Sergio Monsalvo Diaz came to Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies from Mexico, where he got a degree in Global Affairs from Tecnológico de Monterrey (Monterrey Tech). He is currently studying in the Applied Analytics program, where he is slated to graduate in summer 2017. He was drawn to Applied Analytics as it’s a growing business practice, and it supports his goals of developing a career in financial and data science fields that can lead towards future entrepreneurial goals. We talked with him by email about his experience at SPS.
Why did you want a graduate degree in Applied Analytics, and what made Columbia the right program for you?
The main reason that prompted me to pursue a graduate degree in Applied Analytics is that it is a cutting-edge and largely untapped field that is quickly becoming a necessity in most organizations because it provides insightful and innovative ways to approach decision-making at various levels. Columbia University is one of the few institutions that has acted on the need to prepare professionals for this new demand of the industry. Furthermore, Columbia's renowned commitment to exemplary education made me certain of my choice to apply to become a full-time student.
What were the block week courses like for you?
Before coming to Columbia, I had never experienced a block week course. I think it is helpful in that it gives us students a chance to intensively immerse ourselves in the topics of the course for a week. Also, it allows us to get through all the content in a short period so that we have more time to focus on our other courses for the rest of the semester.
Preparing for them can prove challenging and therefore, time management is key. However, giving it the time-commitment it requires pays off when one enters the block week course ready to make the most of the sharp discussion of the content and prepare our final project.
How is it working with faculty who are in the industry?
I thank the program for procuring faculty that have real and vast experience in the field that they teach, mainly because this allows them to relate the content of the lecture to how they have dealt with it in real life and provide observations on how we can avert common undesirable situations as well as heightening our knowledge on that subject.
Also, it is helpful to be taught by professors who come from different industries because we can receive first-hand insights on what their work is really like and inspire us to consider their fields for our own professional goals. I took Professor Amreeta Choudhury’s Modern Database Architecture course, and I always appreciated her enthusiasm to share her vast knowledge of the industry and her insights regarding useful strategies that would help us reach our professional goals.
What was it like being an international student here?
When I was admitted, an advisor mentioned that I would be in contact with many international students in this program. It gave me a certain relief knowing that many of my peers would likely be empathetic to the challenges of the program and coming to a new city. This proved to be true and helped create an atmosphere of camaraderie within the program.
How did this program give you the skills to be a leader and a manager?
In our courses, we are encouraged to assume the role of leaders to create solutions to the issues presented to us. Whether it is communication, data visualization, or research methods, we are required to present work from the standing point of a leader who is able to manage a team and be mindful of all the different factors that need to be considered for a project to succeed.