The last time we spoke with Chandini Gangadharan, she was an autumn quarter student who was eager to take advantage of Seattle’s thriving tech sector upon receiving her degree. Prior to joining the Foster Master of Science in Business Analytics program’s inaugural class, Chandini was the Lead Woman in Technology at the British multinational telecommunications company, Vodafone. This is only one of her many accomplishments. Currently, Chandini is a Business Analyst at Amazon.
This time around, we caught up with Chandini about her and many other MSBA students’ favorite part of the curriculum, the Business Analytics Practicum. In the practicum course, students work in small teams on analytics projects sponsored by local companies from Alaska Airlines to Microsoft to the Seattle Mariners. Keep reading below to hear about Chandini’s practicum experience.
Aligning Choices with Future Goals
Before the practicum course formally begins in the final and spring quarter of the program students are given the ability to rank their preferences and MSBA faculty do their best to match each student with the desired project and sponsoring company of their choice.
“I think it’s important to think of the practicum experience as a career. Students should consciously think of the company project that most aligns with their post-graduation goals when ranking their options,” Chandini states.
Along with a few classmates, Chandini worked on a field analytics project that focused on salesperson and external customer relations within the global sales division of Microsoft.
Teamwork is the Dreamwork
“Right off the bat, when the project began, my team and I started by assigning principal roles based on our personal strengths and expertise. When you’re working with your colleagues to execute on client goals in the ‘real world,’ it is always more effective to divide and conquer so to speak.”
The Business Analytics Practicum is where the real world meets the Foster classroom. While many incoming Foster MSBA students do come in with some work experience the average being 3.5 years for the class of 2021, not all do. At Foster MSBA we strive to ensure that all our students feel prepared for what meets them outside the walls of Paccar Hall.
For students with little or no work experience prior to joining the MSBA program, the practicum can serve as a preface to their first career. Furthermore, the ability to work well in a team and communication techniques are amongst the most important soft skills needed to succeed in the business analytics industry.
Communication is Key
Speaking of communication, according to Chandini it’s an integral ingredient in the recipe for success in the Business Analytics Practicum. This was further heightened by the novel transition to remote learning that took place last spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I served as the communication liaison for my team and it was my job to make sure our progress and questions were well communicated to our assigned company mentor,” Chandini describes her role. For the practicum, all student teams are assigned a designated point of contact with their respective companies, so they are easily able to communicate questions and results.
“I’m really glad I had that experience because I do a lot of remote work in my current role at Amazon and I can easily transfer all the skills and best practices, that I learned.”
Chandini isn’t the only one.
Studies show that many companies and business leaders across industries plan to continue remote and hybrid work structures even after the pandemic is no longer a threat.
“In a way, I’m almost glad we had to do the practicum remotely,” Chandini admits. “Apart from the typical benefits of remote classes like saving time on commutes, it felt really good to complete such a big project with uncertain circumstances. At first, we were all very nervous, but the faculty and representatives from sponsoring companies were extremely supportive and it all went over smoothly, even our final presentations.”
The practicum course ends with a symposium-like presentation day, where all student teams present their final project to executives at their respective sponsoring companies, each other, and Professor Russell Walker. This allows student teams to get live feedback from their sponsoring companies, as well as Professor Walker.
Just like in the real world where client feedback on projects is important, final grades that students receive in this course take into consideration the sponsoring company’s input on the final deliverable.
Read more about Business Analytics Practicum below and come back next week for the final blog in our practicum series!