Riley Linder, ’16 and ’17, readied herself for an evolving accounting career during her MPA program at Nebraska. A data analytics class not only challenged her, but added skills that set her up for future success.
“I didn’t know anything about big data or how to write code before taking the data analytics class,” said Linder, a tax professional at Deloitte in Omaha. “I had to learn the basics of how to write code and pull out tables to summarize the data. Then we would create a dashboard in Tableau presentation software in the same way you would do it to present to a client or partner. It was fascinating.”
Dr. Tom Omer, professor and Delmar Lienemann Sr. Chair of Accounting, co-developed the class with Dr. Marjorie Shelley, professor of accountancy. They tailor projects for students such as analyzing purchasing card data usage.
“Dr. Omer stressed that big data is the future. You might be able to get by your first year or two, but in 10 years everyone will be using data analytics because the data is getting bigger and bigger, and the ability to analyze it is critical. He was always future-oriented and stressed even if you don’t use it immediately, you’ll be glad you have that knowledge,” she said.
Shelley articulated firms continue to impress upon them the analytical and presentation skills accountancy graduates must possess.
“The job skills students need have changed just in the time current students have been in school,” said Shelley. “We’re trying to do something for students before they graduate that will help them succeed. We show students how to take data visualizations to a dashboard and do risk analysis in seconds, which used to take days.”
Omer regularly attends meetings with professionals in the accountancy field. He stressed the data analytics course arose out of the needs expressed by those working in the industry.
“One meeting had a panel with members of the Big Four accounting firms,” said Omer. “They were adamant if students aren’t graduating with some notion of analytic skills, there isn’t going to be a job for them. Students need to learn to be part of a team where they understand what the analysis is, what they’re going to do with the data and where the data comes from.”
Linder’s co-workers at Deloitte echoed Omer’s sentiments.
“They’ve come up to me and said, ‘I wish I had taken a course like that in college. That’s information I need to know,’” said Linder. “We have a team at the forefront of data analytics, and even in tax we’re using it more. As the data gets bigger, we can’t always send it off to others and need to learn how to do it on our own.”
Linder sees analytics as even more crucial on the auditing side at Deloitte. Her personal goal to maintain knowledge in the area of big data relates to how she sees her field changing.
“The more you learn about data analytics now, the better off you’ll be in your career in the future. I plan to stay ahead of the curve.”