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Annual Business Analytics Symposium draws big crowd in Des Moines

Guest Speaker

Business Analytics in the Era of Artificial Intelligence

Nearly 450 people attended the 2024 Business Analytics Symposium, held on April 2 at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in downtown Des Moines. The annual event is hosted by the Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business.

Iowa’s premier analytics event brought together industry leaders and analytics professionals from some of the nation’s leading insurance, financial services, marketing, and manufacturing companies. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Business Analytics in the Era of Artificial Intelligence.”

Mike Mendola, a leader in PwC’s Products and Technology practice, delivered the opening keynote, “Unlocking the Power of GenAI: PwC’s Journey to Upskill and Transform.” Mendola described how PwC is upskilling their entire workforce to better serve clients and harness the full potential of artificial intelligence. He shared insights and practical strategies for reskilling and rethinking roles in the face of AI disruption.

Steve Vanderburg, vice president of weather and risk solutions at Technosylva, delivered the lunchtime keynote, “Igniting Change: The Data-Driven Fight to Understand and Prevent Powerline Wildfires.” A former meteorologist for the National Weather Service and two utility companies, Vanderburg described the increasing risk of wildfire facing the western United States and the advanced weather forecasting and situational awareness systems utility companies have developed to support wildfire mitigation activities.

The symposium concluded with a mainstage conversation, “Leveraging the Power of AI in Your Business: Challenges and Opportunities.” The wide-ranging discussion explored how organizations are incorporating AI into business practices, upskilling initiatives for employees, and the skills needed to succeed in business analytics. The conversation featured:


  • Courtney Hiveley, president and chief operating officer of Kingland.
  • Kelly Jackson, a director of data and analytics at Principal.
  • Christopher Porter, director of the artificial intelligence program at Drake University.
  • Ken Widner, vice president of IT engineering for Casey’s General Stores.

Throughout the day, participants enjoyed breakout sessions from an impressive lineup of speakers on the cutting edge of analytics. The symposium provides a high-quality professional development opportunity for analytics professionals at all career levels.

The 2024 symposium was sponsored by MidAmerican Energy, PwC, John Deere, EMC Insurance, Dotdash Meredith, Kingland, Nationwide Insurance, Principal, and the Iowa State University Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS).

The Ivy College of Business offers several academic programs in business analytics, including bachelor’s and master’s programs as well as a graduate certificate.

April 10, 2024