This TCU MBA Is Creating Her Own Opportunities in the Growing Business Analytics Field

Tracey Smith, MBA '06

In business, every transaction, whether it involves an actual economic exchange or not, leaves a trail of information. Collecting that information is one thing. Organizing that data and transforming it into knowledge that informs actual business decisions and contributes to the bottom line, however, requires special expertise.

Tracey Smith (TCU MBA ‘06) is one such expert. In 2013, she founded Numerical Insights LLC, a boutique analytics firm that provides consulting expertise to clients such as Adidas, FedEx and ServiceMax. With her impressive background in engineering, supply chain and strategic operations, has also wisely leveraged the skills she honed at Neeley to establish herself as an author and speaker on numerous topics.

The Business of Analytics

Throughout her career, Tracey has helped various employers use data analysis to make better decisions about both their products and their operations. In 2013, she decided it “was time to help more than one company at a time harvest the benefits of mathematical techniques.” Through Numerical Insights, she helps clients use analytics in a strategic approach to business decisions -- whether it's operational data, factory data, inventory, procurement spend, product demand or HR workforce data.

Numerical Insights consults with clients and helps them to:

  • Align their metrics and KPIs with their business objectives.
  • Create online dashboards for easy data access.
  • Provide education (via workshops) to their employees.
  • Host on-site events and book engagements for guest speakers.

The creation of Numerical Insights opened new opportunities for Tracey while also providing her with the higher-level challenges she sought for her career. She adds that completing the MBA program at TCU gave her the broad business knowledge required to confidently launch and run her own business.

In addition to leading Numerical Insights, Tracey has maintained a busy schedule speaking at conferences. She's also authored both scholarly articles and books on topics as diverse as strategic workforce planning and data-driven decision-making for small businesses.

Tracey’s First Analytics Assignment: Assessing The Value Of A TCU MBA

Before enrolling at TCU, Tracey led a research and development team at a Canadian automotive supply company. In that role, Tracey was instrumental in creating numerical simulations predicting the heat transfer and fluid flow characteristics of the company's products. Rewarding as her job was, Tracey chose to pursue an MBA in the hopes of building skills that would allow her to transition away from such highly specialized technical work, expand her range of expertise and perhaps even move into a career in a different industry.

After much investigation and research into MBA programs across the United States, Tracey ultimately chose TCU. Her reasoning?

  • The program focused on an area of significant interest to her: supply chain management. Moreover, Neeley could help Tracey become more familiar with the latest trends in supply chain management by providing access to expert faculty such as Associate Professor of Supply Chain Practice Laura Meade.
  • The required courses at Neeley concentrated on all the subjects — including finance, managerial accounting, marketing and entrepreneurship — Tracey felt she needed to complement her strong quantitative proficiencies.
  • One-third of Tracey's student cohort would be enrolling at Neeley from outside of the U.S., bringing a truly global perspective to the program. At the same time, TCU's relationship with leading businesses in North Texas meant that the full-time MBA program would serve as a great introduction to the practices and decision-making processes of American corporations.

For Tracey, Neeley Excelled At Making Her Educational Personal

Once she began her studies at TCU, Tracey discovered just how flexible and individually tailored her education could be. One of Tracey's professors recognized that she needed a higher-level challenge in “decision sciences” because of her engineering background. So they took the time to develop and arrange an independent study project for Tracey, then collaborated on the project with her, one-on-one, throughout the semester.

Beyond the specific knowledge she gleaned from her coursework, Tracey found great value in simply being a part of a community of like-minded people. Tracey says that some of the most important and memorable experiences she had at TCU revolved around sharing insights and stories from the workplace with her fellow students — and, on occasion, alumni. These conversations also presented Tracey with multiple opportunities to learn about international business practices, shaping a larger context in which she could map out her professional goals. Tracey also benefited from Neeley's investment in experiential learning, leading a team of colleagues on a real-world consulting engagement to assess the feasibility of a new product.

All in all, Tracey's unique experience at Neeley helped her develop a realistic picture of the challenges she would face when launching her own consulting practice. Additionally, Tracey left the program equipped what she describes as “knowledge of the typical challenges companies face in supply chain and how to leverage the use of data analysis to resolve issues with inventory, supplier compliance and product profitability.”

Learning From Her Successes

Shortly after graduating, Tracey obtained a job as a Continuous Improvement Manager, leading supply chain improvement projects for a large automotive retailer. Following that, she worked in the Supply Chain department of a global Fortune 500 company. Both roles allowed her to build her resume and prepared her for the task of finding a successful niche for the services she wanted to provide via Numerical Insights.

Tracey recommends that other professionals who aspire to become leaders in her industry pursue an MBA “to gain a much broader understanding of how business decisions impact each area of an organization and the strategic through processes that businesses undergo.” She believes that, while her background in mathematics and engineering provided her with the technical skills needed to excel in the first decade of her career, without an MBA, her opportunities for advancement would have remained constrained to purely technical roles.

Looking back, Tracey says her experience at Neeley can be boiled down to three simple yet powerful pieces of advice she would dispense to any prospective TCU MBA student.

  1. Make a list of what you would like to accomplish by the time you complete your MBA. Are you trying to transition your skills to a new function or industry? Are you trying to grow into a leadership position within your current function or industry?
  2. Work with your Neeley advisors to determine how you can customize your MBA curriculum and best align it with your goals.
  3. Take full advantage of every opportunity to get involved with projects that allow you to work with actual companies on real-world business problems. These experiences are invaluable.

Learn more about how the experiential learning curriculum, international focus, accomplished professionals and industry thought leaders associated with TCU’s MBA program all contribute to student success stories like Tracey's by visiting the Neeley School of Business website.

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