What role do you see emerging for MBAs with customer analytics experience?

SO: A few years ago when analytics became a huge push for Deloitte, there was a clear need for someone to bridge the gap between the statisticians and the C-suite—someone with enough technical and analytics skills to understand what the data engineers were doing and then translate its impact on customer strategy for leadership. Ideally, this person already has an interest in analytics—not necessarily a Ph.D., but an understanding of how to use, think about, and apply analytics to solve a specific problem.

What would you do differently if you were a student at Wharton today?

SO: When I was at Wharton, I focused mostly on strategy and marketing, and I more or less dabbled in analytics. If I could go back, I’d take a class on machine learning. It changes the way you think about processing analytics.

How do you see successful CMOs approaching customer analytics today?

SO: If you want to be a CMO, you need to know enough to be a good customer to the CIO. Know the right analytics vendors and systems to ask for. Know how to use analytics to own customer engagement, and pay attention to how it’s evolving.

What advice would you give to current Wharton students interested in customer analytics?

SO: Analytics won’t go away—it will just morph over time. As an MBA, I didn’t just want to specialize in marketing. I saw where the field was going and looked to build some applied expertise. Seek out blended analytics projects, like Wharton Community Consultants, Global Consulting Practicum, or WCAI’s MBA Research Fellowship, where you can work with engineers and statisticians to gain experience as the ‘strategic translator’—then keep your eye on where the market’s going and stay ahead of the curve.