Building a More Adaptable Skill Set, While Becoming a Better Mentor

Emilia Cruz, BS Math and Computer Science, MSBA ’20
Booz Allen Hamilton, Management Consultant

Your career journey/your current role

I had an undergrad degree in math and compsci, and I was trying to figure out how to use that in my career. I started hearing about data science everywhere. Booz Allen offered a data science 5K course, and I discovered that I liked it. It was a way to combine computer science and math for my consulting side. I am currently the data lead supporting environmental and financial projects for a DoD client.

Career aspirations

My goal is to become more of a team lead for data scientists. I don’t want to be the person just creating the crazy models, I want to focus on the strategic approach to solve complex problems and mentor the people who are executing the solutions.

Why did you choose the Smith Online MSBA?

I applied to Smith because they provided an online program, and I needed the flexibility to not be driving all the time to school, as well as home and work. I knew that the school was taking the lessons they learned from the online MBA and their in-person MSBA program, so even though this program was new they already knew what they were doing. This was a reputable school.

I was very impressed because during and after every course, the professors kept asking what worked and what didn’t work. It’s an evolving field, you can’t just leave it in 2019. That’s one thing that I really like, that they’re trying to keep it relevant and improve.

What did you learn that was most helpful?

The decision analytics course. The way it was taught used a lot of real world examples that I could see that were very parallel to problems I was already facing at work. Learning how to solve those gave me ideas of how to do things at work.

Favorite teacher? Favorite subject?

In addition to Professor Suresh’s decision analytics course I really liked Professor Bardossy’s course on data models and decisions. The other one I really liked was one of the healthcare courses -- healthcare marketing. That track was closest to what I do, since some of the work I’ve done has been related to environmental public health.

Connection with classmates

The cohort moved through all our courses together except for the elective courses. It was really nice, we were on group chats trying to support each other. It was nice to have that support. They came from very different work backgrounds and two of them didn’t have any background in data analysis. We would point them to resources and answer questions. It was easy to have a conversation and work through things. I’m still in close touch with one of them, we talk about our personal lives and what’s happening at work.

Work/life balance

I’m very lucky that my husband took on a lot of chores around the house, because it was a lot of time spent on the computer to do schoolwork. It was very intense, but it helped to know that it was only 20 months and then it was over. If you went to a different program you might be taking fewer classes per semester but it would take longer. I knew when I signed up it would be a lot of work, but I could commit 20 months and then move on.

What had the most impact for you?

One of the most important things was to have some hands-on experience with modeling. It’s not something I get to do at work, so having it as part of my courses definitely helped. And right now I can see the impact because I have a junior data scientist working for me and I can walk him through how to code something or how to approach a problem from a logic standpoint, or suggest what tools to use..

That is the confidence that I've gotten from going through the courses. I feel like I actually do know what I’m talking about.

If you could do the program again what would you do differently?


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