IBM Boot Camp Is a 'Shoe-in' for Student Success

Written by: Julie Jacobs,
Instructors Zhenrui Cao and Weizhi Chen (front row, second and third from left) and MTSM faculty Leon Vaks and Cheickna Sylla (back row, seventh and eighth from left) joined a happy group of students that had completed an IBM Skills Academy boot camp.

Last fall NJIT entered into a first-of-its-kind partnership with IBM Global University Programs to deliver digital technologies and education to NJIT students. Not only is NJIT the first university in the country to adopt the venerable technology corporation’s IBM Skills Academy, it also is the only one in North America to do so.

The flagship alliance, initiated and led by Martin Tuchman School of Management’s (MTSM) Dean Reggie Caudill, was spurred by the workforce needs of today’s “Business With the Power of STEM” digital economy. “The Tuchman School is committed to ensuring that all its students are ready to meet the challenges of the business world, understand the technologies and tools required to succeed in business and have the hands-on experience necessary to build their skills and expand their knowledge,” commented Caudill.

Through MTSM, students are provided with three highly relevant career tracks — business intelligence analyst, business process analyst and predictive analyst modeler — as well as boot camps and workshops. Recently, one such boot camp drew an eager group of students to learn about predictive analytics. Here are the details.

Reggie Caudill, MTSM dean, initiated and leads NJIT's flagship alliance with IBM Global University Programs.

WHAT TOOK PLACE

During spring break this past March, MTSM welcomed 26 NJIT students from a variety of majors to its Business Analytics Lab (BAL) for a boot camp on the IBM SPSS Predictive Analytics Modeler. The powerful data analysis tool enables users to “uncover data patterns, gain predictive accuracy and improve decision-making.” It is incredibly user friendly and requires no prior programming knowledge for model building and simulation.

Nearly all the students successfully completed the boot camp and passed a certification exam to earn IBM’s Explorer Award badge in the tool. (Seventeen went on to pursue the Mastery Award badge in early April, with 13 passing the exam.)

MTSM Associate Dean Cheickna Sylla, Associate Professor Dantong Yu and Professor of Practice Leon Vaks organized the boot camp, and MTSM Ph.D. students Zhenrui Cao and Weizhi Chen served as instructors. At its conclusion, Sylla answered questions from participants and gave an inspirational speech congratulating them on their accomplishment.

“This boot camp was a huge success. The turnout rate reached the capacity of the Business Analytics Laboratory,” said Yu. “The students gave up their spring break, showed great enthusiasm and took the initiative in learning new IBM big data systems. Most importantly, they are now equipped with new and powerful knowledge!”

The IBM SPSS Predictive Analytics Modeler boot camp was held in MTSM's Business Analytics Lab.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

“As artificial intelligence, data mining and machine learning are becoming more and more popular and widely applied in almost every field, including finance, marketing and supply chain management, it is essential for students to know the basics of data analysis using statistics and data mining techniques,” noted Vaks. “This IBM boot camp provided precisely the type of platform and skillset beneficial to all NJIT students.”

The ultimate goal of every boot camp coordinated for the IBM partnership will be to offer students real-world experience via hands-on learning as well as guidance through the entire data analysis process, from data input to data preparation to model simulation. Sessions planned for this summer will focus on IBM Business Process, IBM Business Intelligence, IBM Watson Analytics and IBM Predictive Analytics.

“The whole process will lay the foundation for students who want to be data scientists and also prepare students who are in other fields to collaborate with data scientists,” Vaks added.

IMPACT ON STUDENTS AND THE PARTNERSHIP

The IBM Mastery Award badges are widely acknowledged and accepted within the data analytics industry. As a result, NJIT students completing the boot camps and earning the badges will greatly increase their chances of securing both paid internship and co-op positions at IBM-partner companies and other corporate experiential opportunities.

“Students are learning the general data analysis processes and most of the machine learning concepts, which will give them a significant advantage in their job interviews over other candidates,” Yu said.

The news is just as good for IBM, Yu pointed out, as the boot camps will serve as a pipeline of sorts for interns and even full-time employees.