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University of Michigan School of Information


Alumni Snapshot: Uday Krishna

"UMSI Alumni Snapshot. Uday Krishna. Master of Science in Information, 2014. Business intelligence & analytics manager. Amazon Web Services."

Uday Krishna

MSI 2014 

Uday Krishna earned his bachelor’s degree in India in 2010. After working as a software engineer and a user experience researcher, Krishna decided he wanted to move farther into the data space. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a Master of Science in Information degree in 2014.   

Krishna describes himself as a serial company hopper. Since earning his MSI, he has worked at AirWatch, Capital One, then PayPal before joining Amazon Web Services, where he currently manages business intelligence engineers. 

What do you do in your current position?

My responsibilities can be broken down into four buckets. First, ad hoc analysis — urgent and important analyses based on which business or product decisions are made. Second bucket is self-service tools, dashboards, visualizations, etc. Third bucket would be long-term analytic projects. These are important, but not so urgent projects. And fourth would be management, including data product management and program management. 

Where did you work before this? How was that experience compared to your experience at your current company? 

At my current company, we have a document culture. There are no PowerPoints or slide visuals. We actually just produce written documents, and for the first 10 minutes of any meeting, people are only reading that document. 

At other companies, say PayPal or Capital One, we would spend a lot of time creating presentations for the audience, often an executive. We would think about ways to condense two pages of information into one slide and make pretty visual aides so it’s eye-catching. So there was more enforcement of the visuals.

Another difference is how design thinking is approached. The concept of design thinking was well known at Capital One and applied widely. At my current company, I see the leadership principles applied to a relatively higher degree compared to the leadership principles of my previous companies. 

You’re involved in a mix of responsibilities. How do you decide which tasks/deliverables to allocate resources to given a tight timeframe? 

Yes, some analyses are urgent, so there is always time pressure. However, we have an internal prioritization mechanism that uses agile methodology to prioritize the different requests, asks or even ideas that we have. I might have a bright idea that morning, but why should I work on that as opposed to working on the bright idea I had yesterday or the day before, or the ideas that stakeholders have? We quantify the impact of the work to the extent possible, and prioritize based on that. As our methodology is popular, you can look it up online. 

How do you balance work and life? 

Flexibility is key to me. I don’t have strict office hours. My team is remote. I let my mood and energy dictate my time outside work. I plan to some extent, but I have the freedom to push meetings back if I am not feeling good that day.

Do you find yourself applying the skills that you learned at UMSI in your job? Was there a class you found helpful, or a professor you admire at UMSI?

Yes, yes and yes. Obviously, you learn high-order thinking skills in the MSI program: needs assessment, usability research and evaluationdata manipulation; SQL; Python; design thinking; research methodology and business statistics. 

But there are other skills from UMSI that I valued more over time: contextual inquiry, customer-centric approach and the fundamentals of human behavior. I apply these to convince my stakeholders, be it in terms of how I structure my information, how I present that information or how I present myself. 

One skill I found useful is rational decision-making in SI 617 taught by Erin Krupka. I recommend reading Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast And Slow” about biases and making better decisions. It’s not a skill that you can sell in technical interviews. Nobody’s going to ask you to list five kinds of biases. Though not tangible, it helps a lot in my day.

How did you get your foot in the door in the industry? 

Career fairs, alumni and the University of Michigan brand help a lot. I got my first job through a campus career fair. The university has a lot of resources — leverage those. 

If anything, the problem is quite the reverse: There are so many options that we might end up making suboptimal choices. Instead of worrying about getting a job or a visa, I should have asked myself if this choice is the best I’m doing with my time. If that choice happened to be a job and not entrepreneurship, then is this the best company? Is the role best fit for my skills, my interest, my future? This is best not defined by salary or other vanity metrics. 

When you were an international student entering the workforce, did you feel worried or confined by the career choices you can make because of your visa status? 

Firstly, it’s tough, right? We all know that. It’s difficult. I’m still on a visa, and I could be gone, right? Say something happens tomorrow, I probably will have to leave the country. 

Yes, I did worry about that back then. But in hindsight, I feel that I should not have worried. We need to be more confident in our skills and our ability to excel in whatever country, in whatever company, as opposed to worrying about factors outside of our control. We need to be reasonable in our worries, especially when the job market is volatile. 

As a student, I understand you just want to feel comfortable and secure and be done with that job searching aspect. But if possible, try to think long-term. Think big. Don’t underestimate yourself. Don’t think your worth is defined by your first job or defined by a job at all. You need to have positive self-talks where you’re boosting your confidence, not defining yourself by outcomes, and continually make use of opportunities in the university. 

If you were a new graduate trying to get a foot in the door, how would you go about that?

One, start with how you’re looking at yourself. When I was a student, I didn’t value myself much. I see that in the students that I mentor now as well. As students, we think that folks in the industry are somehow better, or they know something we do not. That’s not necessarily the case. You need to value yourself, your skills, what you’ve learned and the resources you have. 

Two, don’t get bogged down in rejections. Doesn’t matter that the outcome of 20 interviews has been negative, right? You only need one job. Maybe the 21st one, you’ll get it. Assuring yourself is critical, as opposed to thinking that rejections reflect your capability. 

Tactically, think about it: As a student, you have nothing to lose. Once you take up your first job, you get hooked on that monthly salary, so you’re less likely to leave and try something new. Whereas when you’re a student, you’re not addicted to salary. 

If you’re looking for an employer, that tag of “student” or “recent grad” to a lot of employers means you’re fresh, malleable and not restricted to a mold of your previous roles. For international students, you have the choice to start up on an OPT (Optional Practical Training), but once on an H1-B visa, you cannot. In many ways, it’s better to be a student, explore as many things as possible and make an educated choice. In other words, don’t climb the wrong mountain. 

— Friday, Jan. 19, 2024