The Master of Science in Information Systems program at the UW Foster School of Business in Seattle is a one-year, work-compatible, accelerated master’s program designed to train current and future business leaders in information systems management. View all MSIS student profiles here.
We asked students to reflect on their MSIS academic experience and the impact it has had on their professional development and career. Meet MSIS Class of 2021 student, Nam Saxena, Product Manager at Tableau Software.
Can you share with us your professional background and what inspired you to pursue an MSIS degree?
I completed my undergrad in electronics and electrical engineering. I started off as a salesforce developer, initially working on building upon my technical expertise. As I grew, I took every opportunity to work with clients, stakeholders to understand their business needs. To be a well-rounded product manager, I had to build on my business understanding skills, analytical abilities and bring in more tools and technologies into my bucket. Hence, I decided to pursue the Master of Science in Information Systems at the Foster School of Business. The curriculum at MSIS and its focus on learning from industry professionals inspired me to pursue this course.
What opportunities offered by Foster and the MSIS program enhanced your business acumen and leadership skills?
The strength of the MSIS courses was the engaging and informative brainstorming discussions among the students and professors to think of a business situation from every aspect. Especially the MSIS leadership lectures strengthened our understanding, as the guest leaders gave new insights into their business processes and how current industry trends impact them and their response strategy.
Foster Career Services has been equally helpful, by conducting sessions in the first three quarters by industry professionals, who also added to my business understanding.
Finally, being part of the Foster School of Business has been a privilege, as it gave me a platform to network with students across all master’s programs. All the opportunities have not only helped contribute to my career growth in product, but also gave me the confidence to represent myself well.”
An example was when I, along with my three other classmates were able to successfully represent UW and reached the North America finals in the P&G CEO challenge and presented our solution to their leadership.
Tell us about one of your favorite classes from the MSIS 550 Leadership Series.
My favorite session was ‘Resilient Leadership in the Age of Disruption’ with executive leaders from the aviation, automotive, and airline industry. Considering the magnanimous nature and value of the companies, having to rework most of its key processes, technological challenges, and re-establishing trust with employees during COVID was surprising and inspiring.
I was able to apply the takeaways in the classroom by keeping a curious attitude while learning from my diverse cohort. Also, project discussions among my team taught me to unlearn each time we hit a roadblock with our choices.
What kind of connections have you made in the MSIS program?
A large share of learning is attributed to my dynamic and humble classmates. Listening to their experiences and perspectives is my favorite in-class activity. While online learning made it difficult to have an in-person connection, we are a resilient bunch. We have been able to communicate effectively via technology to support each other. I was part of an internal team of six which included product managers, IT and advisory consultants, and a business leader. Collaborating with them over deliverables has been a constant source of knowledge and support. I even learned to write my first PR-FAQ, a corporate deliverable, thanks to them.
Tell us about your mentorship experience.
In the MSIS Mentorship Program, I was matched with Sonu Batra, Senior Technology Product Leader at Starbucks. When I was introduced to Sonu, I was unclear on how to approach this opportunity and use it to grow as a professional. But she guided me all along, by getting to know about my background, my progress during the course, and the opportunities available to me. Her transparency about her professional journey and personal goals has been of tremendous learning and some of my key takeaways are as below:
1. Have a hands-on attitude towards technology and other skill sets needed at all times.
2. Volunteer and lean in to company activities outside of the required responsibilities to help in being well connected with one’s organization as well as networking with the people. It will also lead to closely being involved with business growth and understanding.
3. Be open to taking responsibility for the actions of your peers.
4. It takes skill to be a leader, and these can be earned by taking up learning courses pertaining to leadership and strategic thinking.
5. Networking is a very useful skill that needs to be cultivated not just within your organization but across industries in a much larger community. In order to move across positions, industries or roles, it is really important to connect with relevant professionals to make yourself known.
How do you believe an MSIS degree will give you a competitive advantage?
The MSIS degree has been crafted well to cater to a broad set of career possibilities and it is a course that is compatible for working professionals.
This empowers us in two ways; it attracts a diverse set of students, who are working professionals which adds to the knowledge bucket of the class, and second, as students we bring in a huge set of tools and technologies to be a well-rounded professional, paving the way to be a technology leader.”
I am now hands-on with business strategy frameworks, SQL, data analytics using Python, R which is great for data exploration, cloud computing using AWS, Tableau for impactful visualizations, user design thinking frameworks, concepts of A/B testing, cybersecurity best practices and strategies, which puts me in an advantageous position to be able to tackle ambiguity and issues. It definitely lays strong foundational bricks to build oneself in each direction.
Added to that the constant interaction and support from a strong network of industry leaders, professionals, and alumnus definitely gives the MSIS students a competitive advantage to pursue technology leadership roles in the future.