Emblematic of emlyon business school’s constant drive to prepare industry-ready graduates of its programs is the MSc in Digital Marketing & Data Science, which tackles head-on the issue of the continued relevance of teaching computer programming to future marketing technologists. When time is money and ready-made IT solutions are king in certain parts of the business world, are the resources spent on coding too much of a luxury? Get the academic, corporate, and student say on the matter.

Time vs. money – a business and academic conundrum - Clément Levallois (Associate Professor, emlyon business school)

“The fact of the matter is that companies need Big Data, big time. Digital platforms, Artificial Intelligence and customer analytics are just three of the areas where Big Data is having a major impact and for which coding skills are crucial in knowing how to use such data. They’re almost like twin brothers, if you like. The problem is, computer programming is bespoke and therefore comes at a cost, both in terms of time and money, hence why many businesses go down the plug-and-play route. To relieve analysts of the time it will take to build programming tools, ready-made solutions are often presented as being as good an option as having knowledge of data science and a real plus for non-coders”.

“In keeping with the hybrid nature of our MSc and the student profiles it attracts, we offer the best of both worlds by exploring the customized and ready-to-go approaches. This ensures graduates of the program are industry-ready for scenarios and companies where one or other or both the approaches may be required. Coding isn’t a thing of the past, and rightly so.”

Learning how things work and how to design them – Garance Caze (MSc DMDS alumna, program instructor and Career Manager – Devoteam)

“Being both a former student of the MSc and an instructor on the program has allowed me to create tailor-made content. When I created the curriculum, I took the time to list all the things that my fellow classmates and I liked and disliked as students before designing my lectures. There was a strong preference for real projects that I could talk about or show during interviews and interactive courses”.

“I had already encountered the debate surrounding coding before choosing to take the MSc. In fact, it was one of my main reasons for doing so. Previously, I had worked as a revenue manager for hotels, which involved forecasting demand and defining pricing and distribution strategy. For this, we used off-the-shelf prediction tools that were often inaccurate and beyond common sense. It was very annoying to work with black boxes and I chose to study data science to understand how prediction models work and to be able to design my own tools”.

“From my perspective as both a program instructor and a professional I can see how important securing employment is to students of the MSc. With this in mind, we have intentionally created concrete course content which they can use to promote their profile with potential recruiters and within the networks they set up in parallel to their studies”.

Coding from scratch and facing the debate – Aparna Nair (MSc DMDS student)

“Some might say that ready-made solutions are the future of programming. While no-code tools and pre-made solutions have the potential to make development much faster and hassle-free, you will still need code to bind everything together. The DMDS program focuses on giving you a foundation for critical as well as logical thinking and translating these skills into writing code from scratch. Data Analysis with Python was one of our core courses, fostering analytical thinking through programming. Ready-made solutions and tools are also well integrated into the program as exemplified by the third trimester's choice of electives: Robotic Process Automation and Dataiku, where we had professionals training us on the nuances of their respective software. So, at the end of our studies, we are equipped with a plethora of highly transferable skills that equip us to adapt well to the changing landscape”.

“It's perfectly possible that I will be faced with the coding-versus-ready-made dilemma in the future, but I believe I could handle such a situation. As the sophistication of pre-made solutions increases, the demand for developers will also increase. Also, considering the limited scalability associated with pre-made solutions, we might be looking at a future where custom solutions are integrated with low code. In such a scenario, being able to understand the source code will be a definite advantage. Thanks to the opportunities the MSc gives to code websites from scratch, build software robots, and train machine learning models, you will have no regrets learning how to code, despite the debates surrounding the future of programming”.