From Skill-Building to Success: Emily Sowder (MSBA ’19)
Published: October 20, 2020 / Author: Emily Sowder
Closing the Gap at Notre Dame
Once I decided I wanted to continue my education, I knew I had to find a way to do so while continuing full-time employment. Pragmatically, I researched and decided on three master’s programs in analytics that met this need. I then applied and received my acceptance into those programs.
Deciding between two prestigious universities was no easy feat. After prayer and introspection, I primarily chose Notre Dame for its service-oriented community and small class sizes that I was able to experience first-hand as a Saint Mary’s College [undergraduate] student.
In addition, Mendoza’s focus on business needs rather than just technical skills was a differentiator. Before entering the program, I already had some technical experience and was employed within an IT department; however, I found myself lacking knowledge in what problems to solve and how to approach those problems. I knew Mendoza was the right choice to close this gap. Ultimately, these two primary reasons led me to earning my MSBA at Mendoza.
The Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s family, including their recommendations and my first-hand experience helped this decision be an easy one. As both an Saint Mary’s College and now a Notre Dame graduate and “townie”, I can truly attest to how supportive this family is. The crazy part is that it is that: a family. Your professors will care about you and your success from the moment they meet you – even before you’re a committed student.
“The Notre Dame family is the university’s biggest value proposition. This may sound cheesy, but it couldn’t have been truer for me.”
In addition to that, I knew I would have world-class instructors. While Mendoza’s instructors are top in their respective fields, what makes them world-class is their commitment to teaching. Since I was able to build relationships and trust with my professors, when a death in the family occurred, they first met me with their genuine condolences and then we worked together so that I did not have to choose between an education and my family.
Some of the curriculum requires teamwork. I built relationships with each of my classmates, both in my team and those I never worked on a project with. I find these relationships to be a valuable source of networking in the traditional sense but, in reality, they’re the type of friends you can call upon without talking for months and still know they’d pick up your call – especially since I know I’d do the same for them.
There were countless speakers and sessions [at the College]. I took advantage of most of them. Each one provides a unique perspective and now I’m able to bring a small piece of their perspectives with me to work every day. The more perspectives I expose myself to the more I have learned, and this has made me a better employee, creator and leader.
Prepared for Promotion
I received a job offer from my current employer halfway through the program. My current manager is a former Mendoza M.S. in Business Analytics graduate. He reached out to one of my professors looking for prospective employees. The rest is history. Now I’m currently employed in a consulting firm where I work daily with three other Mendoza MSBA grads in a new city. But I’m forever a Notre Dame townie by heart!
Without a doubt, earning my Mendoza MSBA helped me build a solid foundation for my career. I have a career that I both enjoy and have found success in. After two years of working as a senior associate in our analytics practice, just one-and-a-half years after my last class, I received a promotion to manager.
Skills for What Lies Ahead
There are several [skills you build], including resiliency, communication and strategic thinking. Framing the business needs at the onset of any project requires business acumen and communication skills. And once you’re over that hurdle, data analytics often requires constant attempts and analyses. And then again, you’re communicating and sharing these results, visualizations, or analyses.
Along the way you have to constantly ask yourself several questions, such as “Is this addressing the need?”, “What impact will this have?”, and “Is this the right communication approach for this audience?”. All of this requires those three skills, which are not about how well one codes in R or Python, etc., which is important, but about the interpersonal skills you develop.
Furthermore, as I have ventured into areas that are outside of data analytics and within information technology, I continue to find value in understanding the whole life cycle of a data analytics project, not just the fun algorithm parts. This includes data management, data storage, infrastructure and operations. Since I graduated from Mendoza’s MSBA, I haven’t stopped learning. And continuously practicing resiliency has been one of the most valuable skills.
Staying Connected: Advice for Future Domers
Build relationships with your classmates, your professors and the administrators. You’ll miss them when it’s over! Don’t hesitate to reach out to the alumni network. It can be intimidating but they only want you to succeed.
One of my favorite [aspects of the Notre Dame family] is having a group of people to lean on with similar values. I think it’s why the Notre Dame network is so active. Notre Dame alumni are service-oriented and truly want to serve others and want the best for you. I’m an active member of the Austin Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s College alumni group and have enjoyed getting to know folks with similar values in a new place.
The Notre Dame family is Notre Dame’s biggest value proposition. This may sound cheesy, but it couldn’t have been truer for me.