Meet Indiana Kelley’s MBA Class Of 2020

Ashley Lagaron

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

Recovering academic and data nerd.”

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Fun Fact About Yourself: I like to make homemade versions of foods typically bought pre-made. Some recent kitchen experiments include homemade butter, bagels and cream cheese and tofu.

Undergraduate School and Major:

  • University of Florida, BA in Political Science
  • Stanford University, unfinished PhD in Political Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Civis Analytics, Applied Data Science Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:  I negotiated a multi-year renewal of a consulting engagement with one of Civis’s largest clients. When I first started at Civis Analytics as a data scientist, we were less than a year old and just getting established. I began working on a small proof-of-concept project with a Fortune 50 company as the primary analyst. The client was so impressed by our ability to make sense of their data that they extended our contract for a year. By the time that year was done, I was the lead manager on the engagement and helped to scope out and secure an additional three-year continuation of the work. This renewal represented one of our most important sources of recurring revenue, which is so crucial for start-up companies like Civis. Additionally, my main client contact agreed to be interviewed by investors during our fundraising process and his positive feedback about the project helped us secure a strong Series B.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why?  Exceedingly generous with their time, energy and knowledge.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I was very impressed with the staff at Career Services and the investments Kelley has made in developing the Graduate Career Services team. At the visit weekend, the staff had encyclopedic knowledge of different student’s challenges, personalities, interviews and experiences. The size of the team and the quality of personalized coaching students receive made me feel confident that they will help me find a career I am passionate about.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Joining the PLUS Life Sciences Academy. There is so much exciting work happening at the intersection of tech, data and healthcare, and I really look forward to immersing myself in the industry through the academy.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Through my career in data science, I have become an expert at using machine learning to understand what motivates customers, what persuades them to take action, and what leads to higher customer satisfaction. With an MBA, I want to use the skills I’ve developed and shift the subject matter I’m tackling toward the healthcare industry. I believe the process for answering “what improves a customer’s experience” is not fundamentally different than “what improves a patient’s experience.” I have the analytical toolbox to address these questions, and the skill to translate data science into meaningful recommendations. Yet there are important gaps that an MBA will help me fill. The education I receive will teach me how to build credibility as a leader desiring to disrupt the slow-moving healthcare industry. I also want to develop my entrepreneurial skills, as I’m ultimately interested in creating businesses that fundamentally shift the way treatment is done.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment?  My instinct as a data scientist was to go back to the data with a critical eye. Do the students at Kelley leave with the types of careers I would be happy with? What are their success rates? And most importantly, do my conversations with current and former students (and LinkedIn stalking) validate what I see published in promotional materials?

What other MBA programs did you apply to? For personal reasons, I did not consider any other programs. I did strongly consider remaining in the workforce.

How did you determine your fit at various schools?  Because I did not consider schools besides Kelley, I was very focused on whether the program would get me where I wanted to go in my career faster than trying to transition industries on my own. I had many conversations with students pursuing work I was interested in, quizzed the staff at Graduate Career Services, and met with faculty. I came away so impressed not just with the success students were having, but also with the generosity and kindness everyone showed me in helping me figure out whether the program was the right one for me.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My dream was to become a college professor, but two years into my PhD program, I was struggling and not enjoying the work. I broke down in the office of an advisor, telling them how ashamed I felt that I was wasting my generous opportunity. They listened, and asked me if there was anything I liked about the Ph.D. To my surprise, I listed more than I expected: teaching, my collaborative research projects, and quantitative methodology. They encouraged me to use those elements of the program as a learning opportunity, regardless of whether I decided to complete the degree. The advice was invaluable. After my difficult year, I knew what I didn’t like, but more importantly, I had a clearer sense of where I excelled. Although it was painful and scary to change course, I decided to take a leave of absence (that never ended) to join a data science startup with a handful of employees. The job let me grow towards my strengths and, in turn, I had the opportunity to grow the company itself.

What do you plan to do after you graduate?  My immediate post-MBA goal would be to lead an analytics practice within a healthcare organization focused on providing high-quality end-of-life care. If the specific topic of end-of-life care is not immediately addressable, I would pursue becoming an analytic leader in other underserved areas in the healthcare industry.

Where do you see yourself in five years?  Long term, I would like to found end-of-life facilities focused on providing innovative support to patients and their families. We know that simple interventions like providing terminally ill individuals with plants to water markedly improves their lives; I am confident there are thousands more low-hanging improvements to be made and interventions to be tested in this industry.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.