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Understanding data usage in marketing is ASU graduate's focus

Akansha Malara

After graduation, Akansha Malara will join NextEra Energy as a lead project manager. "In this role, my primary responsibilities will involve setting up and overseeing the operations of solar plants and wind farms. My long-term objective is to advance world’s transition to sustainable energy sources," she says.

April 26, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Depending on who you ask, ever-advancing technology and advertising strategies can be deemed out of control or downright scary. For others, it’s seen as an intriguing aspect of our world that serves as a powerful tool. 

For spring graduate Akansha Malara, her sentiments fit into the latter group.

“In 2019, I became fascinated by the appearance of retargeting advertisements on various websites, such as Facebook and Instagram, showcasing the products I had previously placed in my Amazon cart but had not yet purchased; this piqued my curiosity, prompting me to delve deeper into how it worked,” she said. 

Inspired by discovering technological marketing strategies online, the next best step was clear. She pursued an undergraduate degree in electronics and communication engineering from Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology in India. 

After completing the degree, she worked closely with Bharti Airtel — India’s second-largest telecom operator — for four years in roles like data analyst, process analyst and product manager.

From that point, equipped with a degree and employment experience in the field, Malara decided it was time to relocate from Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, to Arizona on a Forté Scholarship. She enrolled in the MBA program at the W. P. Carey School of Business, specializing in marketing and business analytics.

She also focused on developing a network of colleagues and peers and immersed herself in supporting the community in any way possible.

“I have worked with five nonprofits over the past 10 years as a teacher, fundraiser, volunteer and consultant,” she said.

Though this list may seem intimidating, Malara urges current students to consider a similar path: “Carefully utilize your remaining time here to enhance your education, address weaknesses and cultivate meaningful connections. Building a robust network with peers, executive mentors and industry professionals can help you gain valuable insights into the field you are interested in, open doors for potential job opportunities and prepare you for your career.”

But even the most prolific student has to have downtime. Malara winds down by traveling, reading and cooking whenever possible. She will soon complete her MBA, in addition to a diploma notation and Master's Distinguished Medallion for graduating with a cumulative 4.0 GPA. 

In this conversation, she shared her favorite spot on the Tempe campus, her guiding principles in decision making and her plans following graduation.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: As an engineer and former data analyst, I have always relied on data to inform my decision-making. However, my time in business analytics classes taught me that data can always be manipulated to portray the desired outcomes. This realization has shifted my perspective, and I now consciously consider the underlying assumptions of the data set before analysis to prevent potentially misleading conclusions.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of its exceptional MBA curriculum, which integrates theoretical concepts with practical, hands-on learning opportunities. With distinguished faculty, an executive mentor program and numerous student clubs, ASU provides a well-rounded education that prepares students to succeed in their chosen fields. Additionally, (W. P. Carey's) emphasis on the significance of relationship-building in business ("Business is Personal") aligns with my intrinsic values and underscores the importance of fostering personal connections within professional networks.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: While I enjoyed all the courses, the most valuable lessons I gained were from Professor Ned Wellman's MGT 525 class on leadership and teamwork. I eventually understood the significance of giving and receiving constructive feedback within a corporate environment. This knowledge proved instrumental in my personal and professional development throughout my MBA program and internship, enabling me to identify and address my weaknesses. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: My favorite spot on campus is the open area outside McCord Hall, where I would chat with my friends about upcoming assignments, fun events and life in general.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be joining NextEra Energy as a lead project manager. In this role, my primary responsibilities will involve setting up and overseeing the operations of solar plants and wind farms. My long-term objective is to advance world’s transition to sustainable energy sources, and I intend to do so by growing within the organization and leading intricate projects and teams.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: While everyone recognizes the significance of climate change initiatives, companies are typically the first to decrease their budgets for eco-friendly initiatives and environmental, social and corporate governance during challenging times. As a passionate advocate for sustainability, if given $40 million to tackle one problem on our planet, I would prioritize addressing the issue of plastic pollution. I would allocate the funds towards research and development of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics and establishing recycling and waste management programs in communities worldwide. Moreover, I would invest in marketing campaigns to create awareness about responsible plastic use and disposal. By minimizing plastic waste, we can reduce carbon emissions from plastic production and disposal, safeguard our water bodies and wildlife and pave the way for a more sustainable future. 

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