New for the fall 2023 semester, students in the Master’s in Information Systems program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business participated in an Industry Seminar course, where they got to hear from leaders in the field. The six-part series featured professionals from top companies – Marriott, Nestle, Wayfair, 3DHoudini, System Pavers – and a former U.S. Army CIO now with ServiceNow.
The speakers came to campus to talk about their organization’s work and their personal career journeys. Following each presentation, students met in groups to discuss the implications of what they heard and critically examine their own career pathways.
Part of the Smith School’s push to give students more opportunities for hands-on learning, the series was designed to lead into the MS in Information Systems program’s two experiential learning courses: one focused on business process analysis and systems design and the second focused on information technology solutioning to achieve business outcomes, says Tej Anand, clinical professor and academic director of the MSIS program.
“To prepare students for these experiential learning courses and bring the entire curriculum to life, we have designed the Industry Seminar as a metaphorical bridge between students, business-technology industry leaders and faculty,” he said.
Student Krishang Parakh, MSIS ’24, said participants gained just what Anand hoped they would.
“These weren't just seminars, they were bridges connecting our textbook theories and classroom concepts with the real, ever-changing business-tech world and industry trends, preparing us for dynamic careers in information systems,” Parakh said.
For many MSIS students, the new seminar series was a standout in the curriculum and a big draw for them to enroll in the program.
“It was something that was unique and I hadn't come across any college that was offering this particular course,” said Akshat Shah, MSIS ’24. “I knew that people from industry would come to share their insights with us, but I didn't gauge just how amazing it would be, with such a variety of speakers who have so much experience to share.”
The Smith School’s STEM-designated MSIS program helps students leverage business-technology skills in the workplace and influence leadership to make data-informed decisions by teaching them the latest analytics tools and providing experiential learning opportunities.
“These seminars give our MSIS students opportunities to engage with amazing, respected industry leaders in a way that will help them start to think about their own careers and the complex business problems they will be able to solve,” said John Bono, associate clinical professor of information systems, who organized the seminar series with Anand and students Pavit Singh Sapra, MBA and MSBA ’23, and Rashi Madnani, MSIS ’23.
The fall speakers were:
- Margo Cohen, senior director of supply chain analytics, Nestle
- Ankit Mangal, director of data science, Wayfair
- Raj Iyer, head of Global Public Sector, ServiceNow; former CIO for Information Technology Reform in the Office of the Secretary of the Army (Read more about Iyer’s Industry Seminar presentation)
- Shrivathsa Ballal, co-founder and CTO, 3DHoudini
- Syed Zaidi, CEO, System Pavers
- Jim Scholefield, chief information and digital officer, Marriott International
MSIS students shared their takeaways from the seminar series:
Akshat Shah, MSIS ’24
“The seminars have proven to be a journey of self-discovery and self-awareness. The best thing about the seminars is the variety of speakers that they offer and the exposure and insights we get from them while being in the physical presence of the experts themselves. … These seminars made me think about what kind of person I want to become, gave me knowledge and insights into technology I had very little experience with, gave me clarity on various points, and what is required in order to become successful, and more importantly, a good human being.”
Palak Bharatkumar, MSIS ’24
“My views about my career path have expanded as a result of these sessions. From delving into details of the supply chain industry, sparking a newfound interest, to understanding the significance of career planning and self-reflection, the seminars have been an invaluable source of knowledge. They provide interesting insights that highlight the differences and similarities between various industry sectors. They provide a great platform for discussions and Q&A sessions, but they also help us build genuine connections with our peers. Being exposed to different points of view has increased my curiosity and expanded my knowledge of the profession. A significant takeaway that I've acquired is learning how important it is to identify my personal values and incorporate them into my career choices.”
Ariz Shaikh, MSIS ’24
“These industry seminars provide us with a complete overview of the sector while also encouraging reflective learning and preparing us for future challenges in our professions. Exposure to industry leaders' experiences adds a practical layer to our academic understanding, providing more clarity about the sector and assisting us in making informed decisions about our future pathways.”
Tripatjot K. Saggu, MSIS ’24
“Aligning academic concepts with industry experiences during these sessions has been enlightening. Witnessing the application of theories in real-world scenarios enhances my understanding, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical implications. Moreover, these seminars aren't just informative; they serve as guideposts for our future professional endeavors. They instill crucial lessons about cultivating the right attitude when stepping into an industry and enlighten us on carving out our own opportunities in the workplace. Learning how to pave our way toward our envisioned goals becomes an integral part of these sessions, providing us with the necessary tools for our professional journey ahead. As I absorb these insights, I'm getting better equipped to chart my course toward a fulfilling and purposeful career.”
Zeba Karkhanawala, MSIS ’24
“Having recently graduated, it is very important for me to gain as much professional exposure to grow and learn. Along with the comprehensive education, these seminars equip us with practical skills, cutting-edge knowledge, and strategic insights which are essential for navigating the evolving landscape of information systems in today's business world.”
Krishang Parakh, MSIS ’24
“The interactive format, with post-seminar discussions in smaller groups, fostered an inclusive learning environment. This allowed students to share diverse perspectives, extract deeper meanings collectively, and engage in meaningful dialogues. These seminars have been more than just educational sessions, they've been gateways to a practical understanding of our field, enriching our perspectives, and preparing us for dynamic careers.”
Ishita Joshi, MSIS ’24
“This opportunity to hear from the leaders of industry is invaluable as they share their experiences of their professional journey. We get to know the key factors that led to their success, which cannot be taught by academic courses. Speakers from a variety of sectors provide us with insights into the real workings of the industry. From attending the seminars, the most important thing I've learned is to focus on identifying my values, which is essential as we go along our professional journey.”
Siddharth Khare, MSIS ’24
“The industry seminar helps us immensely in knowing about real-world strategies and applications of technologies. It’s the closest portal for looking into real industry. And as an added benefit, we get to connect and network with the speakers who shared their insights with us.”
Ajith Adithya Rama Iyer Kannan, MSIS ’24
“These industry seminars provide us with an opportunity to hear from various Industry leaders and gain insights from their experiences. The anecdotes and learnings they share with us give us a glimpse into the inner workings of an industry. I personally have benefited by applying a few learnings from these lectures into my daily life. Ankit Mangal from Wayfair, said that ‘fail fast’ is a principle they follow at their firm. Adoption of the same has helped me navigate through unforeseen blockers and deliver things with good quality.”
Arjun Kaveti, MSIS ’24
“From learning about how generative AI is disrupting the scene at Nestle to the inspiring story of 3DHoudini, each industry seminar has taught me something new. The distinguished speakers talk about those incidents in their journey that no coursework can teach us or has the answer to. For example: when to pivot, or how to address absurd expectations from the top.
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.