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Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

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My name is Richard Fox. As a professor at San Diego State University, I teach analytics to students in the master’s program at the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, to empower more successful careers.


But not all of my students are sold on the idea at first. Many struggle to see the value of data analytics or understand how it can help them be more effective in their careers.


I’m on a mission to teach them that these skills are no longer just for data scientists, but for every team in an organization.


Why am I so passionate? Because for over 25 years, I’ve held senior management positions helping companies make better business decisions by leveraging their data.


It hasn’t been an easy road. For many years, the standard tool for this was Excel. Now don’t get me wrong, Excel has its strengths, but when it comes to complex data analytics using a wide range of data types - it’s a headache. It takes hours and days of data manipulation, only to discover that there’s a glitch in a formula somewhere that’s nearly impossible to track down and fix.


In today’s business world, we no longer have the luxury of taking days to crunch data. The costs of delays are too high. The accelerated pace of business makes agility essential to stay competitive, avoid lost revenue, decrease expenses, and capture growth opportunities.




Ensuring student success with Alteryx


Positive outcomes for my students matter deeply to me. It’s my goal to give them the data analytics skills they need to be successful in their field of choice – regardless of their role. Whether they will become a business development manager or a customer service agent, leveraging data has an important role in their future.


To achieve this goal, I don’t use Excel, R or Python. These work, but require coding skills. Years of experience has taught me one very important thing:  if the tool at hand isn’t user-friendly and if it can’t easily analyze diverse types of data – students will struggle just to learn the tool, rather than focus on acquiring the vital concepts they need to understand.


As a vice president of analytics at numerous companies, I have been using Alteryx solutions for years, so I know firsthand how easy it is to learn and use. That’s why I turned to the Alteryx’s SparkED education program to teach my students, using Designer software, a no-code, code-friendly, analytics and automation platform. Designer quickly showcases the power of data to help make business-critical decisions. Students also learn the importance of getting the right data, creating accurate workflows, and using the visual representation tools to share their insights.


With Designer, my students can learn in just a matter of hours (instead of days) how to combine data sets, assess, scrub, compare, analyze, and more. And what makes it truly powerful is what questions they learn to ask up front, and the discovery of how they can answer those with data. Questions like ‘what is the optimal time to sell a product or service?’, ‘how does the weather affect sales?’ or ‘when should the business expand?’ I want all my students to learn how to gather accurate, timely insights so they are prepared for real-world jobs.


Solving for hospitality and tourism


Each semester, I give my student teams complex datasets from hypothetical hospitality and tourism companies. These include different types of data, ranging from sales revenue ($) to social media (marketing reach). I ask them to solve a series of common business problems. Each team uses Designer to import the datasets, prep and blend, analyze, and ultimately to serve up solutions.


Alteryx offers paid student internships for on-the-job training. There are also 3 certification levels: Core, Advanced and Expert. I encourage my students to acquire the Core certification as a good way to differentiate themselves in the job market when they graduate. SparkED offers a global Job Board to bring hiring managers together with job seekers.


At the beginning of each semester, some students drag their feet a bit, not sure that data analytics is likely to be something they’ll enjoy. But after they discover the efficiency and effectiveness of Designer, the majority of them begin to say: ‘This is one of my favorite courses!’ And I know I’ve done my job right.




To learn more about the free Alteryx SparkED education program, visit our home page at  alteryx.com/sparked. Educators can easily integrate snack-sized learning modules into existing curricula, or set up a new program. Teaching materials and optional faculty training are available. Learners can apply for scholarships and internships. Certification exams are open book and may be taken more than once. Visit us today and soon begin offering your students the in-demand knowledge and skills employers are seeking globally.