Student Stories: Teamwork makes the Dream Work for this New Data Science Professional
The Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute congratulates Jake Beihoff on his new role as Data Science Manager for the North America Information Technology team at Molson Coors Beverage Company. In his role, Jake will oversee data science projects and initiatives with various business units while ensuring solutions are productionalized and repeatable. He’s also responsible for supporting the organization’s ability to gain competitive advantage through data and analytics as well as continuous improvement and governance of data science best practices.
Jake received a Master of Science in Management with a focus on Marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in May 2020. He also completed two data-focused graduate certificates in Business Analytics and Applied Data Analysis using SAS. “At the time I started my grad program, there wasn’t a data science degree or master’s yet, but I knew I wanted to stay at UWM after completing my undergraduate degree in Mathematics.” Jake set out to custom design a program combining the Management degree with the two data-focused certificates. The biggest benefit to this unique study program was the ability to gain a broad knowledge base working with different professors and programming languages while tying these experiences back to developing his professional data science toolkit.
While working to complete his courses, Jake met Dr. Purush Papatla, Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the Lubar School of Business at UWM and Co-Director of the NMDSI. In the spring of 2020 Jake expanded his research coursework to include the NMDSI-funded Elecurator project. This project, currently ongoing, tracks the major issues engaging both candidates and voters in the 2020 presidential election cycle. Using a technique known as social curation, the team analyzes multiple sources of data to see what topics are important to voters and how the candidates are speaking about those same issues. Jake was involved with topic modeling using social media data from Twitter, Reddit and blog posts. This data science work, particularly the natural language processing, provided even more skills that he was able to add to his resume. Jake also noted that learning how to work on a team was invaluable. “Working with a team was a big part of it. Having a team-oriented mindset, understanding the ins and outs of working on a team with a joint goal but doing individual work really helped with collaboration, communication skills and decision making.”
Jake took a proactive approach to his studies, but he recommends that students go beyond their coursework. “Diverse, hands-on experience is needed. That comes through getting involved with things like the NMDSI and research projects. Internships and jobs can be competitive, and this type of experience will help differentiate you. My experience definitely helped me get my new position.” He emphasizes the importance of the end-to-end process - developing a project from start through completion and sharing the end results. His final piece of advice is professional networking. “Students often do not value networking as much during their studies, but it’s critical. Have some informal conversations with professors if you’re looking for your next step.”
As Jake begins his professional career in industry, his near-term plans include continued research work on the Elecurator project. But his focus on education remains a priority. He explains that data science is a legitimate and growing field as new information is being discovered and existing research is being applied. “I want to help bring those processes together, bringing new ideas and ways that no one has tried before and taking what has been done but applying it differently, to form a cohesive whole. Data science should not be intimidating or feared. We need individuals unfamiliar with data science to develop an interest in it and to help them work it into their current roles.”