Esther Fernandez-Bravo, MEng ’22 (IEOR): “I have a big toolset to create a noticeable impact.”

On her passion for optimization analytics and her exploration of data science to bring about impact in her societies.

Esther Fernandez-Bravo is a Berkeley MEng candidate studying Industrial Engineering & Operations Research (IEOR). Here, she discusses her technical background and expertise, as well as her enthusiasm for optimization analytics and the influence she aims to have on organizations.

Tell us about yourself and your journey into the MEng program.

During my undergraduate studies back in Spain, only technical courses were offered in my engineering school. After four years of undergraduate, I felt I had deep technical skills, but I was lacking the soft skills that would make me successful in my professional career.

The MEng program’s combination of technical courses, leadership courses, and the capstone project experience was what basically drove me to apply. I wanted to continue developing my technical background while combining it with other types of skills that would prepare me for my future.

The fact that it was a one-year program and its orientation toward professional life also inspired me to apply to the program.

“The MEng program’s combination of technical courses, leadership courses, and the capstone project experience was what basically drove me to apply.”

What do you study and why did you choose it?

I am a student in the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR) department, with a concentration in Management Science & Engineering. The IEOR department within the MEng program offered courses both in Optimization Analytics, my main background which I wanted to keep exploring, but also in Data Science and Analytics, a field I had not been very involved in before, which really interested me. From a technical perspective, this program perfectly complements my prior background.

From the leadership perspective, I am taking two courses. The first one, “Communication for Engineers,” is allowing me to further develop my presentation skills, both to technical and non-technical audiences. The second one, “Teaming and Project Management,” is providing me with interesting insights and techniques on how to effectively manage successful teams. These courses are completely new to me but are providing me with very interesting tools for my professional ventures.

“I believe that I have a big toolset to create a noticeable impact on businesses and directly impact the whole society.”

Did you pursue a different path from your undergraduate studies?

No, from the technical perspective, the master’s I am currently doing is very similar to my undergraduate studies. However, I am taking Data Science and Data Analytics courses, a field in which I had not been involved before.

What is completely different from my undergraduate studies are the leadership courses, a new experience for me and definitely an interesting complement to my technical background.

What have you taken away so far from the MEng program?

So far, I have completed a two week boot camp at the beginning of the semester which included one course on Technology Management & Ethics and another course on Organizational Behavior. During the semester, I have taken two leadership courses, on Communications and on Teaming and Project Management, and 3 technical courses on Optimization Analytics, Risk Modeling and Simulations, and Applications in Data Analysis.

Apart from that, I have started an industry-advised capstone project with an insurance company. The project consists of using Natural Language Processing techniques to extract insights from customer call transcripts, predict customer churn, and provide experts with better recommendations on how to deal with customers.

What kind of impact do you want to have on the world?

As an engineer myself, I believe that I have a big toolset to create a noticeable impact on businesses and directly impact society as a whole.

Based on my background in Optimization Analytics, I would love to help businesses and organizations improve their production processes and services by applying optimization techniques. This would help them become more efficient and productive, directly impacting their results.

Because every organization has a clear goal in our society, not only would process and service optimization help these organizations and businesses improve their results, but it will directly impact those who benefit from the outcome of these organizations.

What are some of your non-academic hobbies and how have they inspired your professional goals?

Swimming is one of my main hobbies outside the academic and professional setting. Although not directly related to my professional goals, swimming has provided me with important values regarding sacrifice and effort since I was very young. These values have driven me to become the person I am today and have also taken me to my master’s at UC Berkeley.

Is there something you are currently working on/interested in that you would like to share?

I would like to share some more details about my capstone project, as I believe it is highly related to the kind of impact I want to create in society, as I mentioned before.

Through the application of Machine Learning techniques, the goal of this project is double. First of all, to improve the organization’s results by better understanding customer behavior and determining how customers should be treated to increase customer retention. Second, to provide experts with a series of recommendations on how to deal with these customers, leading to overall higher customer satisfaction levels.

All in all, not only would the organization benefit from better understanding their customers through the application of these techniques, but also customers would be better treated and hence would be more satisfied with the attention received.

Favorite quote:

One of my favorite quotes is “The Harder I Work, the ‘Luckier’ I Get” — Larry Bird (NBA player).

I do believe that all the people we admire professionally are where they are thanks to all the effort they had made in order to be there.

Connect with Esther Fernandez-Bravo.

Edited by Nick Yang.

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