We featured Aakanksha Baid one year ago on the blog as she finished her second quarter in Foster’s inaugural cohort of the Master of Science in Business Analytics program. Inaugural classes of academic programs often face a lot of unique challenges, but the onset of a global pandemic was not on the list of expected pitfalls for the class of 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic shifted instruction at the University of Washington, and many other college campuses worldwide, to primarily online formats. As the weeks passed, it became clear that it wasn’t just instruction that had to move online—for Aakanksha and her classmates, this meant that networking events, capstone projects, interviews, and commencement celebrations were all going virtual.
“This year  was difficult in terms of job search. For me, it was even more of a challenge because, I didn’t have alumni to reach out to and many of my classmates did not feel secure in their jobs because of the pandemic,” Aakanksha recalls.
Reflecting back, now that she has landed a great post-graduation role as an Analytics Manager at the Expedia Group, Aakanksha is paying it forward as an alum and offering advice to help current and future MSBA students succeed in the job market.
Foster Career Services, Use Them!
Aakanksha cannot stress enough the importance of using the career services available to MSBA students. Specifically, she recommends taking advantage of the unlimited one-on-one career coaching service as it is a severely underutilized tool. “We have very good career counselors, so set up regular conversations with them,” affirms Aakanksha.
By talking with career counselors at Foster, Aakanksha was able to figure out how to align her personal goals and interests with the landscape of Big Tech in Seattle.
Other resources offered by Foster Career Services to MSBA students include portfolio and resume review, mock interviews, professional networking events, on-campus recruitment opportunities, and career workshops.
Leverage MSBA’s Curriculum and Class Size
“It’s a journey that you take through the entire 12 months—going from summer quarter where you are building the foundations—to spring quarter where you are learning some very advanced concepts,” Aakanksha reflects.
MSBA students start with foundational statistics and spreadsheet modeling courses during summer quarter and then move on to coursework in the autumn and winter quarters that reflect specialized skill sets needed in the business analytics industry—specifically courses that focus on marketing, accounting, and applied analytics. In their final quarter, students are introduced to advanced coursework in AI and machine learning, while at the same time participating in an industry sponsored capstone project that allows for the integration of the classroom pedagogy with real world experience.
The format of the curriculum adds to Aakanksha’s appreciation of it—”the sequential nature of the Foster curriculum made it easy for me to explain everything I learned step-by-step, and I think that really helped me stand out, during interviews.”
For Aakanksha, the delivery of Foster’s MSBA curriculum was further boosted by the ability to rely on and learn from her classmates. “I think the advantage of Foster [MSBA] across all programs is the small class size. Students get to engage in a team-based learning approach with groups that change twice throughout the year,” Aakanksha explains. Not only is the ability to work in cross-functional teams important in the analytics industry, but it’s another strong talking point for job interviews and can help you to augment your portfolios, according to Aakanksha.
One specific teamwork experience that Aakanksha believes helped her stand out during the job search is a project that focused on conducting pricing analysis on Airbnb data with classmates Isha Malte and Irene Sung.
Likewise, in her job search, Aakanksha also leveraged the experience she gained by participating in the Adobe Analytics Challenge, where she placed in the top 8% of North American university teams, alongside classmates Isha Malte and Nisha Sankaran.
Challenges and Overcoming Them
In an ideal world, everyone graduates and has the perfect job waiting for them. However, graduating amidst a global pandemic was not an ideal situation.
“I remember graduating without a job to look forward to, and no formal interviews lined up, so June was a very bittersweet month,” Aakansha recalls.
Aakanksha was not alone in this. The COVID-19 pandemic gave way to widespread hiring freezes in the tech industry, that would slowly phase out come fall. After being equipped with so many new skills that she knew were relevant to Seattle’s tech saturated job market, Aakanksha felt like she had two options—be disheartened or face this challenge head-on—she chose the latter.
“I pushed myself every day to keep networking and finding opportunities that really aligned with my core values,” Aakanksha explains.
Like many students who pursue the MSBA degree at Foster, Aakanksha had envisioned herself working in Big Tech after graduating. “I remember in my application essay, I had a goal of being in the technology space. I knew I wanted to be in a leadership position in analytics.”
The technology industry is what inspired Aakanksha to join the MSBA program, but it was her personal passion for traveling, that would be the driving force of her next phase. Aakanksha has lived and worked on three different continents—Asia, Australia, and, North America—and she wanted to find a way to integrate her love of traveling into her professional life. As an Analytics Manager at the Expedia Group, she can do this, since the company leverages technology and data for the travel and leisure sector.
Overall, if there is one piece of advice that Aakanksha could give to current and future MSBA students it would be to find a way to combine your personal passions with your career goals.
“I think if you can find an area that you are personally devoted to, and then connect that passion to your career, you’ll be making an impact not only for the company but also for your colleagues.”
Aakanksha made an impact on the Foster MSBA program and we know she’ll continue to make an impact wherever she goes.
Read more about alumna Aakanksha Baid!