Ishita Gupta graduated from LBS with a Masters in Analytics and Management in 2020 and leveraged her data skills to secure a full-time role with Uber in their Operations department. Ishita talks to us about making the most of the Career Centre, how to impress at interview and how best to position the MAM to employers.
What were you doing and where before you arrived at LBS?
I did my undergraduate in India in Information Technology and started off as a Software Developer, interning at Toshiba. I then took up a full-time role with PwC India as a financial data analyst where I was identifying fraudulent transactions for companies through data and I was helping them find ways to mitigate this in their system. Through this experience, I realised that I really liked solving problems with data. It was so interesting, but I wanted to be in a more fast-paced environment, so I moved to a hyperlocal delivery startup in India called Dunzo, that delivered anything from anywhere to anywhere. I was always fascinated by their business model and from there I realised my love for customer-centric products and how great products can really make an impact in people’s day-to-day lives.
I decided to do the MAM to transition from the pure data side of things towards the strategic business side, so I think coming to LBS was the perfect choice for me. I was looking for very tech-centric roles, primarily product, but I realised that product roles might not be very entry-level, so I thought of doing some strategy-related roles in tech and then going from there.
How did you develop that plan throughout the MAM? Was it just about exploring as many things as possible, or did you have a direction company-wise that you wanted to head in?
We had a lot of sessions with the Career Centre during the summer, and I feel like I saw all my friends do applications so early in the year for sectors like Consulting. Tech applications start very late, in March, whereas a Consulting application might start in September. For me, a person from India who needed a sponsorship, I really wanted to get a job in London, so I did fall into the peer pressure of doing Consulting applications! But I also knew that the analytical skills that I had paired with the learnings from the MAM of using data in business-centric problems, there would be real opportunity in other consumer-focused areas. Actually, before Uber, I had two Consulting offers, but even with these roles, they were very ‘Tech’ Consulting focused roles. I still tried to stay in more of the Tech sector rather than just move completely to Strategy Consulting.
What would you recommend as something that worked really well in securing those offers?
I think there are a few things here. Firstly, I think making the most of what LBS can offer is so important; we do have a lot of resources which people don’t really realise! My programme’s Career Coach was always just there to help; I had a lot of interviews during the year and before every interview, I would have sessions with her to practice it. I did get a lot of rejections as well and a few of them were quite upsetting for me, but I set up review sessions for them, went through what happened in the interviews, and we reflected back on what I could have done better. It was a very iterative process and it helped me to do better in every interview. I think this is something that other students don’t realise – they said to me ‘oh, does the Career Center even do that?’ And they do! I’ve made the most of it, I think.
Apart from that, it’s definitely the LBS community. People are always ready to help. For example, I was always very interested in Uber as a company since it is so ingrained in our daily lives, and I remember talking to an alumnus a really long time back about it. He told me, ‘If you want to go into a company like Uber, you should maybe look into roles in operations because they are mostly strategy-focused.’ I’d never realised until I had the conversation with him, and now I am an operations manager at Uber. I went through all the Peer Leader sessions too, incorporated their advice every time. We also had this MBA leadership program for EC programmes where an MBA peer was assigned a mentor you. I happened to have an amazing mentor who really helped me a lot throughout the year, especially with interviews and overall development.
What didn’t work in securing you your current role? Any challenges or surprises?
A lot of students think that once they’ve applied to a company and get rejected, they don’t stand a chance there anymore, this concept of a cooling period, which isn’t true for a lot of companies in the UK, especially for tech. For example, one of my applications I gave all my heart and soul to, and my last interview was with the CEO. I thought it went really well, I was so sure I was going to get an offer, so I definitely learnt not to get your hopes up too high as it took me about a month to get over the eventual rejection! But even when I did, I was in touch with their HR, and she actually said that there was another role, a 12-month internship, which I interviewed for and was offered (I didn’t end up taking it because then I got a full-time role). But I found just trying to be connected to the HR recruiters can be a really good tip as well.
Everyone gets very disappointed because, at the start of the year, you’re doing so many applications and often not hearing back. The Jan-Feb period is the maximum burnout phase! But that’s the time when you can’t get demotivated because from March, it starts kicking in, especially for the MAM students who are more tech-focused. I learnt that you just need to hang in there. It will happen!
If you manage your time well, you can actually balance things very well too. Term 1 was very hectic for us, but in Term 2, I did a part-time job with an LBS alumni for her startup. I feel like experiences like that, even though they were short-term projects, allow you to always develop and regardless of how your applications are going, it’s good to make the most of your time at LBS in other ways too.
How did you utilize your MAM in recruitment processes? How did you position it to greatest effect?
A lot of companies are now becoming more data-focused. This is where the MAM students can really sell their skills in terms of data visualisation, data manipulation. The best part is that the MAM covers a lot of other skills, like data science, machine learning, SQL, and Python. You can adapt your CV and application to suit the role you’re applying for in that sense; if I was applying for more tech roles, I would highlight courses like machine learning and data science. Or, if I was applying to a more traditional business role, I’d highlight that side of MAM. It does cover a broad range of topics.
The second thing is that during an LBS programme, we do a lot of different volunteering activities, a lot of different things, so it was about trying to highlight those in your CVs as well. I put my social impact project on my CV, which was a very interesting topic of conversation with a lot of recruiters. We’ve done a lot of practical, hands-on data work in our programme and a lot of companies asked me to develop insights from a live dataset for the interview and I feel like that really resonated with the data science projects I’d done at LBS.
What do you think ended up making that difference between you and other candidates?
I would say for me it was probably about my new ideas. Sometimes companies just look for how much you can stretch your creativity to the problems they’re facing, so I think just trying to understand what the mission of the company is, what their ambitions are, and then trying to demonstrate those values in your interviews is very important. For example, I knew Uber are very customer focused, they’re just like ‘think of a problem, do it’ so I tailored my mindset to that, with the research I did. I’d always recommend that you go through the blogs, go through anything and everything on their website, what the top leadership of the company is saying over the past six months…I think it really gives you some good talking points. And finally, at the end, just ask loads of smart questions, as they’ll evaluate you on those too. It’s definitely about building that rapport, in interviews, assessment centres – they’re looking for how you interact as well as what you know.
What’s the one thing you’d advise to other Early Careers starting out in their careers?
I would say definitely explore your options, but don’t give up on your passion just because of peer pressure or because you think you won’t get something. If you do all you can to try, you will get it. If you settle for a job that you don’t really like at the end of the day, you’re not going to be happy. That really matters and apart from that, I think LBS is a great resource to try to make the most of, so network, talk to people, try to build relationships not only just for work, but as human beings. What stands apart is how you build that relationship with them.