Nov 22 • 3 min read

What do business analytics and playing classical guitar have in common? 

While that sounds like the beginning of a joke with a cheesy punchline, the answer is, apparently, quite a lot. 

“Music is so much about communication—presenting your ideas and getting that across to the listener,” says Gideon Whitehead, MSBA ’18. “In so many respects, it’s exactly the same thing when we talk about being ‘technical translators’ in data analysis.” 

The Fox School curricula for graduate and undergraduate students emphasize the importance of understanding both the technical aspects of business analytics and how to translate them to professionals without the same level of technical knowledge. 

This skillset, which Whitehead has been honing throughout his professional life and in his new position as a software engineer at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, is also helpful in his other life as a guitarist and music tutor. 

Gideon Whitehead

“You have your ‘craft’—the statistics you’ve analyzed, the visualizations you created—and it’s all about how you communicate that,” says Whitehead. “As I continue to teach music, I find more parallels and I’ve learned a lot about how to do my day job. Learning the more effective way to communicate in order to help stakeholders make the right decisions.” 

Whitehead’s interest in business analytics came from his time working as a clinical research assistant at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. During his time there, Whitehead had a variety of responsibilities, including using programs such as Python to comb through data from doctors’ offices. 

“An issue in healthcare is ‘no shows,’ or patients who schedule appointments and don’t show up,” Whitehead says. “So either doctor have large holes in their schedule, or they overbook to compensate for no shows, which can lead to long wait times if everyone does show up. So I was tasked with doing some basic analysis—how many patients we saw in a particular location vs. other locations year over year. I started getting more interested in the predictive analytics side of things.” 

He began to use his analytical experience to predict the likelihood of patients showing up to appointments. From there, he was hooked. He decided to pursue a business analytics degree, and that the part-time Masters of Science in Business Analytics was right for him. 

“With my day job and teaching music lessons across the city, plus my oldest child being one year old at the time, the flexibility was important,” he says. 

Professors in the program helped tailor lessons to Whiteheads’ skill level, having worked with Python and other systems like SQL for several years at his job. 

“I was in the course Data: Care, Feeding, and Cleaning in Python and I was very well versed with that kind of thing, so Professor (Eric) Eisenstein allowed me to do some more advanced things to fulfill the requirement and enhance my skill set.” 

Along with starting his new position in November 2021, Whitehead recently spoke on a Data Science Alumni Panel for the Fox School. To learn more about Whitehead and listen to some of his music, visit his website. 

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