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Expert Advice: MBS Alumni Data Analytics Panel

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One of the greatest perks of being an MBS student is getting to draw on the vast knowledge and expertise of the successful alumni who so readily return to MBS to share what they’ve learned and what’s going on in their respective fields. The much-awaited “Data Analytics Panel” event was no different. Hosted virtually by Abbe Rosenthal, MA, PCC, and Dr. Christie Nelson on October 5, 2020, more than 73 MBS Analytics students were in attendance as seven distinguished alumni shared their MBS experiences and insights regarding their career growth and development.

From learning about the most cutting-edge (and preferred) software and resources to navigating the pandemic, current MBS students made the most of this virtual networking opportunity as they interacted with panelists to learn what it takes to make it in the fast-growing, ever-changing field of analytics.

About the Panelists:


Adam Olsen MBS'19adam

Currently working as the Principal Modeling and Simulation Engineer at Northrop Grumman, Adam performs space analytics using data science skills and technical skills including Python, Alteryx, and Tableau. His background includes engineering, design, fabrication, cost analysis, procurement, installation, configuration change, development, documentation, surveying, and integration of approved projects. He currently collaborates with government organizations and contractor personnel to coordinate “test and operation” activities for the installed simulation systems in accordance with the priorities and objectives for each supported facility.


Aishwarya Gunde MBS'18gunde


Passionate about understanding data patterns and transforming them into future insights, Aishwarya strives to make an impact in the developing fields of technology, health, and public safety, and is driven to continuously learn and evolve in the field of data science and predictive analytics.  Her current role as an analyst of commercial data science at Abbott, she has pioneered advanced analytics techniques to better comprehend ordering patterns, customer base(s), measuring loss and decline, and leveraging external market data integrated with internal data to gain insights on customer behavior, building risk models, and—ultimately—recommending strategies to retain at-risk and lost customers.


sonalSonal Oberoi MBS'18

Currently a Data Scientist at Convoy Inc., Sonal has extensive experience in working with complex data management through her wide-ranging consulting experience as well as through previous roles as a data analyst for both Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Aramark Corporation, where she applied her technical skills towards the goal of solving business issues with actionable data science solutions. Transitioning her engineering knowledge—her undergraduate degree was in engineering— to data science was successful because of her passion to learn and explore data-driven solutions.


xueBingbing Xue MBS'17

With a strong experience in data analytics, database design, and visualization in the field of finance—banking, in particular—Bingbing currently serves as Vice President, Risk Management for Morgan Stanley. Her role requires her to focus on developing models to generate reports on risk for third-party data. Bingbing’s past and present experience utilizes variety of technical tools including SQL, SAS, R, and Python to name a few. She is also a certified mentor for Coursera’s Fundamentals of Visualization with Tableau.



moranCraig Moran MBS'17

A marketing analytics leader known for delivering results that impact key business decisions and support the resolution of complex business problems, Craig is a senior manager of data operations at Throtle. Not only does he have strong relationship-building skills and cross-functional collaboration experience with key stakeholders to deliver impactful, actionable insights which support senior marketers in driving customer acquisition and engagement, but he also gives back to his alma mater regularly participating in panel events and by serving on the MBS Industrial Advisory Board. 


ketanKetan Walia MBS'17

A Data Science Lead at Axtria – Ingenious Insights, Ketan’s strong quantitative background—as well as 5+ years of experience in providing machine learning and statistical modeling-based business solutions to top multinational corporations (MNCs) in industries including healthcare, pharma, automotive, and finance—has given him extensive expertise with technologies including Python, R, SQL, TensorFlow, Dask, Cloud, and Hadoop. He has hands-on experience in Natural Language Processing and Deep Learning and is passionate about leveraging data science to provide value-based solutions.


plaisirBeethoven Plaisir MBS'18

Working as a consultant with the Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions (EFI) team at the World Bank, Beethoven works to develop analytical platforms and web applications to provide technical assistance and training to government clients to facilitate accessibility and use of government budget data worldwide. Beethoven strongly believes in being “exceptional at learning,” as he has demonstrated by using his own analytical skills to support cost optimization, efficiency, and other strategic initiatives. In his previous role as a data scientist at Forbes magazine, he built machine-learning models using pattern-identification metrics to improve performance of Forbes’s articles based on distribution and consumption of those same articles before moving to his current position at the World Bank.

Points of Discussion


Problem-Solving with Analytics

Panelists discussed the most common problems they encounter within their jobs and/or companies, and in the analytics field in general. Panelists shared their experiences as follows:
•    Sonal explained the use of causal inference in helping her team understand the impact of efforts put in in reduction of carbon emissions. Using SQL scripts, Python, and R programming for modeling, the data is then visualized in Tableau to provide a better understanding of their metrics.
•    Ketan shared his experience of using Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques in Adverse Drug Reaction (ADR) detection, which helps in determining behavior of drugs, lag between ADR registration, report, and solve. In using real-time NLP engines, scraping tweets for drugs, and classifying them as ADR positive or negative, the results would not only help in improving drugs but could also prove to be a market-intelligence tool.
•    Bingbing shared her experience of data-driven management in the banking industry where using software like Python and Tableau helped her team in proactively find errors in client databases before sharing important details with financial regulators. Working with data accumulated from more than 6,000 suppliers—each having different requirements and asset classes—adding value is as exciting and challenging as it is important to ensure the conclusions are usable, complete, and accurate.
•    Beethoven helped the Nicaraguan government by creating a data pipeline. Earlier data- sharing processes were neither efficient nor fluent across departments as most offices used their own systems as well as physical paper files for documentation. By building a data pipeline using Python and Power BI, Beethoven was able to streamline the data flow. His real challenge was in educating people about the technology he developed to ensure initial and ongoing success.

Leveraging the MBS Experience

When discussing their MBS experience (s) both individually and as a group, the common theme among the alumni panelists was how the MBS program—both through its academic offerings and experiential learning opportunities—had enhanced not just their professional growth  but their personal growth as well. Here are some elective course recommendations:

Business and Analytics Courses:
•    16:137:601 Project Management for the Scientific and Technical Practitioner
•    16:137:553 Business Intelligence with Visual Analytics

Concept-to-Market Courses:
•    16:137:537 Mobile App Development
•    16:137:562 Applied AI

Experiential Learning Opportunities / Networking Events:
•    MBS Externship Exchange
•    MBS Internships Program
•    MBS Events (posted / updated regularly on the MBS Events Calendar)

Rich Resources:  Alumni Advice

o    Use the Rutgers University Library resources and take advantage of memberships that include access to the Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn Learning, MIT Sloan Management Review, Harvard Business Review, etc.
o    Google questions / research questions on your own in order to educate yourself before reaching out to others for help
o    Stack Overflow for technical queries
o    Read blogs of top companies like Uber, Airbnb, etc. to understand the state-of-the-art research they do, the analyses they perform, and the tools and packages they implement in their businesses
o    Get help from mentors. Alumni mentors, in particular, are a great resource for providing feedback and ideas. More information about MBS’s Alumni – Student Mentoring Program can be found here. 
o    Make the most of virtual workshops and attend as many networking events as possible
o    Explore podcasts and YouTube channels

Impact of COVID-19: Individual Reflections by MBS Graduates

•    Adam — COVID-19 shifted us to a more remote environment with more scrum meetings ensuring we are agile and productive. We have also seen a growth in business. 
    Aishwarya—In the healthcare industry, since COVID-19, there have been major variations in hospital metrics, delays in surgeries, and a decline in the number of emergency visits, to name a few. Due to lack of access to recent claims data and a time lag in obtaining data in some cases, the decision models which helped in improving value proposition of marketing teams and front-line teams, have faced a setback. Expanding business while retaining value and customers has been a challenge. 
•    Beethoven—Focus has shifted to COVID-19 instead of budget and data analysis.
•    Bingbing—People are not reducing effectiveness in working from home. Traders are back in the office and, since COVID-19, risks have increased with more cyberattacks—causing an increase in high-level meetings as well as enhanced cooperation across the globe.
•    Craig—Laid off due to COVID-19, Craig used his strong interpersonal skills to network both on LinkedIn using the vast MBS Alumni network to find a new job—which he did. The new company performs analysis of marketing evolution as sales got impacted by marketing investments and clients were not interpreting the changes due to COVID-19 as they relied on 24-month historic data. 
•    Ketan—While there is a growth in consulting, impact of COVID-19 on marketing digitally for pharmaceuticals is not growing at the same pace as before as the return on investment is a concern.
•    Sonal—Investors pivoted to be profitable rather than innovative. While there were no layoffs, the incoming headcount is facing reductions. Profit margins were hit due to a preference in shipping over trucking, which caused volatility in business.

Closing Thoughts:

Each day, these panelists use the many tools acquired via their MBS education to perform a wide range of jobs in the field of analytics. The panelists shared a wealth of tips and collective wisdom; here are some key takeaways:
•    Learn the fundamental concepts of programming and visualization. Even as the tools change with your project requirement or job role, the basic concepts of analytics and visualization don’t.
•    Add your GitHub profile link to your resume, as the projects act as your portfolio
•    Know your weaknesses and be brave to acknowledge them. Everyone is learning
•    Analytics is a vast and fast-growing field, so recognize the path you wish to build your future in. Audit courses if you need to!
•    There are many different positions in the field of analytics: Data Visualization specialists, Data Engineers, Deep Learning Specialists, Data Analysts, Data Scientists, Business Intelligence Engineers, etc. While all are different in some ways, there is still some general overlap. Sometimes these titles make the actual job duties unclear, and students and professionals alike can benefit by reading particulars about a certain job, by asking questions, and by exploring through a project or two before concluding
•    Enroll in courses like the practicum and take projects seriously, as they act as a multiplier for real-life experience—particularly for students who have little or no professional background when enrolling in MBS
•    Develop your interpersonal skills, as they go a long way
•    Your peers can also be your mentors, so stay connected while in class and beyond
•    Make the most of opportunities provided through courses and programs like the MBS Externship Exchange, the MBS Internships program, Executive Coaching, Career Coaching and MBS Events


Caught in action: MBS students asking questions to the panelists.

Kruttika Raman
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