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Two IKNS Alums Share Their Journey to Accenture and the Key to Post-Grad Success

Karen Acampado, assistant director at Columbia’s Career Design Lab, recently hosted a panel featuring Naureen Aziz and Myrlene Laroche, two Information & Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) alums who found exciting career paths at global professional services company Accenture following their graduation from Columbia University School of Professional Studies (SPS).

Here’s what the two SPS alums shared about their post-grad career journey, and how the IKNS program helped prepare them.

Naureen’s Path From IKNS to Accenture

After completing her master's degree at Columbia, Naureen was eager to step into a leadership position. She found herself considering two intriguing job prospects, with interviews scheduled for both Amazon and Accenture in the same week.

"I was drawn towards Accenture for its strong tech, data, and AI skills, deep knowledge, and its dedication to innovation and change.” Naureen explained during the panel discussion.

Naureen stressed the importance of continuous learning, particularly in understanding the broader impacts of data and AI/GenAI. "I believe it's essential for IKNS students to grasp data, AI, workforce readiness, and evolving work methodologies, complemented by the foundational role of knowledge management. This combination drives organizational success and innovation by enabling effective data and AI utilization." The good news is that the program offers all this and more. She elaborated on the importance of strategic partnerships, stakeholder engagement, and strategic communications as key components of knowledge management. Naureen concluded by stating, "Blending Knowledge Management with data and AI strategies empowers organizations to harness collective wisdom, use data more efficiently, enhance AI capabilities, work together more effectively and adapt to change, essential for organizations to thrive and remain competitive."

She recalled two courses at IKNS that were particularly useful in her current work, including one on the science of collaboration. “Believe it or not, I use [what I learned in that course] in my calls, sometimes calling out the same terminology,” she said. Another class she loved was Business Analytics, where she learned about the importance of data science and strategy for business.

Naureen emphasized that there is one key to success, in her experience: being passionate about what you do. She encourages students to understand their skills and experiences, then carefully assess opportunities to fill gaps in the market. “What I would also emphasize is that as your technical knowledge in your areas of expertise grows throughout your degrees, it's incredibly important to focus on your professional development, particularly from the perspectives of adaptability and problem-solving,” she said.

How Myrlene’s Grit Landed Her at Accenture

After completing her master's degree studies at Columbia SPS, Myrlene was certain that Accenture was where she wanted to be next. “It took me several interviews to secure a position at Accenture, but I persevered because I was determined,” she said.

Myrlene was first introduced to Accenture at a fireside chat held at a music and culture festival, where she had the opportunity to engage with various managing directors. These discussions left a great impression on her. “They spoke about the growth opportunities and the company's focus on gender parity, diversity, and inclusion. It felt like they wanted you to show up as yourself,” Myrlene said, which solidified her desire to join the company.

Most of Myrlene's previous experience had been within the advertising agency space, so her first client at Accenture was a pivot. “I was not ready for the number of obstacles that I would have to overcome, but after using the skills that I learned at Columbia’s IKNS program, which included learning and focusing on the people aspect of the role, I was able to truly listen to the client, figure out what the concerns were, and reach the desired goals,” she said.

“You have to understand the psychology of what they're hiring for,” Myrlene shared regarding the hiring process. As an experienced hire, Accenture looks for people who will be of value to their clients, so they look for someone who can solve problems, deliver well and relatively quickly, or add some sort of innovative thinking.” 

She says that Columbia’s IKNS program taught her that you always have to be people-focused because “it is truly about collaboration and understanding what everybody wants to do,” she said. But Myrlene noted that she, like everyone at Accenture, is still learning. That's an aspect of the company she said she loves: employees get both mandatory and elective technology classes to continue their education in an ever-changing industry.

Accenture will begin recruiting later this year for summer 2025 internships. They are currently accepting applications for entry-level and more experienced roles via their career site.

About the Program

The  Columbia University M.S. in Information & Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) program provides students with foundations in information science, organizational psychology, and change management as well as practical skills in project management and executive leadership.

Students train under world-class faculty, including former and current executives from Google, IBM, NASA, and Oliver Wyman, and join a powerful, global alum network in coveted positions, including at Accenture, Alphabet, Harvard Business Publishing, Nike, Pfizer, and the World Bank.

Fall 2024 application deadline for IKNS is June 1. Applications are reviewed and admission decisions released on a rolling basis. Learn more here.