The Wharton Data & Analytics Club is Born

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

On Friday, April 25, 2014, The Wharton Data & Analytics Club was voted into existence as an official Wharton Graduate Association (WGA) Organization by the newly elected 2014-2015 WGA leadership council. As of that day, the official formation of the club had been nearly a year and half in the making.

Initial talks about the formation of such a club began during January of 2013 between Wharton Professor of Marketing and WCAI Co-Director Peter Fader and Lawrence Cole (WG15), then a new admit for the MBA class of 2015. For over 100 years, The Wharton School has been the standard for analytic and quantitative rigor in business. Out of that core competency, the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI) was formed as an  industry-facing academic research center focusing on the development and application of customer analytic methods.

As data has been become increasingly available, companies have developed more and more of an appetite to recruit data savvy engineers and managers. At the same time, the proportion of students from across several business and technical disciplines who have been interested in pursuing data-related roles and careers grows inline with the needs and opportunities within industry.

While the WCAI has been the gold standard in individual-level customer analytics for some time, there was a need to leverage its brain trust and resources to develop student-facing programming at The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania. By the summer of 2013, the conversations of two had grown to an interest group of 20-25 new class of 2015 admits who were all interested in a data-focused club at Wharton.

During the fall of 2013, The Data & Analytics  Club at Wharton began to germinate as a special interest sub-group of the existing Wharton Technology Club. We were able to ultimately grow to 58 members within that group. We also created a Facebook interest group that grew to nearly 140 members prior to the end of the 2013-2014 academic school year.

During that year, the founding members of this club worked with Prof. Fader as well as WCAI management staffers Rocco Spinelli and Michael Foley to sponsor and support several data-centric lecures, panel discussions and speakers, including Neil Hoyne, Google’s Global Attribution Manager for whom our fledgling club was able to produce an audience of 125 engaged Wharton students.

During the spring of 2014, the club sought official WGA status. We created an executive board and drafted our club charter. Founding member Lisa Donchak (WG15) chaired Wharton’s first annual People Analytics Conference in conjunction with Professors Cade Massey and Adam Grant in a separate initiative that lent credence to the need for a student organization that could unite and harness the growing interest in data at Wharton and UPenn.

photo (9)Just prior to being granted WGA status, founding members Nouras Haddad (WG’14) and Slyvia Li (WG’15) organized the club’s first data trek, where a group of about 15 students from The Wharton School (grad and undergrad) and Penn Engineering visited 5 Philadelphia companies to learn about how they use data to develop their competitive advantages and drive their business objectives. We were hosted by Revzilla, Monetate, Comcast, RJ Metrics and Aramark. Each company provided a unique perspective on how it used data; and the diversity of approaches, KPIs and business objectives spoke to the vast and deep universe of business problem that data is being used to solve today in industry. The Wharton Data & Analytics Club is available to all University of Pennsylvania students of any discipline. We do not focus on any particular type of data (individual-level customer or people analytics vs. machine learning or “big data”). Our aim is to be a resource for all students within our community who are interested in any of data’s facets and forms. We also serve as a resource to the business community at large that is interested in engaging and recruiting data-savvy business and technical people from The Wharton School and UPenn.

We would like to thank the Wharton Customer Analytics Iniative, namely Rocco Spinelli,  Michael Foley, Megan Gray, and WCAI Co-Directors Prof. Peter Fader and Prof. Ed Bradlow along with Prof. Cade Massey, Asst. Prof. Shaundra Hill, Prof. Adam, The Wharton Graduate Association, Zinnia Horne (WG15) and Neil Hoyne from Google for your support in seeing this vision to fruition. We could not have done it without you.

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