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What is the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science Student Showcase?

By: Christina Plante, Assistant Director of Career Services

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The Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) and Computer Science (CS) Student Showcase is an event sponsored by the Pratt ECE department and Master of Engineering (MEng) program, where students have the opportunity to present an innovative class or personal project individually or in a group to industry professionals in a reverse career fair format. Each student has a table where they showcase their project via a poster, their laptop, etc. This is a great way for students to show their work as opposed to a Career Fair where they can only speak about their work.

The idea for this event was created by Ross Wade who previously served as an Assistant Director of Career Services for Pratt Engineering Master students. He found it was easier for students to promote themselves when they demonstrated projects they completed and described various components of their work using visual aids and technology. Making this event feel more like a poster presentation rather than an uncomfortable networking event has helped students build confidence when they talk about themselves.

The showcase was launched to demonstrate the talent of our Master’s Students in ECE and has expanded to include CS students as well as undergraduate and PhD students. It is also part of the Duke School of Engineering’s Industry Partners Day, an opportunity for companies to maximize their exposure on campus during the day between TechConnect and the Career Fair.

The goals of the showcase is for students to:

  1. Explain project scope and process so employers can see their value
  2. Use visual displays to illustrate project components in a clear and concise way
  3. Promote themselves and network with employers for potential job opportunities

Spring 2016 Event at a Glance

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Agenda Spring 2016
10:00 – 10:30am Student Check-In and Presentation Set-Up
10:30am – 12:30pm Student Presentations
12:30 – 1:45pm Networking Lunch with Employers

Employers (along with faculty, staff, and other students) visit tables and ask questions to presenters about their projects. There is also an opportunity to network with representatives (HR, engineers and managers) from ECE and CS companies during lunch. A sample of companies that participated in the past includes IBM, Microsoft, NetApp, SAP, Ambarella and Google.

As part of the event, we also invite faculty and staff to meet with the employer representatives during breakfast to discuss industry trends and discover new insights. It is a great opportunity to learn how we can better serve our students and employers.

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There is also an opportunity for student participants to learn how to pitch or “sell” their project to employers in a pre-event workshop. They discuss tips and strategies for an effective project explanation, hear employer feedback from the past, develop a pitch, and practice with their group. This event is meant to be a way to showcase a project that students have already completed or have made progress on. This allows more time for preparing a visual display and a pitch.

Student response has been small but impactful so far. Here are what some attending students said about the event:

“The showcase was an awesome opportunity to present our projects and talk to employers! I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity.”

“At the showcase, I was able to talk about my practical, hands-on engineering experience outside of class. Employers really look for initiative, presentation, and creativeness – the showcase was a perfect environment to display those skills!”

“By far the best networking activity I have attended at Duke.”

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The ECE and CS Student Showcase happens in January shortly after the start of the semester. Be on the look out for registration emails in the fall so you can sign up early. This is such a good chance to engage with employers in a smaller setting instead of the large groups of a typical career fair. We hope you take advantage of this opportunity!

Alumni Spotlight: Lance Co Ting Keh, Data Engineer at Box

By: Ric Telford, PMP Adjunct Faculty

Last semester I caught up with one of my former students, Lance Co Ting Keh. Lance graduated with a Master of Engineering degree here at Pratt and is now working in Silicon Valley. I was anxious to hear how things are going for him out in the “real world.” Here is what he had to say.

Ric: Lance, you gradated in May of 2015 from the Master of Engineering Program. Tell us a little about what you are doing now.

Lance: I work at Box, a Cloud storage firm that was actually founded by a Dukie as well! The CFO is a Dukie, Dylan Smith. I do Data Engineering there. Think of Data Engineering the middle ground between Business Intelligence and Analytics. Our job is to provide the toolsets and the data sets for Business Intelligence workers who want to make business data queries. A good example of a business data query is “among all our customers, which are the best ones to upsell next?” Data is stored everywhere, and the goal is to gather all this data and join it so that it can be queried.

Ric: Are your customers primarily individuals or businesses / corporations?

Lance: Box caters to businesses. Most of our sales are to businesses. It is a very sales-driven company, focused on selling to businesses. Duke, for example, is a customer of Box.

Ric: Being in Silicon Valley, what can you tell us about the technical skill requirements of the high tech world?

Lance: Coming out of school, the big difference I see now is that people expect well-rounded employees, not just one technical expertise. These days even if you specialize in one area, it is important that you understand all parts of the technology “stack” – mobile, front-end, data, back-end technologies, etc. It is good to have a good academic foundation of the hardcore computer science skills with real-world industry skills, such as how to build a web app or how do you maintain a repository. Not all schools are there yet, but Duke is doing a better job of teaching these more practical skills.

Ric: Outside of the technical skills, what capabilities do you find most valuable in your skill set and that of your fellow engineers?

Lance: “Soft skills” are very important. It is just as important to handle yourself well in the workforce, as it is to be able to build something. There will always be personal issues that come up, there is going to be conflict. Being able to navigate that and work in a team structure, being able to talk to people and being open in how you give feedback and receive feedback are all important capabilities. As engineers we are very passionate about what we do and we want to get the job done. Sometimes you get lost in trying to build something and you forget that the folks you work with are people to. Finding that balance and being able to do that “social dance” is a very big role in the day-to-day job.

Ric: What advice would you have for the new Master of Engineering class as they work toward their degree?

Lance: I would tell them to take advantage of as many classes as they can that they can’t take outside of Duke. Separate those things you can learn on your own from that which you can only get from a big university. I started doing this during my time at Duke and it helped me a lot. Take the hard classes that you know would take a while for you to sit down and crunch through if you did it yourself – things like Machine Learning and Bayesian Statistics. You can do these things yourself or on Coursera, but it is hard without a professor or people with which to collaborate.

Ric: Finally, can I have you do a little reflection? In thinking about your time here at Duke in the MEng program, what would you say were some of the most valuable experiences?

Lance: There are two things I would mention. First was the research experience. I am an academic at heart and I was fortunate enough to be able to move around to different labs and see how they operate. That academic approach to problems shaped the way I think and I believe I still think that way in industry. Second was the project experience. I learned a lot just from building projects with my peers. There are many things I built with others, both as part of class and as a fun project. These projects taught me a lot – not just the technical skills like writing code but also working with people as well. It is a high intensity environment in college and everyone is very busy. Personal conflicts will occur and l feel I grew a lot as a person in working with other people. It is something I take with me at work.

Here is a video clip of Lance giving advice about being on the job.

 

5 Things We Look For in MEMP Applicants

By: Susan Brown, Assistant Director of Admissions

What kind of applicant are we looking for in the Master of Engineering Management Program? There’s no single answer. We consider your academic record, test scores, recommendations, resume, and statement, but in today’s post, we thought we’d expand on those 5 qualitative aspects we introduce on the MEMP website. The ideal candidate may show many of these qualities, but all candidates should be open to developing these characteristics through the program.

Engagement in the classroom, extracurricular activities, or in industry

Strong academic performance is important to any graduate program, but we’re interested in what you do beyond studying. Do you regularly contribute to classroom discussion, and can other students count on you in group projects? Or are you a student-athlete, an extra-effort volunteer, or active in clubs within your university? Perhaps you’re a member of professional organizations or an award-winning team member at work? We seek a well-rounded class of students who are engaged in the program, and your previous activities give us a glimpse into the kind of student you’d be.

[The skills I found most valuable were] communication skills, robust negotiation, and persuasive skills that I learned while being part of multiple MEM student bodies and clubs.” – Abdul Khan, MEM Class of 2012

Leadership in academic to professional settings

What kind of impact have you had? Whether it was a team, project, or program, your past experiences in taking the lead form the basis for your development at Duke. Our programs strive to develop future industry leaders that drive innovation and development.

We want [students] to learn to leverage diverse opinions and approaches to develop solutions that are better than anyone could reach alone. Developing leadership skills requires not only an understanding of leadership principles and approaches but also opportunities for students to actually lead and receive feedback on their actions.” – Brad Fox, Associate Dean and Executive Director, Professional Masters Programs

Global Awareness the appreciation and understanding of the world’s varying cultures, economies, and political systems

Today’s engineers are expected to work with colleagues all over the world. It’s crucial to understand how others perceive problems and solutions. Employers value engineers who can contribute to and thrive in diverse teams, and with our global student body, we do too.

“I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and work with various students whose cultures span the world, and the program has provided me with the chance to get hands-on experience in working in a global environment.” – Dayna Cole, MEM Class of 2014

Emotional Intelligence, including interpersonal skills and teamwork abilities

Emotional intelligence has been a bit of a buzzword, but its underlying tenet makes sense: how well do you understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others? How do you contribute to teams? Working effectively with others is a valuable trait for engineers. Your skills in this area will be an important indicator of how well you’ll do in the program.

Three traits that I consider most valuable are interpersonal skills, agility, and attention to detail. In today’s world, these traits are very important irrespective of the field of work. Effective communication and the ability to find opportunities to lead/innovate is the key to being a successful project manager.” – Ramya Ramaswamy, Class of 2013

Engineering Leverage the vision to see your engineering education as the foundation for your graduate studies

You spent four or more years becoming an engineer – and engineers are in demand. The majority of our students find success in technology roles that let them leverage their business knowledge while building on their engineering backgrounds. If you want to reinvent yourself with a business program, there are many other great programs that will help you do so.

The whole MEM experience was amazing. Unlike other programs that push you to a particular field, it gives you the ability to explore diverse career paths. With so many options present, both in the coursework and in potential career opportunities, you have the freedom to choose a role that is suited to your liking. It was a period of a lot of introspection for me as I tried to figure out the right path. It allows you to leverage your background effectively.” – Femi Sokoya, MEM Class of 2013

How many of these traits can you show in your application? Are you ready to develop more? Ready to apply? We’re excited to meet you. Contact us with any questions, and create your application account and apply online! Below is the list of requirements that can be found on our website.

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MEngagement Career Committee Faculty Interviews: Dr. Andrew Hilton

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By: Tara Gu, MEng 2015

Brief Biography: Dr. Andrew Hilton is an Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Duke University, and the Managing Director of Graduate Studies for Electrical and Computer Engineering. He’s the recipient of 2015 Klein Family Distinguished Teaching Award and teaches ECE 551 and 550, which are very popular foundation programming courses. Before coming to Duke, he was an Advisory Engineer at IBM.

Q: You mentioned in class that you enjoyed programming when you were young. How did you get in the field of Computer Architecture specifically? 

A: I was an undergrad at Georgia Tech, working in compilers and programming languages. I also went to UPenn for a PhD in programming languages. When I was there, I took a graduate a computer architecture course, much like ECE 552 here at Duke. I really enjoyed the class. The programming languages research happening at Penn was much more theoretical, proving things about type systems, which wasn’t exactly what I was interested in. So, I switched to computer architecture in my second semester.

Q: What did you work on at IBM?

A: I did performance modeling in support of a core under development, much like the simulator students work with in ECE 552, but much more advanced. I got to influence the design a lot. One of the things I did was go to the designers and tell them “you can do this, and this is why: it improves IPC (instructions per cycle) by 2%”. The designers might say, “2% is great, but we can’t implement this; can we do this instead?” Then I would work with them to find a middle ground, and might find something that improves by say 1.8%, which they could implement. I also did performance verification, where I took the VHDL code for the core, and ran it. There was an infrastructure that recorded on what cycles various things happened for each instruction. I compared that with our software simulations. When they didn’t match up, I worked with the designers to fix it and tried to find alternative solutions in the middle.

Q: Given your experience in the industry, what qualities do successful engineers possess? What personality traits have helped them succeed in their field/business?

A: One of the most important qualities in not only engineering, but any profession, is discipline under pressure. Doing it right, and precisely, the way you’re supposed to, under time pressure. Not panicking when things are going wrong. It’s important when you’re developing software because you can’t say “I only have 2 days left, so I’m going to skip testing this code,” and get the product out of the door. You’re better off in many ways to test it while you build it, and sticking to a disciplined approach. For engineering specifically, problem solving, creativity (i.e. solve problems in ways that aren’t immediately apparent) are also very important.

Q: You emphasize for students to develop both foundation (good programming skills) and technical depth (knowledge of a sub-field) in order to have the best chance in finding a job. However, companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook give interviewees generic live coding questions, instead of asking them about their technical depth. How do you think students can advertise their technical depth to companies in their job search process?

A: First, if you want to have a programming job, you need to be a good programmer. A lot of programming interviews are trying to separate who can program and who can’t. If you can’t program, you can’t get a programming job. Beyond that, emphasizing technical depth comes into the kind of jobs you’re looking at. Take you for example (referring to me as his student). If you take classes and are interested in distributed systems and performance, you apply to cloud-related jobs over machine learning jobs. After you get past the “can you code” stage, people will start asking you to talk about deeper things. If you apply for a machine learning job, you would be lost because you haven’t taken any machine learning classes.

There are two ways you can sell yourself. Take me for example. I’m an excellent programmer, so I could sell myself simply as “I’m a coder”, but my skill set goes much deeper than that. A better way to sell myself is “I’m a micro-architect, with a firm knowledge of performance modeling, optimization, parallelism, and compilers”. The later sets you up for a much more advanced position, and, of course, still requires great programming skills. You should apply to specific jobs that match your area of expertise.

Also, a lot of students worry so much about getting a job that they sound very desperate and unconfident. If you are good at programming, you should know that and be very confident. Language and cultural skills are also important. Some people are technically proficient, but if they can’t explain things well, it’s hard to tell they’re technically proficient. Even if you can convey that you are good at what you do, the interviewer is going to be thinking about how you will work in teams. If it would be difficult for you to integrate into a work environment where you need to communicate in English, they will probably want to consider another candidate.

Winning the MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition

By: Fares Alzahrani, MEMP ’16

“Go Duke” were the last two words in the congratulatory email we received from the Master of Engineering Management Program director, Dr. Bradley Fox, for our selection to represent Duke University in the MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition. To me, his two words represented bestowed trust, serious competition ahead of us, and a request for a championship. I was honored to be part of an intellectually cooperative team representing our distinguished university in the Master of Engineering Management Consortium, which includes Northwestern, Cornell, Dartmouth, MIT, USC, Stanford, as well as Duke. We were further honored to be the first place winners in the competition. More importantly, the competition and simulation provided me invaluable lessons in applying what I have learned inside and outside the classroom.

The month-long competition consisted of 10 decision periods, each of which represented a simulated year. There were 11 teams, two of which were from Duke. Those teams were split into two automobile industries, and each team was made up of 4 students from the same MEMPC school. For more details on the competition case, visit here.

I was lucky enough to work with Saraswathi Gautham, Jun Yang, and Yijun Liu, each of whom brought outstanding intellect and personality to the team. At the beginning of the competition, we all realized two important aspects that we had to settle in order to win: team dynamics and the firm’s strategy. For team dynamics, our Management course, EGRMGMT 540, came in handy in solving two critical aspects for our success: team’s roles and responsibilities and managing conflict.

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From left to right: Fares Alzahrani, Saraswathi Gautham, Dr. La Tondra Murray, Jun Yang, and Yijun Liu

We had never worked with each other before, and given our busy schedules, there was little time to get to know each other well before we reached the performing stage. Therefore, we started sharing information about each other’s strengths and preferences on the roles to guide us during the meetings. However, in our first couple of meetings that were planned to define our team and firm, we had seemingly endless and unproductive discussions on the formulation of our firm’s strategy. We realized that our management education was useless if we could not turn around that situation and align our goals for better performance. At the end of the second 2-hour meeting, everyone at the table stated their goal for the competition, which primarily included winning and learning. Astonishingly, that short genuine discussion of our purposes and interests significantly boosted our team spirit as well as understanding and trust for each other. As a result, we were able to settle the firm’s strategy and team’s roles and responsibilities within 15 minutes.

The competition provided us an enduring and practical lesson on strategy that would have taken us 5-10 years to experience first-hand in the real world. Some of our members had taken the Competitive Strategy course, conducted various cases, and/or had practiced strategy formulation with a previous employer. We all have learned that strategy in the long run can provide powerful competitive advantage in the market place.

However, none of us had ever experienced the serious executive debates that go into approving and committing to a strategy. We had never been challenged with tough decisions that forgo market opportunities for the sake of better strategy alignment. We had never realized how powerful strategy can be in positioning our firm for long term success until we committed ourselves to test that essential strategy lesson in the simulation. The agreed-upon strategy truly served as a compass in all of our discussions and debates. Reflecting back on tough and long-debated decisions, the team is extremely happy on the outcome of those decisions that our competitors initially found strange or even stupid. The graph below shows our firm, Firm D, stock performance against the other firms in our industry:

Competition graph

The chart does not necessarily indicate that we had a superior strategy over other competitors, but it clearly shows that our team was focused on a strategy over the course of the competition. It demonstrates that the team made sound decisions that delivered significant value to the firm’s bottom line.

The simulation has cemented our finance and accounting lessons acquired during the fall and spring semesters as part of Duke MEMP’s core and elective courses. Those courses provided the basis for the discussion and analysis of our firm’s and competitors’ financial statements on each round. One important, yet subtle, lesson I learned during my Advanced Finance Course is that profitability and liquidity are inversely proportional to each other. This lesson allowed the team to make sound financial decisions which led to our winning the competition. Therefore, I also believe that the simulation and competition fostered our financial acumen.

Finally, I would highly encourage all MEMP students to apply for the competition next year as it was truly captivating and rewarding. There are innumerable lessons to be gained in different fields such as product development, marketing, finance, pricing, strategic thinking, and others. More importantly, I had the opportunity to try and validate hard-to-apply lessons in team dynamics and competitive strategy beyond just studying and discussing them in classroom cases.

New Digs for DUhatch

By: Samyuktha Sundar, Student Coordinator DuHatch, MEMP ’16 and Ric Telford, Adjunct Associate Professor, Executive in Residence

On September 3rd, The Foundry had its Open House,DUhatch2 revealing to everyone this amazing new 7,600 square foot facility on the ground floor of Gross Hall. The Foundry serves as “maker space” for students, faculty and staff who have an idea and want to build it from the ground up. Given the mission and vision of the Foundry, it became a perfect new location for DUhatch, Duke’s technology incubator program. Earlier this month, DUhatch completed its relocation to the Foundry and is ready to start the next step of a journey that began 5 years ago.

DUhatch (short for Duke UnDUhatch1iversity hatchery) was first conceived in 2011 as a subsidiary of then Duke Student Ventures. Duke has always had its share of budding entrepreneurs, and the time seemed right to start developing more tools that could help the entrepreneur community at Duke.   Space was carved out in the Teer building and DUhatch came to life in 2011 with a well-attended kickoff event.

The mission of DUhatch is fairly straight forward. DUhatch is committed to helping incubate new ideas on campus by providing space, equipment, mentorship, and a network for student success.   There are anywhere from 5 -10 teams at any given time in DUhatch and they provide a wide range of product and service solutions.

One of the more well-known graduates of DUhatch was Tatiana Birgisson. Tatiana started Mati Energy drink – a healthy alternative to today’s energy drinks. Tatiana was a Google DemoDay winner and continues to build her company by working out of the American Underground in Durham.

DUhatch is now part of larger, coordinated efforts across Duke focusing on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E). We coordinate with the leadership in the Duke I&E organization to ensure we complement activities across the campus.

Today, we have a record-high 10 teams that call DUhatch home and they represent a wide variety of new business ideas, including:

  • FarmShots: Image analysis to help farmers and agronomists
  • Physao: Remote monitoring platform for chronic lung conditions
  • BioMetrix: Motion capture wearable sensors
  • Genie: Peer-to-peer service provider
  • Mentormee: Mobile mentoring platform
  • Tiba Health: Wearable device for patient adherence

Come by and see the DUhatch digs next time you are in Gross Hall – we can be found in workspaces 45 and 47. If you are interested in learning more about DUhatch, check out our website. For more information, subscribe to our listserv by clicking here.

 

Faculty Interviews with MEngagement Career Committee: Dr. Bob Barnes

Bob BarnesBy: Rajalekha Manjakuppam Rajamahendiran, MEng ’16

The MEngagment Career Committee interviews Dr. Bob Barnes, Professor of Biomedical Device Innovation and Project Management.

Dr. Barnes brings his rich experience in project management to MEM, MEng and undergraduate students in his Biomedical Device Innovation and Project Management courses here at Duke. “At Duke, we have a very unique situation, and this is one of the things that all engineers should recognize, especially MEng and MEM. If you’re in biomedical engineering (BME), you’re in arguably the number 1, number 2 BME program in the country and perhaps in the world. But it’s very rare situation in which you can walk less than a mile and be at one of the top medical schools in the world, one of the top hospitals in the country, at the number 7 nursing school in the country, at one of the top business schools in the country, one of the best law schools in the world, one of the best public policy schools in the country, and have a great economics program. If you’re interested in being an entrepreneur, those are the things you need to have, and you can walk to every one of them. There are very few places in the world, where you can do that. To come here and not take advantage of these things, doesn’t make any sense”.

The MEngagement Career Committee sat down with Dr. Barnes to get his insight and advice to students regarding industry and the job search process.

Q: What made you pursue a career in project management? How did you get into teaching courses in project management and biomedical device innovation?

A: When I was in the 6th grade, I decided I wanted a PhD. I put a plan together to get the PhD by the spring of 1974, and missed that by 6 months. After that, I taught and was up for tenure a year earlier than I had thought. I’ve always been a project manager, it’s just natural for me. During this point of time, if you take a look at NASA, take a look at things that were happening in the U.S., it was the era of project management. I came along with a right attitude at the right time. I’m a civil engineer by training, not a biomedical engineer. Through a number of opportunities that were presented, I had a chance to work with Abbott, Pfizer, Guidant, Medtronic and Eli Lilly; all of those having to do with managing new product development, as a consultant. In 2010, I made a decision, I was tired of traveling. From 1990 until 2010, I would leave home Sunday night and come back home Friday night. Decided, I didn’t want to do that as much. Just happened to meet Barry Meyers, who introduced me to George Truskey. Dr. Truskey had a grant. He needed somebody to teach a course called Biomedical Devices, and that’s how I wound up doing this.

Q: During your experience, what are the qualities, skills or traits that stand out that enable engineers to be successful? What have you seen as a project manager in your team of engineers?

A: There are 2 things that drive engineers to be successful. The first one is necessary, but not sufficient, is you must be technically proficient. It doesn’t mean you have to be an expert. The next thing you need to be a good engineer is to be able to define problems. What is sufficient is if you can’t define problems, then you will do 2 things: You will solve problems that are of no value to anyone. The second thing you will do is you will waste your life. A 30 – 40 year career. That’s all you have. I’m only going to work on those problems that are meaningful to me because if you can’t define the problems, you can’t get there. Identify: “Is this problem worth my time?”

Q: I saw part of your interview with the MEM PDC where you talked about technical proficiency. You mentioned how competency is an important trait in leaders. How does one prepare for the transition from an engineering role that requires technical proficiency to a managerial role that requires competency?

A: Well I think preparation is one issue, but the first step is desire. You have to recognize as an individual contributor you can recognize tremendous value in your life and tremendous rewards. That’s a decision as an engineer you need to make early on in your career: “Do I want to be an individual contributor?” Or “Do I want to be somebody that can leverage my skill set through others to accomplish far more that I could ever accomplish by myself?” So this becomes a very personal issue with people. It’s that “I did it” is a very different experience from “We or They did it”. I don’t get turned on by “They did it”, not even by “we did it”. It’s a mindset that’s difficult for engineers to attain. Because of the way we’re trained, and the way we’re attracted to the profession. And that’s okay because there are things that you as an individual can do that nobody else can do, and you should take pride in that. But if I can get 4 more people like you, and I can get you to work together, the five of you can accomplish things that nobody else can do. And that’s the reward you have to seek.

Q: Now shifting our discussion from career pathway to internship and job search process. What have you seen in the past work for students in terms of finding an internship or job, and what advice would you give to current students who are in the process right now?

A: There are 2 things that pop out now. Number 1 is to start early. The second thing is to ask “What contribution can I make?” not “What do I want?” I guess, the third part of this is doing your research to make sure that what you want is consistent with what the hiring organization needs. You have to start early, you have to identify a number of different opportunities, you have to do your research. If I’m the hiring organization, don’t come to me as if this is the first time you’re hearing of this organization. So do your homework, and you may discover that you may not need to talk to them as they may not be doing the work you want to do. That’s the reason you want to start early, as opposed to wait to start in the spring.

Q: For company research, you can look at the company website and attend information sessions. What are other ways to approach this?

A: Let me give you an example, there is a good group that meets at Research Triangle Park, Indus. It’s an international organization of Indians who are entrepreneurs. These are people that are entrepreneurs, that are really interested in young people, who are engineers that want to be entrepreneurs. There are different groups.

Start networking. And when you show up in your first semester, get to the know the people who are in their last semester. “Where did you work? Who did you work with?” Network through them. Because the best way to get a job with me is for somebody that has worked with me, that did well and says, “I’d like you to meet _____, would you mind if I left you her/his resume? I think she/he would do a good job for you”. There’s no better way.

Q: Since you’ve brought up entrepreneurship, some students are interested in working for a startup or even launching a start-up, but they feel the need to work for a larger corporation first. What do you suggest?

A: Most of you don’t know enough to make significant contribution to an entrepreneurial firm. Let me bring up the example of Indus again. One of the officers this past year is a former chief financial officer of RedHat. If you happen to have coffee or tea with them and they’re retired, and they discover that you’d be interested in working in software development, why shouldn’t you ask, “Who’s hiring?” SAS Institute is in the Park, Quintiles is in the Park. The story is: it’s here. Start networking, and start asking “Who can connect with me?” The best connection is with somebody who has worked there. So start with the MEng and MEM students this semester. Start now.

Q: My final question is apart from the career services on campus, what is the best resource that students can use to leverage their chances of securing their dream job or internship?

A: The real problem with dream jobs is that they don’t exist. Most of us wind up from going place to place, and we wind up at some place that fits for us. One of the things that I wish our students would do, for example, the American Society of Civil Society has a chapter, the IEEE has a chapter, BMES has a chapter, these are professional chapters not student chapters. They all meet between Greensboro, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, they’re all in that area. If you want a job, find out about the professional societies. Find out when they meet, get a friend to go with you and go. Most of them have student fees too. The best way I know is to put yourself out there, be bold, and get to know people. Let them know when you show up in the professional engineering society of North Carolina, in the American Society of Quality etc., you’re going to be the youngest person there. So when you check in, say “I’m a student, is there someone here I can talk to just to get acquainted with the organization.” What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t talk to you at all, but at least you get to eat something. Even if you don’t meet anybody, you expand your cultural experience. You have to put yourself out there.

 

Introduction to Interviews of MEM Alumni Working in Data Analytics

DanielBy: Daniel Egger, Executive in Residence and Director, Center for Quantitative Modeling

Last Spring, I competed for the right to develop a series of four online courses in Business Data Analytics for Coursera: what Coursera calls a “High-Demand Specialization.” We won!

The Specialization is called Excel to MySQL: Analytic Techniques for Business and it’s my primary responsibility to deliver the first two of four courses: Business Metrics for Data-Driven Companies, (which launched September 15th) and Mastering Data Analysis in Excel (launched October 19th). I’m also developing a really cool Specialization Capstone Project in collaboration with Airbnb, which will go live on January 18th, and involves student developing their own predictive models to optimize the rental value of residential properties.

Along with my collaborator, Neuroscience postdoctoral student Jana Schaich-Borg of the Information Initiative at Duke – see bigdata.duke.edu – and a team from Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology, we have been working seven days a week to deliver four Courses and Capstone on a tight schedule. Many current MEM students are contributing directly to the effort, as Teaching Assistants on one or more of the Specialization Courses, helping us catch mistakes, develop practice problems, and provide high-quality supplementary materials.

The first Course aims to be a non-technical overview of the ways data analysts, business data analysts, data scientists and other technical folk interact with data in the business world. It is organized around what business metrics are most important to track, and what kind of jobs people actually do that involve Big Data: what tools they use, and how they identify opportunities to increase revenues, maximize profits, or reduce risk. The course also explores how different types of companies, with different corporate cultures, are responding (or not responding!) to the competitive opportunity and threat of Big Data – how effectively they are embracing “Big Data Culture.”

As part of my preparation, I got in touch with a good number of MEM alumni who are pursuing careers in data-analytics fields. It was cool to hear about the exciting jobs our students are doing all over the world. Many are working with the very latest technologies and are applying them in completely new ways. It is very gratifying to see how much responsibility our students have already taken on early in their careers, how much they are obviously enjoying their work, and how well prepared they are to succeed in a Big Data world! Three of my former Data Mining students seemed so representative of the rest – and so articulate – that I decided to include interviews with them in Course 1.

Over 6,000 learners enrolled in Business Metrics for Data-Driven Companies in its first two weeks since launch. Many learners have commented in the forums on how much they like the interviews. Making the interviews was my favorite part of creating the course.

The interviewees are:

Shambhavi Vashishtha (MEM Fall 2012) who works as a Business Analyst at Opera Solutions, a leading IT-focused strategic consulting firm. Video Interview

Tiffany Ting Yu (MEM Fall 2012) at the time of the interview a Business Data Analyst at Argus Information & Advisory Services, a strategic consulting firm which has developed its own proprietary databases and specializes in helping banks market credit cards and manage their credit card risk (since September 2015 Tiffany is working in a similar role at Goldman Sachs). Video Interview

Dai Li (MEM Spring 2013) who works as a Data Scientist at If(We), a high-tech startup in the social networking arena. Video Interview

Really, these interviews speak for themselves – opportunities for MEM graduates with a strong interest in data science and a willingness to acquire new technical skills on the job are practically unlimited in today’s market.

Click Here to see the 3 full videos!

By the way, Course 2 – Business Data Analytics with Excel – launched last week! – is based closely on the Data Mining course I’ve developed over the last six years for Engineering Management students. We use a simple and accessible data-processing tool – Excel – that raises minimal technical barriers to participation – but nevertheless develop mathematically deep and generalizable (Bayesian Logical Data Analysis) methods that aim in the long run to help rationalize the field of data science.

Course 2 focuses on how quantitative measures of Information, uncertainty, and reduction in uncertainty or information gain, bring accountability to the work of data scientists. Information measures are objective and can provide a shared conceptual framework to allow all stakeholders to track the incremental value of an individual model, or an entire data-science engineering initiative, independently of the technical details of the algorithm or project.

The videos and supplemental materials we’ve created for both Course 1 and 2 will I hope also be a valuable resource for future Duke Data Science students – by covering basic principles online, we should free-up more class time for individual project work with real data sets.

Course 3 – Data Visualization & Communication with Tableau and Course 4 – Managing Big Data with MySQL – are being developed primarily by Jana. They will launch in November and December respectively. We hope you will join us for some or all of this adventure!

 

Lessons Learned from Volkswagen Scandal

greg026 croppedBy: Gregory S. Hopper, Adjunct Associate Professor

Volkswagen is an iconic company. It employs 600,000 people worldwide and is the parent company to Porsche, Audi, Bugatti, and several other well known marques. Launched by Hitler in WWII, it worked its way out of that shadow and became known for cars built with fine German engineering – the key element of their promise of value.

Today, VW is a cheater. Their “clean diesel” engine, specifically the Type EA 189, is a fraud. The company installed software in the engine control unit that senses when a car is being tested for emissions, and turns all the emission control devices on. When the car is being driven normally, the same software senses those conditions, and turns the emission control devices off. Nitrous oxide emissions are as much as 35 times higher on the road than when under test. 482,000 cars powered by these “clean diesel” engines have been sold in the US since 2009. Further investigation has uncovered that the cheating affects 11 million cars worldwide.

What could drive this sort of egregious behavior? Here’s my theory: around 2009, VW stated that it wanted to become the #1 automaker in the world, and would do just about anything to reach that goal. In June of this year, VW passed Toyota’s shipments for the first six months of the year, becoming #1.

But at what cost?

Imagine a scenario where you are the Senior Product Manager for the Type EA 189 “clean diesel” engine. You have rigorous specifications for fuel economy, performance, and emissions. And a schedule to meet, because this particular engine is key to the strategy to become the #1 automaker in the world.

Further imagine that you learn that there is no way that you will be able to meet all three of the (competing) specifications. Do you:

(a) Inform your manager, perhaps running the risk of losing your job?

(b) Figure out how to program the engine control module to adaptively engage the emission control devices based on the driving conditions, keeping the program on schedule?

Now let’s shift the perspective in this imaginary scenario: you are the Senior PM’s manager.

Your job is to assure that the engine is developed on time and on schedule. You have a sizable bonus at stake in the company’s drive to become the world’s #1 automaker. Your PM brings you her news. You know that the company has developed adaptive emissions technology, such as described in US Patent 5,868,646 (“Control Arrangement Accommodating Requirements of Different Countries for Motor Vehicles having an Internal Combustion Engine and Automatic Transmission”). (A patent search for “adaptive emissions controls” assigned to Volkswagen returns dozens of hits.) What do you do?

(a) Report it to senior management, and risk your job and sizable bonus?

(b) Authorize the use of engine control software to have context-aware engine control?

It is situations like this that a company’s values guide its decision-making process. Years ago, Johnson & Johnson relied on its values to respond to the Tylenol scare by pulling every single tablet of the product off the market rather than risk injury or death to its customers.

Volkswagen appears to have put the goal to be #1 ahead of the need to obey the law. In a broader perspective, the company confused financial metrics with strategy. Let me state: financial objectives (market share, profit, earnings per share, gross profit margin, “shareholder value” and so on) are not strategic objectives. They are, instead, lagging indicators of the success of strategy; lagging indicators of a firm’s ability to create value for customers.

Sam Palmisano of IBM declared in 2009 that his strategy was to achieve “$20 earnings per share”. That’s ridiculous. It’s like a football coach saying that his goal is to score 20 points per game. Scoring 20 points isn’t the objective – winning the Super Bowl is. You get to the Super Bowl by winning games over a long season. And you win games by building talent, innovating in game plans, executing well, and reacting to the situation on the field. In general, being better than your competition.

You don’t even know if 20 points will be enough to win games until you see the nature of your competition. Like a football team, a successful company needs to build talent, innovate in offerings and business model, plan strategically, execute well, and react to the situation in the marketplace. In general, be better than the competition.

Unlike football, there is no “Super Bowl” in business. There is no finish line. (Well, there is, but crossing it isn’t called “winning”. Ask Borders, Blockbuster, Circuit City, etc.) Companies must plan for the long term, over several “horizons”, to create and capture real customer value.

It is not unimaginable that the drive to be the #1 automaker in the world could instead drive Volkswagen out of business. Putting that goal ahead of the law and the trust that customers, employees, and investors had in the brand, VW’s market capitalization dropped 40% in a couple days. They face $18B in fines in the US alone; fines in other countries where the other 10.5 million cheating vehicles were sold is unknown. The cost to repair the cars has not been calculated. The 2016 models have not been released for sale in the US. The collateral damage—an “anti-halo” effect, if you will—to the other VW brands, notably Audi (which also used the Type EA 189 “clean diesel” engine), may be severe.

As we saw in our imaginary scenarios, the drive to achieve goals can lead to intense—sometimes crushing—pressure to behave unethically or illegally. The values that you formulate for your company and yourself should be the basis of your decision-making process. Financial goals are not strategies, they are the score, and will reflect the success of your strategic decisions over time.

Read more

About: Greg Hopper created and teaches “Competitive Strategy in Technology-based Industries” for MEMP. He is a strategy and product marketing executive and entrepreneur with over 30 years experience in business strategy and marketing of technology-based solutions.  He is the CEO of Strategic Edge Executive Resources, LLC, a strategic planning, consulting, and executive education firm in Raleigh, NC.  He also serves as Strategist-in-Residence for HQ Raleigh, the leading business incubator in the Capital District, and education coordinator for ThinkHouse Raleigh.

4 Ways to Find a Fantastic Mentor

By: La Tondra Murray, Director of Professional Masters Programs

One of the best things that you can do in any industry is to work with a good mentor. In my experience, people often underestimate the degree to which a mentor can help you learn the landscape, build relationships and manage challenges in the workplace.  The search for a strong mentor, however, can be daunting at first thought.

Any approach can ultimately work if you can collaborate with a mentor who is willing to share his or her experiences while simultaneously getting to know you. Trust, honesty and vulnerability all play a role in strongest of mentor-protégé pairings.

The first step, however, is to find the right, willing candidate. As you search for and ultimately ask someone to serve as a mentor, here are a few things that you can do from the start:

  1. Develop clear goals for the interaction. What is it that you want to get out of a mentor-protégé relationship? Are you interested in growing your technical expertise? Do you want to learn more about the organization’s product lines? Would you like to create better strategies for work-life integration? If you give some serious thought to what you’d like to glean from your mentor upfront, you’ll be able to: 1) make a stronger case for who you specifically want to work with as well as why and 2) gain a clearer view of how you want to progress over time. You should also think about how you want to contribute as the best partnerships are mutually beneficial.
  2. Think beyond your immediate team. Sometimes is it helpful to get the perspective of someone who isn’t aligned with your department, business unit, or even your company. Mentors can certainly be internal to your organization, but consider the possibilities outside the realm of your employer as well. At the end of the day, mentors can often provide a unique vantage point based on their experience and knowledge. If you can look beyond the people you have access to on a daily basis anyway, you may be able to engage with someone else with surprising results.
  3.  Be prepared to work with more than one person. Mentors can serve different purposes in your professional life, so you don’t need to have an exclusive arrangement with a single person. As I tell my own mentees, ‘we can see other people.’ While you don’t want to have so many mentors that you can’t create a quality relationship with any of them, I do think that there is value is establishing a small ‘board of directors’ that can help you flourish in the areas that are important to you. An open mindset will release you from the expectations that one individual can help you with everything.
  4. Choose someone who is different from you. While it is often comforting to align ourselves with a mentor who shares our gender, race, educational background, etc., we may miss out on an opportunity to leverage diversity in our favor. A mentor with a background that varies from yours can provide you with unique insight. Don’t be afraid to venture beyond your comfort zone to connect with someone different. You stand to make tremendous gains if you can broaden your horizons.

Most people will be more than willing to help, but you need to take the initial step.  Figure out who you would like to learn from and reach out!

What other strategies would you suggest when it comes to finding a mentor? Leave a comment to let us know!

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Dr. La Tondra Murray and her fantastic mentor of 20+ years Dr. Mary Carol Day