Know Thy Analytics Major

Kean Kwok

Shared by: Kean Kwok, Singapore Management University, Year 3

Every School of Information Systems (SIS) student in Singapore Management University (SMU) has to decide on a 2nd major and with over twenty choices to choose from, it can be a tough decision. I kept switching between choices, undecided on what my final choice will be. Should I choose a IS 2nd major and continue to torture myself alongside other notoriously intensive IS core mods and Final Year Project? Or should I choose a relatively easier non-IS major and have an easier life in my remaining years in SMU? I can improve my GPA too! What a tempting choice. I was close to deciding on Strategic Management, a safe choice and sounds useful too, I can develop skills on how to develop businesses and strategies and learn how to manage employees and operations, though it felt rather intangible and delve more on breadth than depth. I wanted something that can add value to my degree. Then this summer internship came that broaden my horizon and change my 2nd major choice significantly.

I had the opportunity to intern at a new start-up specialising in analytics that exploits big data opportunities by providing consulting and technology services to businesses to enable them to make smart decisions. Analytics is a new and emerging field, every company big or small has data, but not many staff knows how to make use of it to yield valuable insights and enhance business. On the first day, I sat in front of my work desk marvelling at a live ship map tracking ship locations real time. I learnt that this company forte is in maritime analytics. Big Data opportunities are aplenty from the sea to the coastal to the supply chain. How can we exploit business and predictive analytics to enhance situation awareness for security, port operations, maritime supply chain, fuel optimization and competitive intelligence?

Take for example, a cargo ship, running the same route every time. By analysing its route over time, if one day the ship veers off course, we could deduce that something probably went amiss. Running low on fuel? Or pirates on board, like a scene out of the 2013 movie Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks that is based on a true story. (A simple analogy that you can relate to is, if I analyse the route you took to school every time, and if one day I see that your journey took longer than expected or that you took a different route to school, I can deduce that something wrong might have happen. Service disruption? Traffic jam? You have a stomachache and needed to alight halfway to find a toilet? Haha.. You get what I mean.) Piracy has plagued Southeast Asia for many centuries and continues to remain a significant security issue. This is where analytics come in. When and where do pirates often strike? Which part of the year is the peak period for pirate attacks? Which type of weather do pirates strike and which they avoid? The sea of opportunities and shore of possibilities analytics brings about to the maritime industry is endless.

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*Click on pictures to view effects if needed

 

Echoing what Ryan Noo mentioned in his previous post, interning in a start-up exposes me to different job functions and I had the opportunity to explore new things and immerse myself in different forms of analytics. I have my first hands-on experience in data mining. Extracting data from all over the web, I successfully created a database of important details and emergency services (e.g. airports, seaports, hospitals, helipads) that ships can locate and turn to when in distress. I also extracted maritime-related news articles from news sites and tweets (unstructured data) and stored the content into a database (structured data) for further analysis. With visual analytics, I can transform lengthy shipping reports into visual infographics to increase information retention and engagement with the readers. My experience in analytics during internship is not just limited to maritime analytics. I had the chance to carry out search engine optimisation to help create a successful corporate website for my company that ranks high on Google search results. My supervisor gave me many ideas and areas in that I can explore for analytics, such as the evolving social media. At that time when the intern abuse incident was the talk of the town (and coincidentally happened in the same building as me, different company), I analyse tweets and netizens’ response to news reporting on the abuse. With each comment, I can carry out sentiment analysis and gather how people react to the issue, whether it is a positive or negative one. (You can try a simple one at http://www.sentiment140.com/). I also tried analysing what people have to say about a brand online (e.g. Michelin Star Dim Sum Restaurant Tim Ho Wan just opened its first branch in Singapore at that time). There are many other stuff that I experiment including natural language processing and text analytics that can help a company derive potentially valuable business insights from text such as word documents, email and postings on social media (You can try pasting an article here viewer.opencalais.com/‎ and looking at the results, you get a feel of what the article is about without reading it).

It was an invaluable internship experience that shaped me up to be an analytics enthusiast today. So eventually, I decided to challenge myself and chose Analytics as my 2nd major. It is a new major, and I will be the pioneer batch (or some might say guinea pig), but there isn’t much opportunities in life to be a pioneer in something, so why not take the chance? So I decided to take the risk. I understand that this choice I make will be a tough one, but I too know that it will be a rewarding one that I will never regret. ;)

kean_with_guard

Last day of my analytics internship, giving Lao Ban Beancurd to the friendly security guard and bidding farewell! === Share with us your reason for choice of 2nd major here!

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