Melinda Shultz graduated from Isenberg’s Online MS in Business Analytics program in 2022. She is an Associate Data and Reporting Analyst at Blizzard Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based games developer that created the Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft, and Overwatch series.
You had a long career with the Walt Disney Company. Tell us a bit about that, and how you saw your career evolving – and how you thought graduate studies might help.
I honestly fell into my role at Disney. It was one of those experiences where you mean to stay for a few months, but then you fall in love with your coworkers, environment, and culture; then a decade later you’re passionately committed. I started at Disney as temp help, in a casual Christmas season role running the register and sales. I was having a hard time finding work at the tail end of the 2008 recession and this position just seemed like fun in the meantime. From there, I was offered many opportunities to grow and move around the company. In my final role, I found myself at our corporate retail location in LA working with our Disney Store C-suite.
Early on I had been fascinated by how the company thought about financial allocations: the contribution needed from each Disney store for it to be considered successful. I knew I wanted to explore ways I could affect this process and make sales numbers more achievable for individual stores without compromising overall success.
But I didn’t have enough exposure or skills within the analytics field to make this happen. So, I decided to get a graduate degree.
How did you find out about Isenberg?
I learned about Isenberg from a Google search. I wanted to expand my search beyond California, so I was looking at online and hybrid programs that fit my criteria. The Isenberg MS in Business Analytics was one of the few programs that was not completely focused on data science, but intertwined with the MBA program and provided the opportunity to build business skills and knowledge.
Through my research I found the Isenberg MS in Business Analytics program to be an ideal mix of technical and managerial approaches to analytics. This approach seemed like it would better equip me for analytic conversations later with our executives. Overall, the program seemed applicable in my immediate work and something tangible I could bring back to my everyday workplace.
What did you hope the MS in Business Analytics degree would help you to accomplish?
Right as my first semester began, I learned that I was losing my longtime career. My reasons for acquiring this degree went from career growth to shifting my career objectives completely. After each class my understanding of an analytics career became more refined. My final intention for the MSBA was to completely leave the retail industry and pursue a more tech-based career.
How has your MSBA benefited you professionally?
Personally, I would not be able to perform my current job without the knowledge I gained from studying Isenberg’s curriculum. Although there is still a learning curve and expected growth in my managerial skillset, having that introduction and in-depth exposure to the type of work I might encounter has made the career transition much easier. Exposure to the Wide range of analytic skills and even an introduction to the responsibilities of a data engineer has given me a broader understanding of the roles and responsibilities of my team and coworkers.
How did you use your MSBA and the resources available at Isenberg, such as the Office of Career Success, to accomplish your immediate career goals?
Isenberg has a phenomenal career center with dedicated, invested people for the MSBA program. I have never felt so seen, with a staff completely dedicated to me. I worked closely with Rachel Snyder and the Graduate Programs Office throughout my job search. I learned how to define what I wanted from a position, and the root of what I really wanted from a job.
I am lucky to have earned a spot as an associate analyst on the reporting team at Blizzard Entertainment. The MSBA curriculum prepared me well for the needs and skills within my new role. I work in a small team comprising data analysts and data engineers where we work across SQL, Tableau, and Google Analytics as well as some company specific tools. My role is heavily dependent on technical skills as well as executive level communication skills, which were fundamental in the MSBA program.
How did Isenberg help with your career preparation and job search?
I don’t think I would have survived without Rachel and the Office of Career Success team. I mentioned earlier being laid off right as I was starting Isenberg; but approaching a job search from an unemployed standpoint versus a career advancement position feels vastly different. Rachel was part therapist, teacher, coach, and cheerleader, and really guided me from start to finish in the whole process. Whatever I thought I knew about finding a role and the application process was not enough to help me stand out as candidate. I came to Isenberg thinking that I would simply be advancing in my career and left with a 180-degree career change. Rachel gave me the support and tools to stay focused on my goal and needs as I navigated through job postings and ultimately the interview process. The Chase Center is really focused on preparedness and helping us through traditional means like alumni outreach and career fairs, but it’s also in tune with more immediate needs in the job market using updated interview processes, defining terms within postings, and practicing with newer digital standards.
What advice would you offer incoming MSBA students to help them make the most of their time at Isenberg?
Ask all the questions and make all the contacts. As an online student, it’s easy to feel that we lack the physical facetime with professors and staff that a traditional student may have. Isenberg’s professors and advisors are easily available for connections beyond class. In addition, our peers are an accessible resource within different industries and levels of experience. Every student has a unique perspective available to us that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
From my personal experience, embrace the hybrid nature of your studies and invest your attention in a more digital workspace. Finishing my degree online was one of the biggest advantages to securing my current role. My coworkers are spread across the globe at our Blizzard offices and further mixed between working from home and in the office. Learning how to communicate and work in a digital space is crucial to success in our post-Covid business environment.