTELX Inc.

 

Why did you pursue certification? I chose to pursue the CAP in order to enhance my stature in the Analytics community. All prior certifications in the field have been vendor-centric, and thus tied to specific software skills rather than deep analytics knowledge. Therefore, this level of independent, academically rigorous certification was desperately needed in the industry. So, when I learned of the INFORMS effort to create the certification, I couldn’t wait to sit for the exam and demonstrate my expertise in analytics.

How did you prepare for the exam? As a professional in the field, I find myself constantly reading to stay abreast of this exciting and ever-evolving industry. So, preparing for the CAP was really no different, except for the flavor of material selected. The sample exam provided online included references for each segment of material covered. I reviewed each of the ones I already owned, and purchased and read those I didn’t have. Tests such as the CAP are difficult not because of the depth of knowledge in one area being tested, but instead due the breadth of material being covered. Staying current in analytics means to be constantly learning something new, as well as keeping past knowledge fresh, which is exactly what the CAP exam forces you to do.

How do you expect certification to impact your career going forward? The CAP already denotes a level of expertise in analytics that allows me to stand out among my peers. As the credential gains awareness, I expect this will continue and make my services more in-demand than ever before. I also anticipate this will become the gold standard by which analytics practitioners are measured, thus raising the bar across the profession.

Steven HarrodSteven Harrod, CAP
Assistant Professor, University of Dayton

Why did you pursue certification? I pursued CAP certification to expand my career options, but it was also a great boost to my self-esteem. I perform a small amount of consulting, and I may wish to expand that in the future. Certification is not a priority for promotion for a research academic, but I argue we should “practice what we preach.” Certification lends authority to my classroom lessons, and confidence that I am leading my students in the correct direction.

How did you prepare for the exam? I prepared earnestly for the exam, starting about three months in advance, but mostly devoting about 60 hours of study in the last few weeks. I worked the practice questions and interpreted a wrong answer as a flag to relearn whole topics. I read many of the suggested reference texts. Many of the exam questions concerned client relations and project management, and my prior consulting experience really informed my answers.

How do you expect certification to impact your career going forward? Certification will be a great marketing tool if I ever decide to increase my consulting work, and it certainly makes me feel good about myself. In addition, it demonstrates my versatility beyond pure research. Certainly, it allows me to tell my students, “I have been there.”

Eleven more earn CAP® designation

INFORMS congratulates the following individuals who comprise the latest group to earn the Certified Analytics Professionals (CAP®) designation, bringing the total to 49 as of Aug. 1 since the first exam was offered in April:

Mark Colosimo (Detroit)
Philip Fry (Chicago)
Laurie Garrow (Atlanta)
Mario Rappi (Wichita, Kan.)
Herbert Hackney (Vienna, Va.)
Eugene Hahn (Salisbury, Md.)
David Johnson (Alexandria, Va.)
Timothy Lortz (Laurel, Md.)
Harrison Schramm (Arlington, Va.)
Jose Tejeda (Laurel, Md.)
Chen-hang Yen (Fairfax, Va.)

Rami MusaRami Musa, CAP
Operations Management Consultant, Dupont

 

Why did you pursue certification? I have been working in the field of operations research analytics for years and having the stamp of INFORMS is a great validation of my knowledge and expertise. It will also help me establish a connection with well-established professionals in the field from different backgrounds and industries.

How did you prepare for the exam? I read the handbook completely (small booklet) and reviewed it with a colleague of mine. We exchanged opinions and thoughts about what we know and what not. I also read some references (books and online sources) for some concepts that were brought up in the handbook I was either unfamiliar with or have a little background on the subject.

How do you expect certification to impact your career going forward? It will help me be a part of a network of professionals in the field and a to be leader in the field of analytics.

Alan L. AustinAlan L. Austin, CAP
Director of Business Development, Breakthrough Consulting Group

 

Why did you pursue certification? For me the path to certification was perhaps a little different from some of my fellow CAPs. I didn’t have an employer expecting me to achieve additional credentials. Certification as an analytics professional wasn’t the next logical box for me to check on my work skills portfolio. In fact, I wasn’t even serving in a role where a particular need for analytics certification existed. I just knew that once INFORMS announced the initiative, I had to try.

How did you prepare for the exam? My exam preparation included carefully reviewing the “Analytics Job Task Analysis” information on the INFORMS website. The information about the seven domains made it fairly straightforward for me to identify those areas where I might need to brush up my skills. Then it simply became a matter of blocking time into my schedule to cover the target study areas prior to examination.

How do you expect certification to impact your career going forward? I am proud to be a Certified Analytics Professional, regardless of how great or small an impact certification has for me in terms of my career. For me, achieving certification as an analytics professional is more about remembering who I am and how important it is to me to try to make sense of the data storm in which we live. Those of us who thrive on the detective work that is business analytics do have an opportunity to make major contributions to the organizations where we work and the society in which we live. But in my opinion the greatest benefit to being analytics-oriented is that it makes the world a fascinating place.

Mark ColosimoMark Colosimo, CAP
Global Director
Integrated Analytics for Urban Science

Why did you pursue certification? Having analytics credentials will become more and more important as the use of data to make business decisions escalates. I also wanted to examine its value in representing analytical knowledge and experience for future hiring and internal training.

How did you prepare for the exam? Actually, I just reviewed the practice questions that were provided in the certification program literature. Having a demanding job and family, while working on a Ph.D., I had little time to do more. A few literature samples were stated in the handbook, but I did not have the needed time to review them. When I first reviewed the exam outline, I quickly realized that the content did represent what is done on a regular basis in practice. Nonetheless, I think the exam exemplifies what real-world analytics professionals experience and, perhaps, little “prep” is really required for those that have substantial experience in the areas represented. Still, for those with less or more specific experience, a test preparation course or additional sample questions might be helpful.

How do you expect certification to impact your career going forward? I am not sure. The value of the certification lies with the continued success of INFORMS in its representation of analytics leadership through education, application and analytics utilization in various disciplines. For me, the certification is something that I will ask my fellow analytics professionals to obtain as a symbol of their experience and knowledge in analytics.

 

 

For more on the CAP® program and upcoming exam dates and sites including Boston (Oct. 3), Minneapolis (Oct. 5), San Francisco (Nov. 6), New York (Nov. 12) and Toronto (Dec. 12), click here.

Gary Bennett (gary.bennett@informs.org) is the director of marketing for INFORMS. Peter Horner (peter.horner@mail.informs.org) is the editor of Analytics and OR/MS Today (the membership magazine of INFORMS).

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