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MBA Students and Faculty Develop New Course on Coding for Business

David Backus and Glenn Okun
If you build it, they will come.

Or so Professors David Backus and Glenn Okun learned when they organized Data Bootcamp, a non-credit elective course designed for students who want to learn Python, a popular programming language, in order to analyze economic, financial and business data most effectively. The course, offered every other Friday during the fall semester, developed when a group of MBA students approached the professors, identifying a need to understand code for business applications. Since its launch this fall, dozens of students have gathered biweekly for the course, co-taught by fellow MBA student Sarah Beckett-Hile.

Like many of her classmates, Sarah discovered her appreciation for coding when she noticed a resource gap at the small start-up where she worked. As the newly appointed Director of Business Intelligence, Sarah’s role required powerful tools for data analysis, but financial resources were limited and engineering time was precious. Python was the answer she needed to achieve deeper data analysis than was previously possible with SQL or Excel.

“I was an English major [as an undergraduate] and seriously resisted learning coding at first, but being able to code made it so much easier to automate tasks and develop data-driven strategies for my company,” she explained.

Similarly, fellow students are discovering myriad ways that coding can assist in making and rationalizing business decisions that are founded in complex data. For example, by amalgamating data in Python, students have determined the ideal discount rate for a ticket to The Lion King in a given area or what viewers are watching on a particular television network at particular times.

“Python allowed me to gain new insights into customer behavior, product issues, and client performance – all areas where data empowered my team and me to build better products and system updates to optimize revenue and customer experience,” Sarah said.

By the end of the first semester, Data Bootcamp had increased in popularity, and students across a wide array of disciplines were collaborating to work through the unique challenges of coding language. As interest in the course grows, Professors Backus and Okun hope this student-led initiative – and others like it – will become more permanent offerings in the NYU Stern curriculum.

“The impetus for this comes from our students and their professional needs,” said Professor Okun. “We’re just trying to keep up.”

To learn more about Data Bootcamp, please see the course website.