Alumna Highlight: Sanika Lahane, Masters in Business Analytics '18

Sanika Lahane
C.H. Robinson

Sanika Lahane - MSBA ‘18


Sanika is a driven, thoughtful and extremely hard working individual who strives to challenge herself by learning new skills and visiting new places. She credits the Saint Mary’s faculty and staff for their amazing support prior to and during her program, and Business Analytics alum, John Erlandson for his support and guidance.

Originally from Mumbai, she pursued an MBA with a concentration in Finance from Savitribai Phule Pune University. After working in the finance domain for 4 years she decided she wanted to further pursue compensation and benefits with a specialization in analytics and subsequently completed her MBA in Human Resources.

From the age of 9, Sanika dreamed of moving to California, but put it on hold as she pursued her education. After a number of years working in finance, she realized that her analytical mind might be better suited to a job in the business analytics field. After extensive research, she discovered that Saint Mary’s College offered a Business Anatlyics program based in Silicon Valley with a timetable and course structure that aligned perfectly with interests and dream of moving to California. 

Sanika met her best friend while completing her program and they grew so close, both were married to their respective hubands on the same day! Her success on her program and in her new career is testament to her hard work and and determination, as well as her many positive experiences while at Saint Mary's. Even her husband feels like a part of the Saint Mary’s community because he has heard so many of her stories!

Why did you choose Saint Mary’s College? Did you consider any other Universities?

Honestly, I considered a few but personal testimonials and the MSBA course structure made it a clear choice. Being from a non-technical background, a course structure this detailed was my main priority. 

The amazing staff and professors were like a cherry on the top. Moving to a new country was overwhelming but Ashley Machado, Center of International Programs (CIP) made it [the process] so easy and welcoming. CIP helped us with literally everything; new student orientation, documentation and identification support (DL/State ID, Curricuar Practical Training and Optional Practical Training), and advice on how to live in a new country. A special shout out to Ashley Machado and team, you guys rock.

What is your fondest memory of Saint Mary’s?

Fondest memory, hands down, would be getting to team up with my best friend Karuna Kumari - going through the challenges, working hard to get an A, keeping each other motivated, learning about new culture(s), attending data summits, and ultimately graduating together. Karuna and I met during the International Student Orientation at the Moraga campus and there was an instant connection. Being international students, it was more exciting for us to learn so much and be a part of the school. We often traveled to Moraga to hangout on campus. Our friendship got deeper as we explored everything together,  especially data summits (Index-IBM, Oracle, Dreamforce-Salesforce). 

What was the most valuable thing you learned in college and/or about yourself?

I would say patience and perseverance. Being super new to computer languages and technical programs, it sure took more effort and patience. The course brought out my creative and innovative side by encouraging me to think out of the box during our projects. Every subject had a project along with a test which I would say was a perfect marriage of learning and implementation.

What skills (technical or soft skills) did you gain at SMC that you put to use now in your career? 

I use various technical skills, tools and programing languages like SQL, Tableau, Python, R Studio, etc. in my work today. What really helped was the projects we did as a part of our test, which helped connect everything we learned throughout the quarter and ultimately in our jobs.

For example, in our Finance Analytics class we created a team profile on Wall Street Survivor, a virtual trading application that provides realistic, educational, and engaging stock market simulations. Part of the project included a report and presentation of our portfolio, with detailed explanation on the stocks we chose, trends we monitored, profit/loss, and recommendations. This helped in developing skills like teamwork, getting on the same page, technical skills, and soft skills. 

Were you presented with a challenge or obstacle during your time at SMC? How did you overcome it? What skills or resources did you use/learn/apply to overcome this challenge? 

Well! It sure was a challenge everything being so new and way different from my background. I can’t stress enough how much all the professors helped me to overcome that by being available literally 24x7 (No kidding). Growing up and even before starting the course, my parents always highlighted “There is no substitute for hard work!” and in this course I knew I would need lots of it.

More than a challenge it was the excitement of jumping into Tech. The wonders we can do with a simple code, that AHA!! moment. I have always believed it is great to learn new skills, languages, and tools but knowing what the current market and industry looks like, for sure gives you the edge. I started attending every data summit, every meet-up, and every tech fair to learn what is trending and areas I should explore to work in. This not just helped me with making the right career choice but also helped me gain valuable connections. Students get a special pass/pricing to these data summits and there is so much to learn about market trends and opportunities to meet industry experts, look for internships etc. (Trust me! This does help A LOT!)

Did you have a mentor or anyone that influenced you greatly during your studies? (faculty, staff, alumni or external)

All my professors were super helpful and went out of the way to make sure we got it right. I never had a professor stay up late or stay back after classes to explain the same concept a number of times and with the same excitement and patience. I really want to thank Prof. Navid Sabbaghi, Prof. Noha Elfiky and Prof. Ameera Ibrahim, it was not possible without you guys. Since I am thanking people who helped me through, I would also like to thank John Erlandson, a Saint Mary’s alumni who guided me since day 1 to even today. Thanks to him, I landed this amazing internship in my current company, with the best team to work with and also got a full-time offer and continue to learn new things every day. Thank you for being my mentor, John!

How do you think attending Saint Mary’s has benefited you, your career and future career aspirations?

Honestly, my career in business analytics and data science started at Saint Mary’s. For a student like me, from a completely non-technical background, a course structure like MSBA was perfect for a smooth transition. The way it [the program] was designed, it covered all the tools and languages in every domain, which also broadened my job options. The capstone project was a crucial part of the course. I believe that gave [me] an idea how to apply the curriculum in real market projects. I would say it was an amazing journey -  the combination of course structure, data summits, meet ups and professors all molded me into the person I am today and helped me work towards building my career.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am a home baker, fashion designer and a traveler. I love to split my free time between making creative, healthy, and delicious treats and getting closer to my dream of travelling the world !! I like to mark the places I’ve visited on a world map and have a refrigerator door full of magnets.