With data analytics and the concepts behind big data growing rapidly in the business world, students right out of college often find themselves slightly behind the curve when it comes to understanding and analyzing the magnitude of these new tools. After a conversation with M.S. in Accounting’s (MSA) forensic accounting professor, Eric Negangard, it was apparent that the goal of the MSA program is to build confidence from day one. With this confidence, students will be able to walk in on their first day of work and be steps ahead of their peers when it comes to understanding and applying the complexity of data analytics.
In talking with Professor Negangard, he explained to me that you don’t have to have a specific background in a data-heavy field to encounter data analytics on a daily basis. As a licensed CPA and former employee of KPMG’s Forensic Services practice for seven years, he said, “Most of my data analytics skills were self-taught and/or came via on the job training. My desire for such skills came out of a passion for wanting to be able to perform what were traditionally burdensome or even impossible job tasks quickly and efficiently.” As a student of Professor Negangard’s Forensic Accounting class, I can attest to his point of self-teaching and efficiency. He has taught us in one semester not only how to combat various types of auditing software but to question why we’re doing this and what it means overall in regards to our careers as future accountants.
As mentioned above, the MSA program offers students the opportunity to work with a number of data and auditing software that are often used in the firms where our students will be working. A few of the programs students get experience with hands on in the classroom are IDEA, Concordance Desktop, Tableau, and SQL. The latter two are specifically used in our Data Management and Analytics course offered in the fall which is used as a precursor to the above mentioned Forensic Accounting course taught in the spring.
In addition to building confidence within our students, I asked Professor Negangard why he liked teaching such specific content and skills associated with data analytics, he responded, “The world around us is changing at an alarming pace, but we also live in a world where nearly every action and reaction leaves some sort of digital artifact. Being able to identify, capture, and filter such artifacts is an extremely valuable skill. In my mind, the story telling of the future is all about being able to find, capture, understand, and deliver the meaningful ones and zeros. For the movie buffs out there, you need to be Neo.”
A large part of the MSA program, as I’ve explained in previous blogs, is about understanding the background behind the answer rather than finding the right answer up front. McIntire believes that this mindset will travel with students into their careers and allow them to confidently ask the right questions and use the tools supplied to them in order to find their answer. Professor Negangard is always telling us that having a strong analytical mindset is what’s going to get us farther than just knowing how and where to key numbers into a data sheet.
Overall, the MSA program works hard to set their students apart from others for when they enter the working world. With great students and excellent professors, soon-to-be graduates of the program will be confident in their first steps out into the world and into their careers.
-Written by Corey Parham