Published: May 27, 2022

Software company’s co-founder says businesses need graduates who aren’t intimidated by data.

Libby Duane leans on a stairwell in a conference center.

When she co-founded Alteryx 25 years ago, Libby Duane saw a need to bring business analytics to the masses. Part of that vision now includes scholarships for Leeds students like Jordyn Gerstle-Goodman (below right), who graduated in May.

When she co-founded Alteryx in 1997, Libby Duane and her partners had a clear vision for a future in which business analytics would go from being the role of a specialized set of knowledge workers to the responsibility of everyone throughout the organization.

It’s safe to say that the world, in the last 25 years, has proved her right. 

“Analytics is no longer reserved for just a chosen few in the business,” she said. “It has become our responsibility, as business leaders, to ensure students are graduating with these data and analytics skills, to make them better job candidates and prepare them for long-term success.” 

That’s a key reason that Alteryx has become a partner for life-changing scholarships at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. Beyond extending support for underrepresented and first-generation college students, Duane—now chief advocacy officer at the software company—said the business world needs graduates who aren’t intimidated by data. 

“Data is not going away. And the ability to work with data is a job-required skill now,” she said. “And the more students invest in that skill set, and develop their ability to work with data, the richer their career opportunities are.” 

Jordyn Gerstle-Goodman in front of the Rustandy Building.That’s certainly true for Jordyn Gerstle-Goodman (IA, Fin’21; MSBA’22). She learned about data science during her undergraduate work, and thanks to an Alteryx scholarship, was able to immediately pursue her master’s degree while getting exposure to an invaluable set of tools. 

“With the Alteryx scholarship specifically, it’s very much centered around my skill set,” said Gerstle-Goodman, who is returning to Disney following an internship in data analysis at the company. “The money obviously helps, but there are also these great learning opportunities. I got to attend coding boot camps and had access to Alteryx tools, in addition to job opportunities.”  

While Gerstle-Goodman is a confident coder, Duane—who has a background in marketing—is not. But that doesn’t mean she abstains from analysis.

“Modern analytics is both code-free and code-friendly,” she said. “We need to be able to support all the learning styles and skills that every learner has, and that’s what the Alteryx analytics platform enables. It enables you to learn analytics as a code-free individual, which is me.” 

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“Data is not going away. And the ability to work with data is a job-required skill now.”

Libby Duane, co-founder and chief advocacy officer, Alteryx

That’s a key reason Alteryx is so invested in business school students, through scholarships as well as its SparkED educational initiative. The company does support students in other disciplines, from engineering and computer science to medicine, “but it’s business schools where we see all these departments and disciplines that have built pipelines to companies that are the biggest consumers of analytics right now,” she said. Alteryx and Leeds share another key connection—the company’s executive chairman, Dean Stoecker, is a Leeds alumnus who studied international business at CU Boulder.

A key feature of business programs

At Leeds, analytics have become a core feature of many academic programs, from undergraduate programs in information management and accounting to master’s degrees in supply-chain management and business analytics. Earlier this month, with support from Alteryx, Leeds hosted a conference for directors of business analytics master’s programs, to help schools examine best practices and figure out how to collaborate in keeping cutting-edge programs current with the requirements of industry.

And for those business schools, Duane said, it’s important to ensure graduates are comfortable with data while getting familiar with analytics, and learn how to interpret information and use data to tell a story to make better decisions—regardless of what industry they end up in. 

“It does not matter where your passions are,” she said. “Whether you have an interest in entertainment, fashion, automotive, financial services, sports—analytics is everywhere, because data is everywhere. Students shouldn’t think, ‘I’m going to go into fashion, I don’t need analytics.’ Yes, you do.”

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