Skip to main content

Cisco Managers Find NC State Executive Education’s Data Science for Leaders Program to be a ‘Game Changer’

Graphic depiction of big data challenges
Big data challenges for business,

Cisco Systems business and information technology managers on three continents are implementing insights from a seven-week program designed to make them more effective data science project managers.

The professional development program, “Data Science for Leaders,” was developed in 2016 by NC State Executive Education, in conjunction with Cisco, to provide the company’s managers in Europe, the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region the latest knowledge and insight on how to leverage complex analytics to drive decision making.

“Our objective in developing this program with Cisco was to improve how managers work with data science teams, thereby improving decision making in an environment where the volume and complexity of data – and how to use it effectively – continues to grow exponentially,” said Daniel McGurrin, director of NC State Executive Education, based in the North Carolina State University State Poole College of Management.

“Outcomes have included enhanced skills in selecting and preparing projects that would benefit from a data science process, as well as the acumen to work effectively with data science technical experts in the iterative project development process,” he said.

Data science (DS) is an evolving discipline used by organizations seeking to improve decision making by increasing the scope and validity of data used to guide the decision process, McGurrin said. The resources and time required for a DS project, however, have inhibited wide implementation of these techniques. Researchers have noted that executives and business leaders have been reluctant to adopt DS processes, often due to a lack of understanding how to determine when they have had a positive return on investment.

McGurrin tapped the expertise of leading NC State faculty in data science, computer science, innovation management and statistics in developing this custom program. The result: an integrated learning model that includes presentations on defining the business problem, processes for assessing available structured and unstructured data, simulated data projects, and insights on building and managing a data science organization. Participants applied what they were learning – as they were learning – to real company projects in supply chain, sales, customer service and other Cisco divisions.

Pamela Webber, EDSO manager of Education Services at Cisco, said that as they continue to roll out the program, they are finding value for both internal managers and business leaders supporting client services.

“This program is instrumental not only in changing how managers confirm decisions or adjust assumptions based on what the data is showing, but it has also helped our managers improve the conversations with their teams of data scientists. Getting to the correct problem and bringing clarity to the priorities through the key performance indicators confirms that analytic resources are leveraged most effectively,” she said.

“The clarity of techniques in problem identification, risk management and applied use cases drives faster outcomes, not only for our internal customers of these services, but also for our external clients. They are trying to solve critical issues in their business strategies. Consistent and ongoing training (on how to leverage data through detailed analytics) is the game changer,” Webber said.

About NC State Executive Education

NC State Executive Education, based in the North Carolina State University Poole College of Management, leverages the capabilities of the entire university, including world-class faculty experts in management, agricultural sciences, biomanufacturing, computer science, design, statistics, and textiles to create contextualized professional development experiences. NC State Exec Ed offers custom, open enrollment and collaboratories style programs with a focus on management in a technology driven global environment. The NC State Executive Education programs are contracted and delivered through the NC State Executive Education LLC, a non-profit (501)(c)(3) under the NC State University Foundation, Inc. –

About Cisco Systems

Cisco is the worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow by proving that amazing things can happen when you connect the previously unconnected. At Cisco, customers come first and an integral part of our DNA is creating long-lasting customer partnerships and working with them to identify their needs and provide solutions that support their success. Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO).