From the Dean: Graduating students ready for tomorrow’s jobs
Years ago, I never imagined I could walk into a store, pick up items, and walk out with my account perfectly charged — while never stopping in a checkout line or at a self-checkout kiosk. However, Amazon has used artificial intelligence and big data to eradicate the checkout experience at their Amazon Go stores. This project involved one of our own alums, Cameron Lowell, who is featured below.
We’re living at a time where both technology and work are rapidly evolving. Big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are changing everything from retail to health care.
In the School of Business, Government, and Economics, we think a lot about how to prepare students for the jobs of the future. There is an enduring need for skills that transcend time, including judgment, emotional intelligence, problem solving, decision making, and cultural competence.
As a Christian university, SPU is uniquely positioned to both teach these skills and to provide the moral and ethical framework to ask, “What does it mean to be human moving forward?”
I hope you enjoy thinking about the future with us in this issue. Also, please check out our new Masters of Science in Data Analytics.
Interview with Richard Dadzie: A Future Driven by Data
In the last few years, Richard Dadzie, assistant professor of economics, has gone from academia to consulting and back to academia again. He joined SPU after being a tax manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC), one of the big four multinational accounting firms at the cutting edge of using data analytics and technology. Dadzie says that his time at PwC shaped how he approaches teaching students.
How have you seen the accounting world change during the last decade?
The focus on data and technology. Companies expect hires to be tech savvy. Companies are generating huge amounts of data related to sales and business operations, and they need their advisers to help them work through it and to help them understand the data in a way that’s digestible.
How do you bring your experience from PwC into the classroom?
My experience at PwC made me more hands-on as a professor. Also, every quarter, I try to bring in people from different industries to share their experiences with my students. Thus far, I have invited an honoree from the 2018 Puget Sound 40 under 40, an executive director at a public accounting firm, a director of analytics at a software company, a woman-of-color-small-business owner, and a lawyer from a travel company.
Additionally, most of the assignments are very hands on. For example, in my Quantitative Methods class, students work with Excel quite a bit. I want students — especially business students — not to panic when they see overwhelming amounts of data. They also need to be able to write in clear and concise language to communicate what the data is saying. If you are delivering something to a boss or client, brevity and clarity is a must. If students walk away from my class saying, “Data is not scary anymore,” I’ve been successful.
How do you encourage students to get over the fear they may have of seeing huge amounts of data with millions of data points?
It was scary to me when I was a student, but a big part of getting over the fear is simply working with data. Play with data sets. If you get stuck, look up different ways to make sense of what appears to be a blob of information.
In most instances, your boss will give you something and say, “We have a meeting tomorrow. Can you review the data, and let us know what you found?” Students need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and be confident in themselves and their abilities.
Alumni: Where are they now?
We caught up with two alums whose jobs are shaping the future.
Ben Olsen ’10
AI & Ethics Learning Leader at Microsoft
BA in Philosophy
Imagining the future is part of Ben Olsen’s job. He’s the AI and Ethics Learning leader at Microsoft, where he helps Microsoft’s 58,000 engineers receive the training and skills they need to keep Microsoft on the cutting edge. Read the story in SPU Voices.
Cameron Lowell ’11
Senior Business Intelligence Engineer, Amazon
BA in Accounting, Business Administration, and Finance
Even Cameron Lowell’s wife doesn’t know what he’s working on for Amazon. He leaves no paper trail, locks his computer any time he gets up, and has become an expert at dodging his friends’ leading questions.
“I have to be very careful,” he says. “It’s an exercise in mental awareness.” Cameron is on his third top-secret project at the retail giant. The first was Amazon’s first brick-and-mortar store, Amazon Books. The second was Amazon’s cashierless grocery stores, Amazon Go. His current project is for the division of emerging devices.
He started at the company as an accountant in 2012. Now as a business intelligence engineer, Cameron translates data into meaningful and actionable insight. For example, he could look at data to see how weather affects retail store traffic. If he discovers that more customers visit during nice weather, he could propose changes to operations in warmer months.
“You wouldn’t believe how much data this company has,” Cameron says. “We’re still crazy understaffed with what we need to get through all of the data in a quick and meaningful fashion. There's lots and lots of potential for growth in this job family.”
Cameron loves the feeling when one of his projects finally goes public. Friends will text, “Was that you!?” And everything is finally out in the open — until he takes on his next secret project.
“I’m hooked on it at this point.”
Every year, hundreds of SPU students embark on internships to help prepare them for their future careers. Salma Aly and Deyon Robertson are both SPU seniors with future-focused internships.
Salma Aly, senior, finance major
Finance intern and international intern at Boeing, Renton, Washington
When Salma Aly started her internship at Boeing last summer, the company had $1.3 million in unpaid invoices. To start the repayment process, Salma coordinated with more than five teams to make sense of a massive Excel sheet. After cleaning up the data, she helped change the input process.
“I had to ask what we could do moving forward to make sure things can be paid in a timely manner in the future,” she says. She was able to get the invoice status to 99% current.
The summer internship was her second at Boeing after being chosen as one of three interns from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates the year before. The internship is how she found her way to Seattle, and ultimately SPU.
“I’m so glad I ended up here at SPU,” she says. “I love the personal connection with the professors. I can drop into their office at any time and ask questions.”
Deyon Robertson, senior business administration major with finance emphasis
Finance Integration Summer Associate, Aetna — Hartford, Connecticut; Woonsocket, Rhode Island; and New York, New York
Deyon Robertson was the only intern in board meetings with top executives at Aetna and CVS during one of the largest health care mergers in United States history.
“I was on the team,” Deyon says, “so they didn’t treat me like an intern. They treated me like I was on the team.”
Deyon created dashboards and tracked milestones on CVS and Aetna’s project management tool. He also completed a capstone project on how personal health care records can be managed with blockchain technology.
“The internship made me feel like ‘this is what school is for,’ ” he says. “There’s something greater that we need to be prepared for.”
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More than 650 people gathered on campus the first weekend in February for SPU’s 65th Homecoming and Family Weekend. SBGE gathered for a special homecoming breakfast to honor new and retiring faculty and to present SBGE alumnus and young alumnus awards to Cedric Davis MBA ’08 (senior philanthropic advisor at the Seattle Foundation) and Cory Shepherd ’08 (president and financial advisor at Sound Financial Group).
DOWNTOWN BUSINESS BREAKFAST
SPU hosted its 22nd annual Downtown Business Breakfast on Friday, April 5, with keynote speaker Guy Kawasaki, the former chief evangelist of Apple, current chief evangelist of Canva (an online graphic design tool), and a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz. Kawasaki spoke on “Leading Through the Tech Revolution,” a compelling topic in our global, future-facing city of Seattle. After the main event, the SBGE Executive Advisory Board hosted a lunch with Kawasaki, where he spoke on “Women in Tech” at the Madrona Venture Group. Attendees included EAB members and representatives from REI, Madrona Venture Group, Nordstrom, Zillow, Boeing, Microsoft, lululemon, JP Morgan Chase, and more.
DISTINGUISHED SPEAKER LUNCHEON
On March 7, SPU’s School of Business, Government, and Economics hosted their annual Burt and Ralene Walls Distinguished Speaker Luncheon in Upper Gwinn Commons. This year, the format was a little different — an interview with two CEOs who appeared to be in very different businesses: philanthropy and aviation. Tim Hanstad ’85, CEO of Chandler Foundation (and SPU Alumnus of the Year in 2016), interviewed Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX.
Here's a video of the event.
Chandler Foundation’s mission is to build healthy communities, vibrant marketplaces, and strong nations. Their approach is to apply investment principles to philanthropy. They invest in proven leaders (“people champions”) who build strong communities and unlock the creative potential of people. Chandler uses social investing for the common good.
Roei’s company, magniX, is revolutionizing the way the world flies by transforming the way aircraft are powered. They are bringing to market an all-electric propulsion system for commercial aviation. A business anchored in values, magniX has a strong culture built on those values. Values such as: we are family; we do the right thing — even when it’s hard; all in — all the time; we are curious; we are transparent; and we are consistent — all the time.
Both Chandler Foundation and magniX were founded by the same person, Richard Chandler, chairman of the Clermont Group. His investing philosophy is about the “goodness of business,” where seeking return on investment means more than financial profit. His investments also seek to unleash a nation’s creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship to create prosperity for all. He engages in social investing where the investment is for the long term and the focus is on collaboration, disciplined analysis, and innovation.
Tim interviewed Roei, asking about the future of aircraft powered by electric propulsion, and magniX’s role in that future. Roei talked about the value proposition of electric propulsion around cost savings and the environment — all for the beneficial purpose of connecting communities. He offered career advice to the students, sharing his personal story and providing some insights and professional motivations beyond just the monetary gains. For Roei, it is about making calculated bets on impact and legacy. He left quite an impression on many of the students, sharing his mottoes: (1) Do not forget where you come from and where you are going; (2) only dead fish go with the flow; and (3) the light at the end of the tunnel could be a train.
Having Tim and Roei on stage together illustrated that impact on the world for the common good can happen across a spectrum of social investment opportunities. It was so engaging for the students, and thanks to Tim and Roei, the students left inspired to pursue a vision for their lives that helps communities flourish.