Derek Gee, CPA, CMI is getting a Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) — his second graduate-degree from Golden Gate University — in part because the program, “caters to working professionals so I don’t have to learn too early in the day or take too much time off work.”
Gee has considerable responsibilities as a Product Manager at Workday — a cloud-based ERP that combines finance and HR in one seamless system — where he leverages his MS in Taxation (his first GGU degree) and his newly acquired business analytics skills. At the company, he helps guide a team of developers and quality assurance professionals tasked with improving Workday’s tax functionality — and eventually wants to leverage machine learning to make life easier for finance and tax professionals using Workday software.
“The Machine Learning class at GGU has shown me how
powerful predictive analytics can be in identifying areas in the
business that can be improved upon that business leaders often miss.”
At GGU, Gee says he learned the high-level concepts around machine learning – and the important first steps of cleaning data before any analysis can begin. Dr. Nabanita Talukdar was Gee’s professor for the Predictive Analytics & Machine Learning course, who he says has been one of his best teachers to date: “I loved that she has a math background, but she didn’t go too deep into the technical components of the machine-learning algorithms. She kept the course at a high-enough level that it could be applied to business without confusing students with the complex math involved in machine learning.”
Gee continues: “Machine learning to me will be a great tool and value-add to businesses. This machine learning class at GGU has shown me how powerful predictive analytics can be in identifying areas in the business that can be improved upon that business leaders often miss. The class also taught me how the Python programming language already has a number of pre-built packages that make machine learning accessible to the average business analyst. With just a little bit of up-front work to learn the mechanics of Python, the power of machine learning can be used by almost anyone.”
Overall, Gee says the MSBA at GGU addresses how analytics can be applied in the context of business and be used to provide real value to companies. “What I really wanted to do with the GGU degree was to solidify the knowledge I’ve gained from my career so far and connect the dots among my various skills and functional areas.”
Building Tax Software & the Potential for Machine Learning
“My career has largely focused on my tax background and has given me the opportunity to step into the shoes of a tax manager. I know their pain points in certain areas, like tax compliance and reporting, that are incredibly time-consuming,” Gee says. “Machine learning is not only able to streamline those processes and make life easier for users of ERP software, but it is also uniquely positioned to provide insight through predictive analytics to let tax professionals provide increased value to the business.”
Gee says that in prior jobs he was deep in the data analysis aspects of the business and was a strong supporter of using technology to make this process more efficient. After moving over to a product management role, he has had to refine his skills in communication. “The role of a Product Manager often acts as a translator. We gather requirements for new features from our customers and explain these requirements to our development team. We also must make sure that all this aligns with our overall company goals.”
“The business analytics program at GGU has taught me how I can apply the concepts from data analytics to the corporate tax function. When I am in conversations at my current job, I am well prepared to discuss the issues that technology and finance experts are most concerned about. It’s about bridging the gap. These skills are very important with something as complicated as machine learning and tax.”
Gee is halfway through an expected two-year course of study towards the MSBA. He will be taking evening courses in San Francisco.