A data mining course allowed Jackie Markle, a first-generation college graduate and data analytics student, to strategically apply what she's learned in the classroom to her daily life.
By: Elizabeth Palmer
A graduate course in data mining recently allowed Jackie Markle, a first-generation college graduate, to not only apply what she’s learned in the classroom to daily life, but also build her confidence.
As a business insight and analytics manager at MediaNatura — a Berwyn-based homeopathic pharmaceutical company — Markle examines what products drive sales. But because MediNatura offers over 50 different medicines sold in over 1,600 stores, this can be a challenge.
Markle is new to both her role at MediNatura and to the Philadelphia area. A mom of three, she and her family recently relocated from New Mexico after MediNatura acquired Markle’s former employer. At the time, she was a masters of business administration student and enrolled in undergraduate database design courses in Albuquerque. But shortly before her move, Penn State Great Valley launched their campus-based Master of Professional Studies in Data Analytics program. She immediately enrolled.
Only a few weeks into the data analytics program, Markle was assigned a project in her data mining course. Rather than using a provided dataset, she opted to use figures from MediNatura. Using the Apriori algorithm, Markle performed a market-basket analysis to determine what products were commonly purchased together in one transaction. To narrow her focus, she pared down the data set to focus on specific sales territories.
The next challenge for Markle was to present her findings — both to Penn State Great Valley students and faculty at the inaugural Research and Scholarly Work Poster Fair, and to the CEO at MediNatura.
“It was my first time presenting to faculty, so it was a bit nerve-wracking,” she said.
Fortunately, she was well prepared for the event. Between family life and working full-time, Markle is busy. But because Great Valley’s courses are offered in seven week sessions, Markle could focus solely on the data mining class and fully delve into her research.
“The courses here are intensive, but I love that each course receives my full attention,” she remarked. “I am able to concentrate on one class at a time, and really immerse myself in what I’m learning.”
Sharing her research with faculty and staff served as good practice for meeting with MediNatura’s CEO. Her findings will help her company increase distribution and profit in a cost-effective manner. MediNatura relies on contracted brokerage representatives to engage local stores with their products, which can be costly. Because of Markle’s research, MediNatura can strategically determine what areas require the support of a sales representative. In turn, those personnel will be better trained and aware of the right combination of medicines that perform well.
“I am a first-generation college graduate and the first woman in my family to do so. My parents always wanted more for my siblings and me, and that lead me to expect more out of myself,” Markle reflected.
“At a previous job, the CEO asked me to write a job description and explain how I could leverage my skills to move the company forward. After discussing things with him one-on-one, I came to find that it was only an exercise and nothing more. I internalized the experience and took it to heart. I needed to be more.
I felt like my bachelor’s degree and 10 plus years of experience in the analytical world weren’t enough. I needed a better ability to think critically, deal with ambiguity, and solve complex problems. I needed to gain fresh insight and perspectives on how to tackle old problems in order to lead to improved standards and processes. I needed to be more.”
Halfway through her graduate program, Markle feels fulfilled and more self-assured. She’s looking forward to taking courses in data visualization and warehousing, and taking on additional leadership responsibilities on campus.
“Today, I am building confidence,” she said. “I took a job with a new company and was relocated to its headquarters here in PA. I have completed one year of the Data Analytics program. I presented my research to faculty. I participated in DataFest. I have accepted the opportunity to serve as the student senator in the University Faculty Senate next school year. I have a 4.0 GPA. I have learned invaluable skills at Penn State. I am more.”