A partnership between Bryant University and AAA Northeast gives both sides an edge in the field of data science. Students gain valuable real-world experience and make in-roads to AAA careers.
Just ask Liam Theis: He started his AAA career straight out of Bryant.
As a student in Bryant’s Information Systems & Analytics program, Theis delved into anonymous AAA data for practical learning and real problem-solving projects. Then, in 2019, he gained full access to the AAA vault as an intern in information technology.
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Liam had previous job experience at small companies but none of them were as data-rich as AAA.
“My first few work hours left me spinning with the sheer amount of information we generate, collect and think about across all our business lines,” Liam said. “Luckily, AAA also provided me with easy access to friendly and experienced professionals who helped me adjust in a short period of time.”
And the internship opened job opportunities. Now, as a full-time data analyst at AAA, he is helping business leaders realize the extent of available information.
“My primary focus is helping to expand the understanding of the club’s available and future data,” he said. “This includes prototyping new advanced analytics solutions, increasing awareness and helping business line leaders track and test the logic of their lines.”
Yet even as a student, Liam presented findings to club leaders. It’s one of the enrichment activities AAA offers Bryant students through the partnership, said Dean Patterson, vice president of information technology, and Sandeep Chadha, vice president of enterprise data technology.
AAA Northeast has an abundance of data but limited availability of staff to scour through it. Bryant, meanwhile, equips students with the knowledge but is limited in the amount and types of real-world data it can supply, according to Chadha.
“We give them data at a velocity and volume never imagined from a variety of businesses and expose students to advanced analysis and advanced technology,” Chadha said. “Their work helps us leverage data to better understand our members and institute some of the findings.”
Several of Bryant’s upper-level data science courses include AAA projects, according to Suhong Li, professor and chair of the Information Systems and Analytics department at the Smithfield, R.I., school. Chadha and other data professionals from AAA provide guidance to students, collaborate with educators on teaching cases or publications and are guest speakers in the classroom.
“Our partnership with AAA is one of the highlights of the data science program because it gives students real-world experience,” Li said. “It gives students a competitive edge when looking for internships and jobs.”
It is not only an excellent learning opportunity for students but for AAA as well, said Thomas Dougherty, Executive in Residence for Data Science at Bryant.
“The students get to work on interesting projects with real corporate data, including all of the normal imperfections. AAA gets the benefit of the students’ work and business insight from the professors,” he said.
At the same time, the students gain greater appreciation for AAA as an organization and future employer.
“Partnering with Bryant shows AAA’s commitment to support higher education and to keep up with the latest development in analytics and data science,” Li said.
In the rapidly growing field, it’s an important reputation to have, Patterson said. It tells students that AAA is a tech-forward organization invested in the future of data science and a great place to start a career.
Theis agrees. He said the diversity of data and questions posed by business leaders have motivated him in his career and working with experts in the field has built his experience beyond what he imagined.
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