The Foster School of Business’ Data & Analytics Club was formed to ensure that Foster students are prepared to work with and make educated decisions based on data, as this skill set is increasingly considered table stakes for post-MBA jobs. The Data & Analytics Club offers students practical skill development opportunities (a case competition and program/language-specific workshops), information about how data analytics skills are relevant for different career paths (speaker sessions), and opportunities to network with professionals in data-oriented jobs. In this interview, the outgoing presidents Suryanshi Goyal & Erin Leddy, shared their insights on leading the club.
Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Suryanshi: I am originally from India. Before the MBA I spent 5 years in the semiconductor chip designing industry as a Lead Design Engineer. Post MBA, I will be working with McKinsey in the management and strategy consulting domain. Outside professional life, I like to hike, stay close to nature and read about mythology. Fun Fact- I have moved so much that the average length of stay at any place for me has been 3 years throughout my life.
Erin: I am a second-year full-time MBA student at Foster and I will be joining Accenture as a strategy consultant in September. Prior to business school, I worked for 6 years in a series of marketing and business development roles within professional services organizations. Outside of school, I love to get outdoors—hiking, swimming, running, biking—and I feel very grateful to live in a city where outdoor recreation opportunities are so readily available.
What unique role does the Data & Analytics club play in promoting students’ goals at Foster?
Erin: There are lots of clubs at Foster that are oriented around helping students learn about and find roles in certain industries. The Data & Analytics Club instead focuses on helping students develop a skill set that is increasingly required for success in any industry.
Suryanshi: Instead of promoting a single role, our aim is to help the students who might be going in any domain such as product management, consulting, finance, or marketing to be able to use customer surveys, analyze feedback or customer data to put the best strategies forward. However, via the club channel, we specifically promote roles where data analysis is heavily sought.
How has the Data & Analytics club influenced the continued evolution of the Foster MBA program?
Erin: While I am sure that Foster would have made continual progress on incorporating data analytics skills into its curriculum without the Data & Analytics Club, I do think that the establishment and popularity of the club helped to accelerate this process. For example, Foster recently added a SQL course to its core curriculum and now has class offerings to teach R, Python, Tableau, and more. In addition to these curricular changes, I think that the existence of the Data & Analytics Club has created a culture where data fluency is more widely discussed and students have more opportunities to connect with peers who can help them learn new skills.
Which events of the Data & Analytics have been most popular or successful and why?
Suryanshi: One thing I always feel proud about is the attendance in our events. Fortunately, D&A club events always had a very healthy attendance due to the fact that we had non-members willing to pay to attend our events almost every time. However, I feel our SQL workshop, Dos & Don’ts of visualization and Hot takes and Pupusas (where Professor Simha Mummalaneni shared Data and Marketing Insights related to Twitter) were some of the most successful events.
Erin: In the fall, D&A hosted its inaugural case competition. During this event, teams of students were given a week to prepare presentations that showcased their use of data analytics to make a business decision. A team of judges then chose a winner based not only on the sophistication of the team’s data analysis, but also on the way that they leveraged that analysis to inform the fictional company’s broader strategic vision. This event was successful because it allowed students to practice exactly the skill that will be expected of them post-graduation: going beyond data manipulation to the actual application of that information to business problems.
What have you learned about leadership while in this role?
Suryanshi: When I took the role of co-president along with Erin, D&A club was just a one-year old club. While we had a great foundation from the last batch who started the club, we needed to make sure that the club had the right amount and quality of events to create its value proposition. In this regard, we needed to innovate new events which do not overlap with other clubs but are attractive for the students to join. My favorite memory was coming up with the case competition. This was the idea I had when I joined the club as a first-year rep, which we finally got to materialize in our co-president tenure. Even though I had experience in putting out events from scratch in the past, this was at a massive scale. It involved long meetings with VPs to refine the problem statement, arranging clean data to work with, logistics for a week-long case-competition, reaching out to judges, marketing and what not. I would say that was one of the most enjoyable as well challenging experiences for me.
This role has taught me a lot but the most important lessons were around how to manage a team. At school, it’s wonderful that there are no hierarchies despite what the titles say. Each club is student run, so it really depends on how you maintain team dynamics to encourage others to get their work done. I attribute a lot of the club’s success to our amazing VPs who had the motivation and were amazingly skilled to constantly put on our great events.
Erin: This leadership role has reinforced for me the importance of establishing and clearly communicating a vision. From the beginning, Suryanshi and I emphasized that we wanted to build out the club’s practical skill development offerings and a roster of staple events that can be repeated in future years. We had a fantastic board (Alexa Wilcox, Eugenia Yang, Jorge Garcia, Laura Booth, Matty Plummer, and Sam Manning) who we completely trusted to help us realize this vision. Because we had clearly articulated our overarching goal for the club, our board members were empowered to use their own creativity in generating new ideas for events and other club initiatives.
What were your expectations and intentions as you took on the role? Did your experience line up?
Erin: My intention with taking on this role was to build out the practical skill development opportunities provided by the club and to reinforce the club’s position within the Foster community. I believe we were successful on both fronts. It has been wonderful working with such a passionate and dedicated board, and seeing the impact that our events have on the student body. There were challenges, but these were anticipated and more than balanced out by the reward of helping the club grow.
How have you worked with other clubs or UW Graduate Schools to provide networking opportunities?
Erin: As a newer club, Data & Analytics had a smaller roster of alumni with connections to the club. To overcome this challenge, we worked with other clubs such as the tech club and the marketing association to identify valuable networking contacts. We then hosted two networking happy hours to allow students to connect with these contacts. Our happy hours were open to all Foster MBAs, with a small entrance fee for non-members.
Which students should join the Data & Analytics club?
Erin: Those interested in gaining or refining data analytics skill sets, or in learning about how those skill sets will be applied in different post-MBA professional settings, should consider joining the Data & Analytics Club.
What tips do you have for incoming MBA students as to why they should join the D&A Club’s leadership?
Suryanshi: I believe the right leadership team would be ready to take on the pressure and excitement of this young club. Someone who wants to continuously raise the standards by building upon the strong base we have created in two years would be a right candidate for the leadership. This can come in the form of attracting sponsorship for the Case Competition, expanding our alumni board or attracting recruiters specifically to promote D&A based roles. They should join the club if they like to build things from an early stage and make it a big success. For a co-president, being self-motivated to constantly push the standards and having skin in the execution is important to keep the team motivated.
Erin: Serving as part of the Data & Analytics Club’s leadership positions students at the forefront of this rapidly developing space, and will allow them to interact with students, alumni, and the administration regarding the importance of data analytics skill sets for post-MBA roles. As a younger club, the Data & Analytics club also provides opportunities for leadership to innovate and create brand-new experiences for the Foster community. This makes it a great leadership position for anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset and a passion for this subject area!