Faces of UMSI: Sylvie Zhang

Without previous computer programming experience, first-year MSI student Sylvie Zhang acknowledged that she may have been “different” from many of the students who enroll in the Information Analysis and Retrieval (IAR) specialization at UMSI. Nevertheless, she quickly embraced all the school has to offer and accepted any challenge she faced because she felt the program gave her the best opportunity to succeed in her desired field of marketing.

“It feels good to be able to market your product to customers,” Sylvie says. “And I guess I think in a different way because I have been in marketing with creative and writing jobs for too long, so it’s kind of hard to be a scientist or engineer type, but I figured I’d challenge myself.”

Sylvie’s pursuit of her goal has spanned the globe. She began her bachelor’s degree in educational technology at Shanghai International Studies University in her native China and finished in northeast Ohio through a unique collaboration with Kent State University that allowed her to study for her MBA in marketing while finishing her undergraduate requirements.

She gained valuable experience along the way, beginning in China with an internship at Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, then working other marketing internships and jobs in Ohio before entering the field full time after obtaining her MBA. Through it all, Sylvie felt she still wanted to further develop her skills in order to get where she aspires to be.

“As I worked, I thought I needed more hardcore skills, so I started to look around and thought UMSI would be a good option,” Sylvie says. “I wanted to do market research, but that would require lots of data mining, queries, search engines, programming and statistical work, so I figured IAR fits in with what I want to do.”

In addition to the practical skills that Sylvie learned at UMSI, she was impressed by everything the school does outside the classroom. She cited the frequent guest speakers and workshops, and the efforts of the career development office as being very beneficial. She also participated in Alternative Spring Break (ASB), which she thinks is a great opportunity for students to gain experience in their field, especially foreign students who are new to the United States and could build professional experience while seeing places like New York and Washington D.C.

During ASB, Sylvie worked with D:hive, a nonprofit organization she learned about while working a summer internship at Marketing Associates in Detroit. The organization is dedicated to providing insight and information to those looking to work, live, or spend time in the city. When she found out D:hive was an ASB option, she jumped at the chance to work with a nonprofit, continue to sharpen her marketing skills and contribute to the revitalization of Detroit.

Sylvie built an attachment to Detroit while working downtown and welcomed all the activities and energy in the city during the summer months. She also liked to spend time around the many lakes and waterways in the surrounding areas, fishing, camping and enjoying other outdoor activities with her husband, Peichao. Since graduating, Sylvie is seeking to work in a digital intelligence or research and analytics capacity for a marketing agency, giving her the opportunity to use her growing information analysis and programming skills to help a variety of clients.

“I’m still really interested in marketing and want to be a marketer,” Sylvie says. “I think IAR will really help me do all the market research, data mining, and data science applications I need to do.”