Two New Student-Led Clubs at Michigan Ross Reflect the Growing Needs of the Tech Industry
Tech has become one of the most popular destinations for recent Michigan Ross grads: nearly 24 percent of last year’s MBAs accepted positions in the industry, and companies like Amazon and Microsoft are among the companies who hire the most Ross grads.
But fast-growing subcategories in tech means employers are struggling to find workers who have the skills necessary to succeed in the highly competitive space.
That’s where the portfolio of resources for Ross students comes into play. The Career Development Office, the Technology Club at Ross, and two new student-created clubs are setting Ross graduates up for even greater success in these kinds of careers.
DIAG: Helping students become data analytics experts before their first job or internship
On the job at Amazon, it’s not unusual for Lan Nguyen, MBA ‘16, to work with spreadsheets that have two or three million rows.
Working with that much data — and learning the tools to analyze it all — is something Nguyen often sees new employees struggle with, but she had an advantage. She was introduced to this kind of work when she was a part of the student group DIAG at Michigan Ross.
DIAG tasks Ross MBAs with using big data to solve problems for real-world companies. “We started the club because we were all in internships that required us to do a fair amount of data analysis, and we knew that this is a way a lot of MBA employers were moving,” said Nguyen, a founding member. “We thought it would be great if we could somehow enable students to work on data projects before they start their careers.”
Since DIAG’s founding four years ago, it has connected students with projects at Ford, Bosch, FIAT Chrysler, the Detroit Police, ABB Robotics, startups, and others. Many of these companies have worked with the group on several projects.
DIAG President Kevin Luo, MBA ‘18, likens the club’s work to “mini-MAP” projects that give students an understanding of data problems in real businesses. “In the real world, the data you’re given is often messy or insufficient, and figuring out how to work with that is what takes the most time,” he said.
Another benefit of the club is feedback from the companies and DIAG faculty advisors, which helps students learn how to present on the data in an effective and meaningful way, Nguyen said.
Arbor Esports: It's all fun and games and profit –– lots of profit
When Tony Yuan, BBA ‘17, first launched a club to play video games at Ross, he was just looking for some other like-minded students to have fun with.
He had no idea it would grow into a career in one of the world’s fastest-growing industries.
Esports has seen tremendous growth in the last few years, with millions of spectators from across the world tuning in online for esport events. At the same time, sales agencies, companies, and sports teams have started backing players and teams the same way they do in other professional sports.
Yuan now works at a sales agency that represents many of the top tier gaming organizations. One of them is called Optic Gaming, which is currently the biggest gaming team in the world, and it’s backed by the Texas Rangers. The Rangers isn’t the only professional team getting in on the game: 17 NBA teams are participating in the inaugural season of its NBA 2K Esports League this spring. Disney plans to open an esports arena in Orlando this year. Gillette and Geico sponsor teams, as do celebrities Jennifer Lopez and Magic Johnson. Esports revenues are projected to hit $1.5 billion by 2020.
Why? It’s all about the marketing. Some events attract tens of millions of viewers, who are predominantly males in their twenties with disposable income.
“It’s a demographic that is increasingly difficult to reach through traditional methods,” Yuan said. “There’s not as much turnout on traditional sports like football and soccer, or via traditional venues like TV or radio. So now they’re looking to move to digital.”
“If these young viewers or players see their favorite esport player vouching for Gillette, they’re going to go to the store and buy Gillette, and they’re going to use Gillette for the rest of their lives.”
Yuan knows of many former Arbor Esports members who have gone on to work in the industry, which he describes as kind of a Wild West.
“There’s a lot of investment coming in, but not a lot of structure. Which is why we think the industry needs people who love esports, who understand esports, but also have a world-class business background,” Yuan said. “That’s why I am very thankful for the fact that I was able to receive a Ross education, and now I’m working on building the structure for esports to thrive on in the future.”
The club itself, currently led by Avantika Tiwari, BBA ‘18, has grown to attract hundreds of players across the area for gaming events, as well as thousands of dollars in sponsorships of its own. When Tiwari took over after Yuan graduated, she was set on the club fulfilling what she saw as its big potential. Participation doubled after she re-branded Arbor Esports and brought in sponsors for events, players, and gear. It’s more appropriate for a club that not only offers plenty of opportunities for fun, but also possible career connections too.
“Michigan Ross has a lot of graduates working in esports, generally working as project managers,” Yuan said. “As more graduates join the industry we’re going to support people who come out of Ross.”