The emlyon business school MSc in Digital Marketing and Data Science provides a perfect illustration of a continued ambition to produce the ideal candidates for recruiting companies, whilst also offering something that no-one else on the higher education market can currently lay claim to. The Python Coding course that forms a part of the program is representative of this drive to attract and prepare hybrid student profiles capable of marrying science with marketing.

In a global business environment where Artificial Intelligence is assuming an increasingly key strategic and operational role across a whole range of sectors, recruiters are crying out not just for marketing specialists or technical wizards...but both rolled into one. In devising the Python Coding course as part of its 18-month MSc in Digital Marketing and Data science program, emlyon business school is aiming to prepare hybrid student profiles to become technically and strategically savvy. As Program Director Clément Levallois underlines, a carefully-considered teaching approach has been adopted to produce the kind of candidates that recruiters will be fighting for: “the aim is to develop hands-on technical skills as a complement. The job market feedback suggests these kinds of profiles are highly sought after, and they want the mindset and ability to learn developed and taught here at emlyon”.

Learning by doing

Selected for their intellectual curiosity and “can do” attitude, future “marketing technologists” learn to manipulate data in a bootcamp format that provides a fast-paced introduction to the domain. Weekly semesters stretch over the September-December period, with the full cohort of 120 students split into more manageable groups of 30. Open-source Jupyter notebooks are used, chosen notably for the “learning by doing” possibilities offered by the software, whilst the Panda library is available as an extra module geared towards data analysis. Current student Ijeoma Uhuegbulem confirms just how wide-ranging and operational a role this requires of all participants: "the course lays a foundation on how to clean, process, visualize and extract information from data. It is taught by highly skilled professors and instructors with lots of hands-on assignments designed to push us to the limit and explores all python libraries for data analysis. This prepares the students to make sense of the large amounts of customer data being collected by companies."

Help always at hand

As intensive as this learning environment may sound, support is available in the form of regular coding assignments delivered by the instructors. Twice-weekly tutorship sessions have also been proposed this year, partly in response to the extra need for guidance from students in the on-going COVID-19-driven climate. Most importantly in terms of preparing students for the professional world, all the participating tutors are experts from the field, comprising technicians, analysts, and engineers. Student of the course Cléo Ganne especially appreciates the help on offer: “this course has been a great asset to me, not just in terms of having been taught by sophisticated professors, but also a comprehensive tutorship system. I have taken great pleasure from this supportive and friendly learning environment.”

What is not lost on any student is the excellent preparation such a wide-ranging set-up provides for the business environment that awaits them upon graduation and subsequent recruitment, as underlined by Cléo's classmate Anne-Claire de Villard: “in terms of employability, it is very interesting for us to learn about such skills since employers are looking for people with both management and technical know-how. Business analysts should be able to use technical tools such as Python and SQL and at the same time be able to manage a project. The same goes for digital marketers where managers need to understand the technical side to be able to manage properly their teams that are usually composed of different profiles”.

A tool, not a language

The python course was described by student Florent Jeannot as “one of the highlights of the MSc where the weekly assignments made sure we stayed on track and kept building on our skills”. The course was also devised in order to shed new light on the subject, one that would be of the most use to students and companies in the future as well as for the duration of the course and MSc program. As Clément Levallois insists, “Here at emlyon business school, Python Coding is taught as a tool to analyse data, not as an IT language. This is the best way to acquire the mindset sought by recruiters rather than treating data at arm's length. Via this meeting of technical and marketing cultures, we seek to dispel a lot of the mysteries surrounding the use of data and artificial intelligence (AI) in business. In short, the course was designed to provide a kind of icebreaker that would have our students handling and analysing data. For real”.