Emma Chesley came to MIT with a passion for math. At the end of her junior year, she applied to the Master of Business Analytics program at MIT Sloan and graduated from both programs in 2018. Through hands-on research projects and her Capstone experience and internship at BCG GAMMA, she built the advanced analytical and managerial skills to excel in her role as a product analyst at Google Health.
Can you describe your MIT Sloan experience in three words?
Focus: You learn something in one class and that topic gets hit on again in a different class. Then you understand that these are all building blocks—and you’re becoming strong in one specific domain.
Eye-opening: At career fairs, I was shocked by the breadth of companies looking for someone with my profile. You learn how to frame problems with an analytical lens that can be applied in any domain.
Motivating: Everyone was so excited about other people’s job prospects. We motivated one another to look into different opportunities and checked in on how people did in their final-round interviews.
How did your undergraduate experience shape your interest in big data or big tech?
I got more comfortable with the idea of using code as a tool, the same way you learn how to use a calculator to do more powerful math. It’s like learning how to use SQL, or different data manipulation languages, to be able to do more powerful analyses. I enjoyed the classes that had some type of mathematical coding along with them, and that’s how I fell into this type of work.
What unexpected lesson did you learn during the MBAn program?
I thought that you had to be a PhD student to do research, so I never looked into it. But the MBAn is a 12-month program that offers research assistantships, so it seemed a bit less daunting. Talking to Professor Bertsimas about his project was really motivating because it involved working with healthcare data and trying to improve outcomes for patients.
What was it like working for Professor Bertsimas?
It was great. He had a cohort of PhD students working on similar healthcare projects. One student and I went to the hospital, met the doctors, and talked through the model’s performance. It was really motivating to work with health care data to improve outcomes for patients. Being integrated with PhD students and understanding how they’d been working on some of these problems for five years was inspiring. I ended up talking about it so much in interviews, and that’s how I ended up in my current role at Google Health.
What kind of projects did you work on during your Capstone experience?
My capstone project was with BCG GAMMA. I worked for a luxury retail client forecasting sales for new products they were launching. I was doing part-time work and then got to hit the ground running before the internship. Compared to typical summer internships, it was a lot more productive because I’d already established relationships with these BCG managers, and it was really exciting.
In what ways is your Capstone experience helping you in your current role?
We focused on weighing the pros and cons while trying different analytical methods. It was very practical because we had to manage finite resources and meet a deadline for completing the project. The emphasis was on the client relationship, which I had never experienced before. I learned how to present incremental work to a client and get their collaboration. It’s been helpful to take that experience into my role at Google Health, because I interface with the client every week.
Can you tell me about your current role and what excites you about working on your team?
I’m a product analyst at Google Health, and my team is building a tool for clinicians to more easily access their patients’ health records. In the same way that you can Google a sports game and get a pop-up box with the score, you can access your patients’ glucose levels. We make it easy to find information that’s embedded in patients’ paper records or siloed between different hospital systems. The coolest part is that the whole project relies on data. Because without good data to search from, we have no product.
What have your experiences been like as a women in tech?
I haven’t felt too much hardship being a woman in tech. But I’m definitely cognizant of the fact that, as I look up at each rung on the ladder, the percentage of women dwindles. But in some ways, it’s also motivating to be a catalyst for change and part of the movement to get more women into STEM. Some people say, “Oh, there aren’t enough women in tech. I don’t know if I want to go into that industry.” But that's actually a reason for women to go into big tech.
Looking at your Capstone and company experience, do you see an intentional shift in the underrepresentation of women or women of color?
Yes. Communities have been fostered to support people in those underrepresented groups, so there are many women in data science groups at Google. I’m technically within the research organization, where we highlight top women leaders in tech. Another advanced student and I go to the Women in Data Science, San Francisco lectures and listen to awesome presentations by women in data science and machine learning from different companies.
Any advice for prospective students interested in the MBAn program?
During orientation week, take the time to meet students before there’s more focus on school work. In the second semester, you have the most flexibility to pick electives, so think about the narrative they’ll play in your job search. Retreats with your class are a great way to get to know people who are in the industry, coming straight from other schools, or switching careers. And it’s always great to reach out to alums. I’m speaking to an admitted student tomorrow to answer some questions she has about the program.