Whew. Just got done with my Spring Semester. It was fun, but a little hectic. It did not match my expectations at all. I was expecting 6040 to be the more difficult course and try to balance it out with the so called easier 6203, but my experience saw the exact opposite.
The Spring saw 6203 introducing a new project for the course. The project was worth 20 percent of the total grade. It needed the students to form groups of 4 (or 5) and work on the project throughout the semester. Our group, team 71, formed really by chance. Ngan, this very talented young professional from Japan, texted me at the start of the semester to start a team. I happily obliged. Sunbin from South Korea and Dan from Taiwan completed our group.
We jelled pretty well. Some days I would be really tired, but I never felt tired about one of our meetings. I don’t think our project was amazing, we could have done better. But all of us had different commitments, and we worked on it more like an academic project than a personal one. (Getting to know it right now, our project did not get selected as one of the top 6% of projects. Which is fair)
We worked on understanding customer satisfaction based on online shopping. It was a bit of a lack luster work if I consider how much effort I had put into by bachelors projects, but the timeline was much tighter in this scenario. Most of our conclusions were intuitive. Except, one conclusion, which stated more expensive purchases led to better customer satisfaction. But, most probably purchasing a more expensive item gave you more incentive to leave a review, when you might not be bothered about doing that if the purchases of smaller value.
Overall, there was a lot of stuff a learnt in this course. It was more of breadth learning rather than depth learning. I learnt how to really deep dive into regression. One thing I realized is a lot of business still just depend on linear regression to do all their analysis. So, instead of looking at other methods, all they do is they try different complications on top of linear regression to better fit their data. Which is probably not the best solution, but it is what it is.
The next thing I learnt is working with financial portfolios in R. Working out different factors that make a portfolio tick. One interesting observation is with all the glitz and glamour of mutual funds, only 17.6% have beaten the market long term. So, better to just invest in index funds.
The third module was marketing module, we got an overview of how we can work with Google Analytics. If I was a motivated student I should have enabled analytics on this website, which I might do later, but right now I am not bothered.
I think the place to biggest thing I had to learn was from the Operations module. There was a lot of good stuff. You don’t realize how much formulation is already present to standardize the processes. You want to know if one of your process is out of control? There is a formula for that. You want to know when to order to restock and how much to order? There is a formula for that. It makes me imagine how relevant it is to the real world? It seems too easy for operations manager if things were that easy. But atleast, it gave a initial idea.
Overall, for me, this was the harder course. Because I was working with a lot of new information. For a lot of the students it was easier, because they came from a management background. For me, I was regularly spending 10-15 hours or more a week, going through all the lectures, TA sessions (at least during the start of the semester), working on R assignments etc.
Speaking about R, I feel I am much more comfortable in R now. A lot of the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. Previously, when some syntax did not make sense, I would just copy and paste it. However, there indeed is a structure to the madness. But only people who are proficient in R understand that. Overall, not gonna lie, R has some pretty cool features over Python. Although, at the end of the day, you can do what you need to do with your data using either of the languages.
Some of the course felt a bit disorganized, specially the part where we were struggling to finish our last HW and really spending more time to interpret what the questions meant rather than spending time to solve it. However, I feel that is indirectly a lesson into business itself. Half of the time, instead of solving a direct problem, you might need to figure out first what the problem is. So, it was a good lesson to keep calm and depend on your teammates as you would need to do while running a business.
On the other hand CS-6040 was an extremely structured course. The course majorly tried you to teach you fundamentals of working on data through guided notebooks. I really enjoyed this course and I could only imagine the amount of time that goes into developing those notebooks or those exams. This is best structured course I have come across so far. I felt there was a little too hand holding at times, but I have to remember not all of the students are from a tech background. Instead this course was indeed harder than a lot of the students had bargained for and around 25% of the students dropped from the course. For me it was pretty easy mostly, except the last weeks which required deep understanding of mathematics. I enjoyed this course thoroughly and if I ever design a course I will try to follow how Prof Vuduc did with this course.
End of a stressful semester, looking forward to summer now!