UVA MSBA Program Helped Double Hoo Land in the ‘Perfect’ Professional Spot
By Emily Freehling
Kristen Moore (MSBA ’21) worked in accounting roles for eight years before taking a professional hiatus to stay home with her children, now six and nine. As her youngest approached kindergarten, she decided to return to the workforce but craved a role that would add an element of strategy to the work she’d done earlier in her career.
The Master of Science in business analytics (MSBA) program offered through a partnership between the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and McIntire School of Commerce not only helped her find the kind of job she sought, but prepared her to jumpstart a new phase of her career armed with the latest tools and methods in the growing field of business analytics.
Moore graduated from the MSBA program in July 2021 and started work the next month as a manager in the Americas Operations Finance group at Hilton.
“I really do feel like I landed in the perfect spot,” she said, adding that she’s pleased her role allows her to use her accounting and finance background in addition to the analytics skills she gained during the 12 months earning her degree.
Moore earned her Bachelor of Science from UVA’s McIntire School in 2004. She knew the University delivered a high-quality educational experience and had always considered coming back for a graduate degree, but she needed something that fit her life as a mother of two living in Falls Church, Virginia.
The MSBA program’s hybrid format, with a combination of online coursework and in-person instruction at UVA Darden DC Metro in Arlington, Virginia, fit perfectly. She was able to complete her online work at home — often side-by-side at the kitchen table with her son, whose own learning moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic — and still benefit from engaging in-person weekend sessions.
“We were exposed to so many guest speakers from different industries, which really helped me understand the job opportunities in analytics,” Moore said. “I also enjoyed learning from my classmates in the cohort. The program attracts students with a diverse range of backgrounds, which really deepened my learning experience. The opportunity to work alongside such bright and dedicated people, some of whom were already in the analytics field, helped me identify what roles I was interested in pursuing after graduation.”
Moore said she liked that the MSBA program gave her hard skills in programs such as Tableau, Python, Sawtooth and Google Analytics, along with the communications and strategic-thinking skills to make sure her analytics work would resonate with company leadership.
She particularly liked the sessions on communications taught by Darden Professor Anthony Palomba and McIntire Professor Kerrie Carfagno.
“They emphasized how to make your message more impactful and how to sell the story that you are telling,” she said. “That is something I use every day.”
She also enjoyed the approach that Darden Professor Michael Albert took to introducing students to the data-analysis coding language Python. While some of her classmates were already using Python, it was a brand new area for Moore, and Albert made it approachable. She walked away with a solid foundation and the ability to learn more.
“What I really liked was it wasn’t just learning to code,” she said. “It was learning, ‘Here’s how you can do this and here is how businesses are using this information.’”
As Moore progressed through the program, she realized she wanted a job that would combine her accounting experience with the new skills she was gaining. The Darden and McIntire career teams were a huge help in tailoring her resume, job research and mock interviews. And even though the MSBA program is new, Moore said its alumni network was eager to help students discover and pursue opportunities.
“The network that UVA has is just invaluable,” Moore said.
The connections she made in the program continue to help her succeed. For example, when Moore was asked to create a skills assessment dashboard based on employee survey data, she knew from her work in the MSBA program that Tableau software would enable her to create an impactful data visualization. And when she hit a roadblock in building the visualization, she got on the phone with one of her former classmates, who helped her keep moving forward.
In the end, the project was so successful that colleagues continue to glean insights from it months after her initial presentation.
“The projects we work on touch the whole company, and I frequently work cross-functionally with other teams at Hilton,” Moore said. “The MSBA program trained me well to be able to work in these cross-functional teams on an array of projects.”
There are two remaining deadlines for the MSBA cohort enrolling in August: 1 June and 1 July. Prospective students can join a session with Darden Senior Associate Dean for Professional Degree Programs Yael Grushka-Cockayne on the topic of women in business analytics on 18 May.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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