Business Analytics Symposium

Symposium group

Join us in 2025!

Join us in 2025 for our next annual Business Analytics Symposium. Learn from industry leaders and connect with other analytics professionals during this one-day conference in downtown Des Moines.

The annual Business Analytics Symposium brings together thought leaders and analytics professionals from some of the nation’s leading insurance, financial services, marketing, and manufacturing companies. Iowa’s premier analytics event provides a great opportunity to exchange ideas with experts and peers, learn how to upskill yourself, and network with like-minded professionals.

Read more below about our spring 2024 Business Analytics Symposium.

Business Analytics in the Era of AI

April 2, 2024
9:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center, Des Moines, Iowa
The symposium features three engaging keynotes and breakout sessions from an impressive lineup of speakers on the cutting edge of analytics.

Keynote speakers

  • Unlocking the Power of GenAI: PwC’s Journey to Upskill and Transform

    Discover how PwC is upskilling their entire workforce to better serve clients and transform how they work. Mike Mendola will share insights, success stories, and practical strategies that highlight the power of reskilling and rethinking roles in the face of AI disruption. Mike will explore how PwC is equipping its people as responsible users with the knowledge and skills to harness the full potential of AI.

    Mike MendolaMike Mendola is a leader in PwC’s Products & Technology practice and works to drive innovation at PwC as well as for their clients. Mike’s background in data analytics and generative AI complements his strong accounting background, evidenced by his CPA license and membership with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

    Passionate about leveraging transformative technology, Mike focuses on enhancing efficiency, fostering innovation, and transforming traditional workflows. He currently leads PwC’s initiative to equip its workforce with the skills to use generative AI effectively and responsibly. As a recognized voice in the field, Mike frequently shares his insights on podcasts and at university lectures nationwide, demonstrating how data and technology can drive smarter, more efficient business solutions. Mike resides in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and two dogs and enjoys traveling, BBQ, and spending time outdoors.

    Sponsored by PwC

  • Igniting Change: The Data-Driven Fight to Understand and Prevent Powerline Wildfires

    Steve Vanderburg, Vice President of Weather and Risk Solutions, Technosylva

    Steve-VanderburgOn October 21, 2007, while working a shift at the National Weather Service in San Diego, Steve Vanderburg watched in horror as the Witch Fire erupted out the office window. To his surprise, the advanced warnings of strong winds and extreme fire danger were not enough to prevent catastrophe. Since that day, Steve has dedicated his career to understanding the problem of powerline-caused wildfires and developing solutions to prevent them from ever occurring again.

    Following the 2007 wildfires, Steve joined San Diego Gas & Electric and was part of a team that developed innovative tools and forecast products to enhance situational awareness of the fire weather environment and to support the first-ever Public Safety Power Shutoff program. Many of the program elements developed at SDG&E were later adopted by other Western utilities in response to the increasing risk of wildfire.

    Following the historic 2020 Labor Day wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, Steve left SDG&E for PacifiCorp and led the development of an advanced weather forecasting and situational awareness system to support the company’s wildfire mitigation activities across its six-state service territory. Steve is now the vice president of weather and risk solutions at Technosylva, an industry leader in providing on-demand wildfire risk analysis and wildfire risk forecasting products and services.

    Sponsored by MidAmerican Energy

  • Leveraging the Power of AI in Your Business: Challenges and Opportunities

    A mainstage conversation with senior leaders

    With the increasing presence of artificial intelligence in our professional and personal lives, many business leaders are keen to understand the implication of AI on business operations. How can organizations leverage artificial intelligence to make business operations more efficient and effective? Given the impact of generative AI on business practices, how should companies change the talent management process?

    The symposium will wrap up with an engaging mainstage conversation featuring senior leaders from different organizations. We’ll discuss how artificial intelligence – particularly generative AI – is affecting their organizations and how they are adapting to these transformative changes.

    Courtney Hiveley is president and chief operating officer at Kingland. Courtney is responsible for Kingland’s operations worldwide, including all software delivery, client engagement, security, IT, accounting, and human resource functions for Kingland’s locations throughout the United States and Asia. Courtney is a seasoned leader with a passion for continuous improvement and talent development. She has pioneered many of Kingland’s leading operational practices for quality, efficiency, and client success. Courtney joined Kingland in 2010 and has fulfilled roles in marketing, data operations, client engagement, business analytics, compliance, and other management positions before becoming president in 2023.

    Kelly Jackson is a director of data and analytics at Principal, leading the Benefits and Protection Data and Analytics teams. She has a 24-year career spanning roles in business analysis, software engineering, data architecture, and data analytics, with over 14 of those years being focused on leading teams in these spaces. Kelly is an alumna of Northwest Missouri State University with degrees in international business and computer science and earned an MBA from Drake University.

    Chris Porter is the director of the artificial intelligence program at Drake University and an associate professor of computer science. He is also co-founder of Innovation Profs LLC, which provides training and consulting on generative AI. Prior to joining the Drake faculty in 2016, Chris held postdoctoral positions at the University of Paris Diderot and the University of Florida. He received a joint PhD in mathematics and philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 2012 and an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Gonzaga University in 2003.

    Ken Widner is the vice president of IT engineering for Casey’s General Stores. He joined Casey’s in March 2022 and is responsible for enterprise systems and innovation. While at Casey’s, Ken has championed edge computing, implemented Oracle Retail Foundations, and is currently focused on AI enablement. Over his 25-year career, he has held multiple senior leadership roles across diverse industries, including retail, publishing, market research, manufacturing, and telecommunications. In addition to his technical background, Ken holds a B.A. and M.S. in psychology. He leverages this background to understand how technology impacts behavior and how behaviors are influenced in both customer and corporate environments.

    The session will be moderated by Kevin Scheibe, chair of the Department of Information Systems and Business Analytics at the Iowa State University Ivy College of Business.

Breakout sessions

Breakout session 1

Data Roles: A Multifaceted Perspective

How do you make sense of the many roles and responsibilities on a data team? What does career advancement look like? Join Principal’s Teresa Volcheck for a lively conversation about data roles with a data scientist, data analyst, BI analyst, and insights analyst. Panelists include:

  • Rob Bernard, director of climate risk modeling, PwC
  • Jessica Long, senior data analyst, Retirement and Income Solutions, Principal
  • Bobby Rauch, insights analyst, Casey’s General Stores
  • Ann Walczyk, senior data analyst, EMC Insurance

Rob, Jessica, Bobby, and Ann will talk about a typical work day, the tools they use, expectations of the job vs. reality, and the impact of AI on data roles. The conversation will be moderated by Teresa Volcheck, assistant director of data analytics, Internal Audit and Risk Consulting, at Principal Financial Group.

Rob Bernard is a director of climate risk modeling at PwC where he focuses on physical risk modeling, climate change, and related risk management and risk mitigation strategies. Rob leads a team that develops analytics, models, and quantitative frameworks that estimate the deleterious effects of climate change. He has developed analytics and models in a variety of industries, from simulating long-term land use and demographic change for small towns, to creating machine learning models of fraud detection, and creating innovative natural language processing techniques for measuring engagement, commitment, and understanding in online discussion forums. Rob holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning with a specialization in gaming/simulation studies from the University of Michigan, a bachelor’s degree in psychology and cognitive science from Princeton University, and has recently completed his master’s thesis in predictive analytics from Northwestern University.

Jessica Long is a member of the leadership team for the Retirement and Income Solutions (RIS) Data and Analytics department at Principal. She has been with Principal for 10 years, and has a background in finance, investments, and data analysis. Jessica partners with many different business units within the retirement pillar of Principal to service the gamut of data requests.

Bobby Rauch is an insights analyst with Casey’s with a passion for transforming data into actionable insights from complex analytical datasets, driving communication with business stakeholders, and delivering insights through compelling data visualizations. Bobby has over five years of experience in the field at Fortune 500 companies and holds a master’s degree in business analytics from Iowa State University. In his current role, Bobby specializes in consulting with the business on analytical needs, curating analytical datasets, and transforming them into actionable dashboards for decision making. As part of the Analytics COE, he is accountable for leveraging industry standard analytic platforms to create these capabilities and constantly learns new methodologies and approaches to serve the business.

Ann Walczyk is a senior data analyst at EMC Insurance Companies. Ann started with EMC in 1989 as programmer on the claims system and worked on claims systems for 25 years, transitioning through the positions of programmer analyst, systems analyst, and application systems analyst. Over the course of her career, Ann has been deeply involved in digital transformation efforts from legacy technologies to modern technology systems and applications. More recently, she has been heavily involved in digital transformation efforts to new application platforms, requiring the gathering and disseminating of data from numerous different systems for operational and management reporting needs. Ann holds an MIS degree from the University of Iowa.

Deere Autonomous Machines

Join Jeff Runde for a look at how John Deere is meeting customer needs with autonomous machines. Jeff will preview the company’s autonomous tillage product, which consists of a Deere 8R series tractor, a Deere tillage implement, and the technical stack that runs it. He will also talk about product safety and new technology, such as Deere’s vision-based perception safeguarding system that enables autonomous operation.

Jeff Runde manages the autonomy technical delivery team for John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group. His team works closely with colleagues at Blue River Technology, Bear Flag Robotics, and across John Deere to design Deere’s first autonomous product for large-scale agriculture. Jeff has spent his entire career at Deere, first as a tractor-embedded software engineer, then in the advanced engineering group working on future concepts, before joining the autonomous tillage product development team.

Generative AI in Professional Communication: Strategies for “Human in the Loop” Workflows

Generative AI technologies, like ChatGPT, are transforming the way professionals create and deliver written and professional communication. Early adopters are already using generative AI for tasks such as research, ideation, and drafting, and recent research has demonstrated positive impacts on work efficiency and creativity. This breakout session will explore emerging applications, essential generative AI skills and prompting techniques, and strategies for “human in the loop” communication processes that can increase productivity while maintaining quality standards in professional work. Dr. Anders will provide practical insights and real-world examples that empower attendees to leverage generative AI for business innovation and enhanced communication. This session is designed for professionals, managers, and executives looking to leverage generative AI in their individual and team communication workflows. Attendees will leave with actionable strategies and a deeper understanding of how to effectively integrate generative AI into their professional communication processes.

Abram Anders is the associate director of the Student Innovation Center and associate professor of English at Iowa State University. His research expertise includes business and professional communication, communication and writing pedagogy, generative artificial intelligence, and human-centered design. In fall 2023, he led an experimental course, “Artificial Intelligence and Writing,” that explored applications of generative AI across diverse tools, techniques, and interdisciplinary applications. His research has appeared in College English, Computers & Education, International Journal of Business Communication, and other journals. Dr. Anders was recently recognized with the 2023 Dean’s Arts and Humanities Innovation Award at Iowa State University and the 2022 Outstanding Article Award from the International Journal of Business Communication.

Leveraging AI in Financial Services

Generative AI is currently a major focus in the media and corporate spheres, yet integrating this emerging technology into the established ecosystems and governance frameworks of financial services companies poses unique challenges. In this presentation, Dan Becker will discuss how Sammons Financial Group is capitalizing on generative AI to drive impactful business outcomes in a responsible manner, including writing this summary. Gain insights into the alignment of generative AI with government regulations, discern the reality beyond the buzz, and explore practical use cases that benefit roles across the spectrum, from customer service representatives to advanced data scientists.

Dan Becker currently serves as the associate vice president for life analytics and data science at Sammons Financial Group in West Des Moines, Iowa. Dan’s responsibilities include setting the data strategy for the Life business, driving the growth of analytical acumen throughout the organization, and leveraging data science capabilities to enhance how Sammons and its related companies grow in the marketplace. Through these efforts Dan and his team employ a number of artificial intelligence techniques, including leveraging generative AI to gain efficiencies in the business. Dan began his career as a CPA specializing in tax consulting, but found his way to corporate finance and eventually to leading analytics teams in the financial services industry. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his two young children, golfing, and cheering on ISU athletics.

Breakout session 2

Audience Targeting in a Post-Cookie World

The ongoing deprecation of third-party cookies presents a challenge, driving up advertising costs and diminishing profits for publishers. In response, Dotdash Meredith has introduced D/Cipher, a groundbreaking solution that facilitates intent-based ad targeting at scale without relying on cookies. This innovation enables Dotdash Meredith to effectively reach users across all devices, including unlocking access to Apple’s (iOS) audiences, which comprise more than half of all U.S. digital users. With D/Cipher, advertisers can connect with 30 million people daily at crucial decision-making moments, whether they are pursuing passions, taking action, or seeking information across Dotdash Meredith’s diverse portfolio of over 40 iconic brands.

Bethany Klebanov is senior vice president of data science at Dotdash Meredith, the largest digital and print publisher in America. Data Science routinely collaborates with others from across the organization (engineering, product management, research, editorial teams, and more) to ensure we are producing relevant, business-focused data science products that support revenue growth and efficiency for Dotdash Meredith’s iconic brands, including PEOPLE, Better Homes & Gardens, Verywell, Food & Wine, The Spruce, Allrecipes, Byrdie, REAL SIMPLE, Investopedia, and Southern Living. Bethany has a PhD in mathematical behavioral science from the University of California, Irvine, and a B.S. in applied mathematics (operations research) from Carnegie Mellon University.

Advancing Your Analytics Career

Navigating a career in analytics can be challenging and extremely rewarding. It’s not always easy to determine what skills you should be focused on, figuring out how to stay ahead and get noticed, or even identifying the next step. Listen in as Jenny Schmidt and Sarah Weno chat about the current job market for data scientists, how to advance in your analytics career, and what leaders are looking for in the next generation of data scientists.

Jenny Schmidt, founder of J Schmidt Consulting, is an expert in developing analytics talent. As an experienced leadership and career coach, Jenny works with those seeking to enter the analytics field and analytics professionals to advance in their careers. She also partners with analytics leaders and HR executives to develop analytics talent and facilitates team-building workshops to improve the productivity and effectiveness of analytics teams. Jenny is an expert panelist for the International Institute for Analytics (IIA) and a founder of the Des Moines Data & Analytics Meetup, a networking group for data and analytics professionals.

Sarah Weno is the assistant vice president for digital product management at EMC Insurance Companies. Sarah started her career as an actuary, building predictive models for pricing algorithms, and transitioned to a data scientist role in 2017, when she earned her master’s in business analytics from Iowa State University. She led the data science team for several years before accepting her current position. Sarah is a resilient, passionate, and outcome-oriented individual with a history of leading with a strategic mindset and analytic approach.

Data Unleashed: Navigating the Edge – From Frankenstein’s Monster to Transformative Solutions

In this presentation, Stephen Smith and Jeffrey Kappen explore the fine line between innovation and chaos. Learn how seemingly good practices can go rogue if not wielded with care. Uncover the secrets of psychologically safe data practices, crowdsourcing, and choice architecture, and how they can turn into powerful forces when harnessed correctly—or unleash a data monster if mishandled. We’ll unravel the art of measuring what truly matters and examine the crucial criterion for success: not just using data, but bringing people along for the ride.

Stephen Smith leads the people analytics, client solutions, and product development areas at Reworc. After working in both human resources and corporate real estate in people operations roles, Stephen has focused on driving workforce and workplace transformation by using data and information to leverage optimum work and work environments. He understands the connection between people, place, and performance and is a leader at connecting solutions to the evidence that supports it. Accordingly, Stephen is focused on high performance and the evolution of work and teams in the organizations he serves. Stephen has enhanced survey and analytics experience, due to his Fortune 100 experience and his master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology from Louisiana Tech University.

Jeffrey A. Kappen is a founding partner of Bâton Global, serving as an advisor to private and public sector organizations on the development and execution of their global strategies, leadership development programs, and market analyses. Concurrent to his leadership role at Bâton Global, Jeff is also an associate professor of management and international business at Drake University. In addition to teaching in the areas of leadership, management, global studies, and sustainable development, he maintains an active research agenda on emerging trends in sustainability, the influence of culture on the formation of transnational partnerships, and linguistic diversity in organizations. Jeff holds a B.A. with honors from Beloit College, an MBA from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD in management and organization studies from the University of Massachusetts.

Presenting Data to Executive Audiences

Discover the power of data-driven messaging! In this talk, you will learn how to effectively leverage data to support and enhance your message, present data in a clear and engaging way, and make a lasting impact on key decision-makers and upper management. Come see how to use data as a powerful tool to increase your influence and impact.

As a principal engineer at Intel Corporation, Joyce Weiner has experience presenting to vice presidents and members of the executive leadership team. She has over 25 years of industry experience in client computing, fabrication, and assembly/test manufacturing. Joyce has successfully led projects that leverage AI to assist system designers, strengthen product quality, and boost efficiency. She holds a B.S. in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an M.S. in optical sciences from the University of Arizona, and is a Lean Six Sigma black belt. Joyce wrote her first book, “Why AI/Data Science Projects Fail: How to Avoid Project Pitfalls,” in 2021. A second book, on XGBoost, is in the works. In addition to writing, Joyce enjoys running 5K races, calligraphy, and reading.

Breakout session 3

Unleashing the Economic Value of Your Data

Data is widely considered the most valuable asset in the world; that data is no longer just the exhaust of the business, but more and more is becoming the business. If data is the new oil in driving the economic growth of the 21st century, then how effective is your organization at leveraging data and analytics to derive and drive new sources of business and operational value?

Bill Schmarzo is the head of customer data innovation for Dell Technologies’ Office of the CTO. He is responsible for guiding Dell’s data management product strategy to help customers unleash the value of their data.

Bill is the former chief innovation officer at Hitachi Vantara, where he was responsible for driving Hitachi Vantara’s data science and “co-creation” efforts. He received Hitachi Limited’s 2020 Solution Innovation Award for his ground-breaking work in data science and automated machine learning. Bill previously served as chief technology officer at Dell EMC, where he formulated the company’s Big Data Practice strategy and identified target markets, developed solution frameworks, and led analytics client engagements with his Vision Workshop, a methodology that links an organization’s strategic business initiatives with supporting data and analytics. As the vice president of analytics at Yahoo, Bill delivered the analytics tools and applications that optimized customers’ online marketing spend.

Bill is the author of Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business, Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science, and his most recent book, The Economics of Data, Analytics, and Digital Transformation. He is currently finishing his fifth book, AI & Data Literacy: Empowering Citizens of Data Science.

Powering Enterprise Decision Making: Data Science at Scale in the Power and Utilities Industry

Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s data and analytics organization is pioneering new technology and industry-leading analytics. In this session, we will take a deep dive into how BHE’s centralized data science team is structured, and we will discuss how the team deploys common energy utility use cases at an enterprise scale across BHE’s subsidiary companies. BHE’s data and analytics team builds decision support through analytics at all levels of the organization in areas such as asset performance management, grid and generation investment optimization, wildfire risk mitigation, and generation forecasting.

Daniel Madison is the Enterprise Data Science team lead at Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Daniel’s work focuses on implementing data science platforms at scale and bringing common use cases across Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s many utility companies. He leads data science projects in key areas such as wildfire risk mitigation, asset performance management, grid investment optimization, and energy supply management. Daniel is also an adjunct instructor of computer science at Drake University, where he completed his undergraduate degree in mathematics and computer science.

BHE subsidiaries operate a diverse portfolio of renewable energy generation, transmission, and distribution, as well as natural gas pipelines, generation, and storage. Some of BHE’s subsidiaries include MidAmerican Energy, PacifiCorp, NV Energy, BHE Renewables, and BHE Pipeline Group.

Data Vigilance: Skeptical Strategies for Spotting and Debunking Misinformation in Analytics and Machine Learning

In our increasingly data-driven world, it’s crucial to be vigilant consumers of information. In this session, we will delve into essential strategies to identify and challenge misinformation. You’ll learn how to evaluate data-driven claims critically, spot common pitfalls in analytics and machine learning models, and employ skepticism to uncover bias or inaccuracies. This session will provide you with valuable tools and insights to navigate the complex world of data analysis and become a more informed consumer of information.

Man Basnet is an associate teaching professor of information systems and business analytics at Iowa State University. Recognized with a teaching excellence award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dr. Basnet brings extensive experience to mathematics and data science classes, utilizing innovative teaching methods in Python programming and business analytics courses. His dedication extends to involving undergraduates in research, exploring areas like business data analytics, mathematics, and data science, and employing machine learning for skin cancer diagnosis. Dr. Basnet frequently presents at the Midwest Big Data Summer School at Iowa State University. He holds a PhD in applied mathematics and a master’s degree in data analytics.

Breaking Out of the Code: Unleashing Generative AI Capabilities

Learn how teams across Principal are collaborating through generative AI initiatives. John and Emily will share insights into how generative AI can enhance roles in various departments when engineering teams partner with stakeholders outside of IT during development. The session will also explore how tools are being designed with principles of responsible AI and a focus on usability. You’ll leave with practical knowledge of how cross-functional partnerships are leveraging this emerging technology to streamline processes while preparing workers for higher-impact work.

John D. Moore is assistant director of AI enablement at Principal. In the past six years, he has led software, data, and machine learning engineering teams and programs in Principal’s Benefits and Protection business unit. John started his career in business and data analytics before moving into IT. He recently moved into an enterprise-level role with a mission to deliver on the value proposition of AI.

Emily Ma is a product manager at Principal, currently leading the machine learning operations and AI enablement teams. In this role, she is responsible for leading the development of tools and processes to operationalize machine learning models and scale AI initiatives. Emily started her career in this space three years ago as a data and analytics consultant, helping business partners leverage data and analytics to drive business value. She is passionate about creating user-centric products and solutions that deliver tangible outcomes. Emily enjoys tackling challenging problems at the intersection of technology and business.

Symposium agenda

8:15 a.m.Check-in
9:00 a.m.Welcome from Scott Johnson, Associate Dean for Research and Academic Personnel
Iowa State University Ivy College of Business
9:10 a.m.“Unlocking the Power of GenAI: PwC’s Journey to Upskill and Transform”
Keynote address sponsored by PwC
10:00 a.m.Networking break
10:20 a.m.Breakout Session 1 – see options above
11:10 a.m.Networking break
11:30 a.m.Breakout Session 2 – see options above
12:20 p.m.Lunch
1:00 p.m.“Igniting Change: The Data-Driven Fight to Understand and Prevent Powerline Wildfires”
Keynote address sponsored by MidAmerican Energy
1:50 p.m.Networking break
2:10 p.m.Breakout Session 3 – see options above
3:00 p.m.Networking break
3:20 p.m.Mainstage Conversation: Leveraging the Power of AI in Your Business
4:20 p.m.Closing remarks and networking reception


  • Single tickets are $150.
  • Take advantage of special group pricing for teams of three or more! Get $20 off each ticket when you register three or more people.
  • Registration fee includes lunch and a networking reception.
  • Symposium attendees can receive automatic admission*, an application fee waiver, and a $1,000 scholarship to one of four Ivy College of Business master’s programs: the master of business analytics, master of accounting analytics, master of healthcare analytics and operations, or the professional MBA.
  • Registration ends March 25.

Continuing professional education

Symposium participants can earn up to 6.2 credits of continuing professional education. CPE credits from the conference are accepted by the Iowa Accountancy Examining Board. Out-of-state participants should check with their state board of accountancy to determine eligibility.

Special offer for symposium attendees

Symposium attendees can receive automatic admission*, an application fee waiver, and a $1,000 scholarship to one of four Ivy College of Business master’s programs: the master of business analytics, master of accounting analytics, master of healthcare analytics and operations, or the professional MBA.

Eligible candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally-accredited college or university with a minimum GPA of 2.75 and at least one year of work experience in business, information technology, or an engineering-related field. The GMAT/GRE is not required. To receive an application fee waiver, contact This scholarship is for newly admitted students only. Current and returning Ivy master’s students are not eligible.

* Applications still require final approval by the Iowa State University Graduate College.

Symposium sponsors

The Business Analytics Symposium is made possible thanks to the generous support of the following sponsors:

  • MidAmerican Energy
  • PwC
  • John Deere
  • EMC Insurance
  • Dotdash Meredith
  • Iowa State University Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS)
  • Kingland
  • Nationwide
  • Principal

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Suzanne Lyndon