MS-BA alum dribbles his way to e-commerce position at Overstock.com

During a pick-up basketball game one afternoon during his high school years, Brad Tilley saw an opening, took a shot, and scored. He didn’t take too much time to enjoy his victory, however, as he was busy doing the math in his head, tracking his points and rebounds, and calculating his stats and shooting percentages.

Sports and numbers have always intrigued Tilley. Reading an article on ESPN.com one day, he learned that sports statisticians could predict the expected points per possession at any time during a basketball game. He was impressed.

“Then I knew that I wanted to be able to do analysis like that,” he said.

That article showed Tilley he could combine two of his passions and turn them into a career. But careers in information and data science were tough, he thought, and he wasn’t sure he was up for the challenge.

He pursued an undergraduate degree in business management at Brigham Young University in Utah. Naturally, he was drawn to data analysis classes. He also learned a bit of coding and how to write SQL in his first job out of college. It wasn’t as tough as he thought, and he actually enjoyed it.

“I learned that it’s not that hard, anyone can learn it, and it’s kind of fun,” he says.

Putting full-court press toward degree

After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Tilley went to work in health care. But he couldn’t deny his interest in crunching numbers and analyzing the data, so he decided to quit his job and enroll in the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MS-BA) program full time. He devoted everything to the program, as he knew he would get out of it what he put in, he says.

He graduated in 2017 and is now a senior marketing analyst at Overstock.com. He credits his degree and the skills he learned in the program with helping him get the job.

“The MS-BA definitely set me up to get the job,” Tilley says. “I don’t think I would have gotten the job without my degree. That makes it worth it.”

Tilley, a California native, chose the master’s degree program at W. P.  Carey because of its high ranking, and it wasn’t a brand new program, like many other data analytics programs. The W. P.  Carey MS-BA had some seniority compared to similar programs around the country.

One of the big eye-openers Tilley learned during the program was that 90 percent of the data collected in the world today has only been collected in the past two years — which means the big data revolution is only just beginning, he says.

Making a slam dunk in data analyst job

Tilley is enjoying being in the midst of an ever-changing and fast-moving industry. Opportunities to learn new tools and analyze different and new types of data are endless in his job.

When you’re a data analyst, you’re constantly learning or else you’ll become outdated. 

As a senior marketing analyst in e-commerce, Tilley works on web and email marketing analytics, pulling and analyzing data to determine the best way to market to Overstock.com customers.

One of his recent projects focused on the impact of new product photography from the Overstock.com photo studio. He created an algorithm to use a clustering analysis to compare the performance of the test products — couches or bar stools, for example — that got new images to similar products that didn’t get new photography. Then he looked at the clicks and sales from the product web pages of all the products before and after the new pictures went live.

Comparing those numbers showed the test products received a 13 percent lift in clicks to the product page and about $18,000 more in sales annually

— Brad Tilley

He also gets to experiment with A/B testing on the company’s website homepage. He creates two versions of the homepage and sends half the website traffic to the A page, a blue version for example, and the other half to the B page, a red version. Then Tilley queries the database using SQL to pull the data and find out how each version performs. Next, he runs statistical tests to see if the blue or red homepage had a higher rate of converting website visits to sales and the sale amount per visitor on each homepage version.

Until he lands his dream job — a data analyst for his favorite NBA team the Utah Jazz — he says he thoroughly enjoys every day at his new job. “Overstock truly values analysts. They can’t hire them fast enough.”

In fact, Tilley is reaching out to his MS-BA classmates to fill some of the job openings. Proof that the MS-BA has incredible potential, and data analytics jobs are in high demand.

He lives in Utah with his wife and three small children, spending weekends at his daughter’s soccer games and cheering for the Jazz.