“You can consider how to target a customer, but ultimately those parameters don’t prove to be as compelling to get the customer coming back as their customer experience,” said Claire Buetow, senior program manager for Amazon Web Services, and FEMBA '17, at the Merage School's recent career night for the technology industry. • Chris Lee/UCI

Merage Career Center’s First Technology-Oriented Community Event Features Amazon, IBM and Experian

April 16, 2019 • By Jessie Yount

Have you ever tasted a Vietnamese Apple Kebab? How about a Chocolate Austrian Burrito?

Believe it or not, these are recipes that machines have come up with, and ironically, they do taste good, and they are healthy. But the machines were only able to come up with the new recipes by learning chemistry and flavor combinations, which is admittedly, not how humans learn to cook.

And that’s exactly the point.

“To really maximize the value of new technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual reality, you need to learn how to think differently,” Neil Sahota, former world wide business development leader and master inventor at IBM, and MBA '03, told the audience at the recent UCI Paul Merage School of Business career and networking event focused on the technology industry.

The event, which was presented by the Merage School Career Center and Merage Business & Technology Association at UCI, was the first technology-themed career night and networking event for graduate students and alumni at the Merage School.

Sahota, who is also a lecturer at the Merage School, said that students and professionals can spur their ability to think differently by challenging a core assumption. For example, the creators of Airbnb challenged the core assumption that you have to pay for a hotel room and were able to create an innovative business model because of it.

That’s one of the ways that Experian is innovating, added Heather Grover, vice president of product management at Experian Health, and FEMBA '01, as the healthcare industry continues to navigate the fine line between privacy and trust and access to data and information.

“We launched a program called Boost, which allows everyone to contribute information like how you pay your electricity bill, and that might be beneficial in terms of predicting financial risk,” Grover said. “If someone is willing to share data to their benefit, then we’ve challenged that assumption (that people prefer privacy).”

Experian’s innovation also points to a shift from an operations-centric economy to a customer-based economy, where data is best used to improve the customer experience.

Across industries, speed and personalization are driving big changes in the retail space, added Claire Buetow, a senior program manager for Amazon Web Services, and FEMBA '17, who formerly worked in Customer Insights & Analytics for Fresh & Prime Now.

“You can consider how to target a customer, but ultimately those parameters don’t prove to be as compelling to get the customer coming back as their customer experience,” Buetow said.

During a breakout session, Buetow added that when seeking a career at Amazon, students should consider the company’s leadership principles, including customer obsession, bias for action (or understanding calculated risk) and diving deep by paying attention to detail and comparing metrics and analytics to see if they align.

At the event, students were able to learn about the companies and mingle with alumni and employers.

“The event meshed well with our school’s slogan, leadership for a digitally driven world. It puts us on the forefront of the digital frontier, and provides the opportunity for students to network with big companies,” said attendee Anita Tse, MBA ’20.

Academically, the Merage School offers the type of curriculum that students can use to catch the attention of major technology employers.

“For anyone who wants to go into technology, the Merage School is a great place to be. We have close relationships with big technology companies,” explained panel moderator Vibhanshu Abhishek, associate professor of information systems at the Merage School. “In addition, given the location of the school in a rapidly developing technology hub, it is nicely positioned to channel our students into these well known companies.”