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The Omaha Data Science Academy: What is it?

In 2008, Contemporary Analysis (CAN) began helping companies build predictive analytics capabilities, mostly through project based work. Last year, CAN recognized a rising need in companies: more and more, businesses needed to bring PA capabilities in house but lacked the staff to do so.  So, in mid-2015, CAN switched from project based work to a staff augmentation model. This last year, the need has grown exponentially as CAN has been asked to train staff for more companies, sometimes two at a time. CAN decided it needed a better, standardized way to train individuals to be part of data science team.

In July of 2016 Contemporary Analysis (CAN) announced the open enrollment for the Omaha Data Science Academy (Oma-DSA), the ultimate goal of which is to train a data scientist for every company in Omaha. With the help of Interface Web School and through the CONNECT re-education grant, the Oma-DSA was born.

Nebraska’s role in the development of the Oma-DSA:

 

Coursework in the Oma-DSA is designed to provide training to those who already have business acumen and don’t need another degree just to qualify for an entry-level data science job. They really only need skill-based training. This goal led CAN to partner with the CONNECT Grant in Nebraska. This federal grant provides Nebraska’s underemployed workforce with skill training and financial support to begin careers in IT with companies throughout the state. The partnership was perfect as both CONNECT and CAN seek to bolster Nebraska’s professional workforce with more highly trained individuals.

 

Interface’s role in development and administration:

 

In search for an example of how to teach an academy, CAN connected with Shonna Dorsey of the Interface Web School. Interface offers courses to bolster skills and knowledge of technology and online softwares to help strengthen the workforce. It appeals the most to people who may already have degrees and careers, but are looking for new opportunities. Class schedules are flexible for busy lives.

 

CAN was excited because Interface is both a platform for learning and a platform for teaching. They offer students an immersive learning program lead by industry experts and a professional network that connects students and businesses throughout the Midwest.

 

“We understand,” commented Shonna, “that first and foremost it takes talented people to build talented people.

 

This was in complete agreement with how CAN thought and wanted to run the data science, and the partnership was set.

 

“Interface is helping us setup the platform and teaching us the very detailed structure that goes into running an Academy such as the DSA”, commented Nate Watson, president of CAN and administrator of the Oma-DSA, “without them, we would still be back at step one.”

Who teaches the Oma-DSA?

 

The answer to this question sets CAN apart from many other data science courses. The Oma-DSA is taught by the data scientists who work at CAN. Each day the professors spend their time solving a problem for a client and then teach the students those same techniques and solutions. With the DSA, there are no textbooks, students are taught scenarios that are sometimes only hours old.  

 

What was the outcome of the first iteration?

 

In December of 2016, the DSA graduated 6 entry level data scientists. Four have already been hired  by local companies looking to implement data science into their daily managerial tasks. Multiple others companies have shown interest in the graduates and many others are excited to see what the next group of graduates will have to offer.

 

What did CAN learn from the first run of the academy?

 

Although the first run was successful, CAN is building improvements for  second run of the Oma-DSA starting in January. The eighteen week course will be divided into 4 modules: Python programming, statistics and mathematical modeling, database design, and data visualization using Tableau. These can be taken individually in any order. When all four are completed, the graduate receives a Fundamentals of Data Science Certificate.

 

The modular system is also significant because it allows students or company to enroll their employee in just one module. If a person were to only want Tableau and not the entire certificate, the module format allows them to enroll in only one module. This also allows a student to test out of a module as well. A Data Base Administrator, for example, won’t have to take a database design class anymore. They can enroll in the other three and receive a certificate.

 

What is the future for the Oma-DSA?

 

In the second half of 2017, CAN hopes to offer masters-level classes in Tableau and machine learning to continue education after the Fundamentals certificate. CAN is also researching customized classes in vertical-specific problems and solutions.  

The next class begins January 23, 2017. You can apply here.

There is nothing else like the Oma-DSA in the Omaha, NE and great plains area. This means that Omaha has the potential to be known internationally as a hub for budding data scientists. Not only that, but it also means that companies in Omaha have an enormous advantage by their proximity to highly educated and expertly trained data scientists.


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