Business analytics students tour Uber's data science operations

Diving into Big Data, Touring Uber and Networking with Alums—All Before Day 1
April Chen gets an early start on networking before her Master of Business Analytics program

With a week to myself in San Francisco, I leapt into the world of big data, toured Uber’s headquarters and spent time with alums.

I had just left my role as a senior financial systems analyst in a mid-sized technology consulting firm in Minneapolis, Minn., and was about to start the UC Davis Master of Science in Business Analytics program. 

Uber opens doors to business students

The Graduate School of Management was already sending me information about networking events and orientation, giving me a glimpse into how intensive and exciting the MSBA program would be.


I was skeptical about the free tickets for the 6th Annual Global Big Data Conference that Amy Russell, our MSBA program executive director, posted on the program’s Slack channel. For one, it would be a two-and-a-half-hour public transit ride to Santa Clara.

But it was definitely worth it!

While I am new to the big data industry, much of the conference was very intuitive and helpful. I learned from an Uber data scientist about the multi-armed bandit algorithm as a replacement for A/B testing and how it was improving customer experience. A data science platform director from Gap, Inc. also shared some of their upcoming features that would be powered by big data. It was also interesting to hear from a Princeton Ph.D. how his startup was predicting financial market trends by analyzing what’s called the time series.

“To be successful at Uber, you need to think creatively and communicate smartly.”

What impressed me most was the presentation from a Stanford Ph.D. in a pitch competition for blockchain and ICO (Initial Coin Offering in cryptocurrency, similar to an IPO stock offer). After his pitch, a couple of the investors judging the competition exchanged business cards with him, showing their interest. Storytelling is important in data analytics and his presentation was excellent. He addressed concerns over the criminal activities within the blockchain industry and introduced a product solution based on what he’d learned from his previous startups, explaining that idea clearly and confidently to the investors.

At the conference, I learned a tremendous amount of information about what’s happening in the big data world and how companies are using data to solve real-life issues. I found it inspiring for my journey into data analytics with the MSBA program.


The MSBA program arranges visits with companies, recruiters and hiring managers throughout the year. Though they were focusing on alumni, Amy and her team extended an invite to the incoming class to tour the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco and learn business insights directly from the hiring managers.

Four of those managers gave a short overview of their teams and responsibilities, and also shared their success matrices.

During this site visit with Uber, I learned that it is vital to think creatively and communicate smartly. Thinking outside the box is extremely essential to look for the potential business problems in a fast-growing company. No idea was dumb at Uber. It’s also important to work within cross-functional teams and to help those from different backgrounds to better understand those ideas and solutions.

While the one-year program is short, it feels long with everything we do.

The networking event showed me how data-driven decisions work in the real world and the collaborative environment that’s needed for that to happen.


I also had the chance to connect with MSBA alumni Yiqing Yang and Nicholas Tang, both from the program’s inaugural class.

Yiqing is a data analyst at the streaming service Vudu, a content delivery company acquired by Walmart. She took me on a site visit of Walmart’s Sunnyvale campus and shared valuable insights into how data science supports their advertising model.

I cannot wait to dive into these new challenges and opportunities in the MSBA program.

Nicholas is the product analyst intern at Ancestry, the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world. He offered us useful information about how to succeed in the MSBA program.

Besides the required 40 credits in academic courses, there is also a practicum project that helps us understand how data science is applied in top companies.

After an exciting week, I cannot wait to dive into these new challenges and opportunities in the MSBA program.

 Please reach out with any questions!