From Social Sciences to Information Technology: My Story

Written by: Bob Beach, MBA ’24

My transition from the social sciences to an analytics curriculum has been the right balance of challenge and reward here at UB School of Management. 

Though I’m often told that it’s an “unconventional career shift,” I make the case that psychology and social work provide valuable skills and perspectives that, when effectively applied across various domains, can drive even better business intelligence insights. Not a “pivot” as much as a “continuation,” I believe I’m building upon a unique set of abilities that will further my ability to lead teams successfully out of web 2.0. 

Of the skills I’ve gained through my academic experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student, critical thinking has been the most salient. In my view, social scientists are trained to analyze complex social and human behaviors, a skill that is transferable to business and information technology (IT). In these fields, critical thinking is crucial for problem-solving, decision-making and strategic planning. Social science’s ability to decipher human behavior can be invaluable in understanding customer behavior and making data-driven decisions. 

With an undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s degree in social work, my earlier higher education coursework involved active participation in experimental methodologies. I was often limited to my IT-83, spreadsheets and SPSS for linear regression. Today I’m using tools from Oracle and writing SQL to ensure organizations are getting the most from their data. I’m creating pivot tables in Excel and running visualization in Orange (Anaconda). 

I never thought I’d be integrating concepts from dimensional data modeling, applying the work of Ralph Kimball, to my work as a customer-centric marketer. I’ve accepted the need to acquire specific technical skills. However, the strong foundation in social sciences is making my learning process smoother. Many social science graduates have successfully leveled-up in areas such as programming, database management and analytics, making them well-rounded professionals in business, IT and data warehousing. I am preparing to be next! 

Robert Beach, MBA '24

Bio: My name is Bob Beach and I was born in Bronx, New York. The son of NYC civil servants, I’ve lived and/or worked in all boroughs except Staten Island.  

My early interest in the field of psychology led me to pursue the major at SUNY Albany where I gained research experience in clinical eating disorders and semantic word priming. During my senior year I served as an elected student government representative, trained students to operate a crisis hotline and provided sexual health education to the public. I used my last year to intern full time at the New York State Assembly and obtain minors in Political Science and Education. 

My interest in humanities led me to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work at Columbia University, formerly the New York School of Philanthropy. After completing coursework in administration through field work internships at a NYC Public School in Chinatown and Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights, I knew that I wanted to impact change efforts within business.  

Since my graduation in 2015, I’ve served as a director on a non-profit organization and worked at a start-up farm facilitating wholesale flower sales. For my professional career, I got started with in Stamford, Connecticut, then with two start-ups in Manhattan. With nearly a decade in client-facing roles, I decided to leave my business development job in software to pursue my MBA.

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