How useful is an MBA to work in Data Science?

3 min readJun 27, 2020

I have been asked this question at least 10 times over the last months, so I thought I would answer this in a more structured way

My background

I am a HKUST MBA graduate and I currently manage analytics and data science teams at Gojek.

I saw HKUST MBA was offering lots of data courses, will I be able to move to data science?

First, do note that data science can mean many things. For the sake of this publication, we mean product data science where a micro decision is automated and uses machine learning.

The honest answer is Probably Not if you do not have data background before. MBA does not prepare you to enter data science, this is why it is called a Master in Business Administration. And to be honest data science is full of bright people with MSc and PhD that spend 50h a week on programming and improving algorithms. You will be studying strategy and management for 40h+ a week. So why offering so many courses data related. Because…

  • Data is everywhere and you will need to handle large quantities of data in most work outside of data department: Finance, supply, strategy, marketing or product management.
  • SQL is no longer a dirty language restrained to nerds. In more classical MNC, the ability to crunch data will make you progress your career really fast. In tech company, it will be expected from you anyway.
  • Understanding the impact of data, analytic and digitalization is essential to understand the business strategy of most companies nowadays.
  • Data is fun

But I really want to get into data related role…

…Ok fine… you still can work in data-position such as:

Business analytics: derive business insights that transform the business

Marketing analytics: optimize marketing campaigns using data science tools

and many more… but you really need to understand the value you are bringing.

Remembering my HKUST strategy class, we had to design the hedgehog concept for our career

The purpose is to understand what is the intersection of the 3 circles and what will fulfill you in life.

Understand your competitive advantage…

Clearly, as an MBA graduate, your competitive advance is very unlikely to ve data science knowledge. MBA is meant to build bridges and drive business rather than going deep in one topic. It is important that you find what will be your own ability to do that.

How, by combining past experience and MBA, will you create value?

My conclusion is MBA is a great way to understand business and have a wonderful experience.

If you want to understand how analytics and AI transform companies then this is a great alternative. But if your purpose is just to get into data science and be a data scientist…there are better ways. If you are already a data scientist we can discuss the value of an MBA in another article…




Strategy/Data/Leadership head of DS at OCBC ~~ exTwitter ~~ ex-gojek