Lujia Huang (MAM2021) decided to study accounting in Beijing before she realised it wasn’t for her and pivoted to data science after a semester at UC Berkeley in America, studying a range of business-related subjects. Lujia was among the first cohorts of the Masters in Analytics and Management (MAM) programme at London Business School – and has since successfully gone on to join the ranks of Twitter and PlayStation.
As an undergraduate, I studied accounting in Beijing. I was born in mainland China and grew up in a coastal region called Fujian, near Taiwan. I thought being an accountant was the right career for me, but I quickly discovered that I didn’t enjoy it. I found that it operated within too rigid a framework, and that there were too many rules and restrictions for my liking. I wanted something more creative but still logic based.
I took a big risk by changing direction during the third year of my undergraduate university degree. I knew I didn’t want to be an accountant, so I decided to leave China and apply to UC Berkeley in the US for a semester, studying accounting, management, entrepreneurship and behaviour psychology, while I worked out what I wanted to do with my life. I convinced my parents that it’d be the only time I’d study abroad. They agreed it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Being in America was life-changing. It was there that I realised I wanted to enter the world of business analytics. So I started looking at heavily technical masters in data analytics, and on the recommendation of a friend, the MAM at London Business School. I was fortunate to be accepted as I was excited by the MAM’s offer of technical and interpersonal skills. I felt it would have the greater impact on my life and career.
I’m glad I didn’t choose an overly technical course. My education has been much more rounded at London Business School. It has been empowering to learn about the empathetic side of business alongside more traditional analysis. Without this, I would only be dealing with code and would not know how to lead effectively even without authority. I’d not know how to talk to people, what was new in the industry, and wouldn’t have knowledge of the most exciting problems to solve.
After I graduated, I immediately got a job at Twitter, and more recently, I started at PlayStation. I look forward to coming to the office every day. My title is data scientist – my day to day job is 40% coding, 30% researching and the rest of the time is stakeholder management and supporting business decisions. It’s been so important for me to know how to communicate effectively with stakeholders who are not necessarily data-savvy, a skill that I learned at London Business School.
The information I gained on the MAM now helps me to take a step back, to look at different perspectives and how and why people think in the way they do. The Organisational Management course taught us the dynamics of people in an organisation, across teams and seniority, and concepts like strong and weak organisational culture mindsets. It’s given me the opportunity to apply initiatives that help with cultural change, and bring about conversations that open new collaborations. I’m now able to proactively link my efforts and projects with where the organisation needs to go at a higher level – finding that overlap of personal projects and organisational needs. I’m also more proactive when defining my own work scope with my manager, instead of waiting for tasks to be assigned to me.
People rarely think about everyday data problems – but how those decisions are made affect all of us. One particular MAM class that stood out is Decision Analytics and Modelling. It demonstrated various models for optimisation. For example, with Uber drivers, how do they assign which customer to pick up next, or how does a delivery driver, with several deliveries, optimise the route? It was very helpful to learn such models in class and to see their implications.
The good thing about London Business School is that people come from many different backgrounds and tend to go off into so many different industries. We all have very diverse interests. I feel confident that in the future, if I wanted to enter another space, I could find the opportunity to talk to the School alumni in that space. It’s such a great network and will continue to impact my outlook and my work for years to come.
Powerful friendships and networks are also one of the most valuable things London Business School has given me. I was an introvert when I came to the School, and I’m now much more open and confident talking to people. When I came here, I really wanted to step out of my comfort zone. It’s been an amazing experience to be friends with people from different cultures and ages, as well as professional backgrounds. Before London Business School I couldn’t imagine being friends with someone ten years older than me, and I now have friends in their thirties and forties.
In the world of data science there are few female leaders to look up to – I’m consciously trying to reach out to those few so I can set them up as role models. My motto is to think big. People at London Business School are so open and encouraging. In the gaming industry, although the gender balance is changing, it’s still not comparable to London Business School. So, I’m actively reaching out to female data science managers and data scientists – senior people – at PlayStation. And they’ve invited me to sessions they think I might benefit from, which is amazing.
Without a doubt, I would say the MAM has helped my career – for example, by changing my mindset. One thing you learn at London Business School is that it’s not about where you get to, but how you get there. It's about the attitude when you start a project, how you tackle challenges along the way – how you keep trying, no matter what. And it’s about not being afraid of failure. If you have a different definition of failure, then failure will never be able to scare you; you will get something out of the experience. At London Business School, you are exposed to the great things students and alumni have accomplished. It’s very inspiring.
My career aspirations going forward are to one day enter a non-government sector. I hope to hone my skills in the private sector first before I move on, and I’d like to work in China, Africa or Latin America. I come from a very underrepresented city in China, so I know how it feels to come from a lower socio-economic background, how people think and how just a little push can make a big difference.
My advice to others thinking about getting into data science would be to focus on what you want. Establish a network. Talk to people. The alumni community is so powerful. Even if you don’t want to work in their company or ask for a referral, and you simply want to get to know them, their journey, and their visions for the future – everything connects and has potential.