China Grad Makes Big Data Work For CIMS Sponsor Air Products & Chemicals

Shanghai’s first Startup Weekend arrived in July 2011, drawing a few hundred eager participants to what would soon be headlined “Startup Hub on the Rise.” 

It was the growing startup activity in this booming metropolis of 25 million people that whetted a new Fudan University graduate’s interest in innovation and technology. That interest led her to enroll in NC State’s Master of Global Innovation Management (MGIM) program and undertake groundbreaking Big Data project work for CIMS and Air Products & Chemicals, Inc.

Shenyi Zuo demonstrated how Natural Language Processing could be used to accurately translate Chinese into English.

Shenyi Zuo graduated from Fudan, one of China’s top universities, that July with a bachelor’s degree in digital advertising and marketing. She recalls that her statistics courses would later help her to learn the use of Big Data tools, while friends who were starting their own companies made her aware of “startups, innovations and cool technologies.”

Shenyi Zuo demonstrated how Natural Language Processing could be used to accurately translate Chinese into English.

During the next year, Shenyi interned in three Shanghai-based international media agencies as well as the Shanghai Futures Exchange. But early in 2012 she discovered a blog by an applicant to the MGIM program, a one-year dual (international) master’s from North Carolina State’s Jenkins Graduate School of Management in partnership with the IAE Graduate School of Management near Aix-en-Provence, France.

China to France to Raleigh, North Carolina

MGIM is focused on managing business innovation, and Shenyi was intrigued with how new technologies get transferred to the market. But it was the two-country feature that she found particularly appealing. “I was still very young and agreed with the friends and colleagues who said I needed to see the world,” she told IMR in a recent interview.

Shenyi was accepted for MGIM’s Fall 2012 semester in France after a Skype interview with the academic director, Anne-Marie Guérin, who was impressed by Shenyi’s top 5 ranking in her Fudan digital media major. She also found Shenyi “open-minded, curious, willing to learn from every experience, and very determined and focused.”

Guérin added that her applicant’s involvement in the student innovation project to develop a business model and value chain for the global digital security company Gemalto “contributed a lot to increase the quality of the group work and was deeply appreciated by Gemalto.”

Before long these personal characteristics would also win over Shenyi’s CIMS instructors in Raleigh. But that gets ahead of our story.

Another feature which interested Shenyi was the program’s approach to teaching and exposing students to new thinking and experiences – embracing the philosophy that successful innovation management requires is a combination of knowledge and exposure to art and science. For example, in France, students learned through shorter classes and covered topics relevant to their cultural immersion experience, such as art, language and life in Provence. In the US, classes were spread throughout the semester and focused primarily on more traditional business topics. Both programs provided opportunities to engage with industry in company sponsored – student team projects, leaving the students with practical and invaluable experience and newly gained perspective. Consequently, Shenyi would advise any friends considering the same choice “to enjoy the unique experience of studying in each country.”

Using Big Data for Real

Shenyi’s U.S. studies commenced with the spring 2013 MGIM semester at NC State in Raleigh, where she became “one of our top products,” says Paul C. Mugge, CIMS executive director and innovation professor in the Poole College of Management.

That path to “top product” began in Frederick Renk’s Innovation Practicum where she and two other students worked on a project for Air Products to assess potential growth of the lithium-ion battery market. “Shenyi provided valuable information to the team using unstructured text analytics (Big Data),” says Renk, a CIMS Industrial Fellow who mentors the spring MGIM student practicum projects. “She learned the tool well and quickly realized how powerful and efficient it could be.”

Shenyi credits Prof. Michael Kowolenko’s MBA elective in data-driven decision making for her first exposure to using Big Data “for real.” She had heard about it at Fudan, of course, “but it was very new then and I didn’t know how to use it.”

To read the full article on Shenyi’s contribution toward Air Products & Chemicals click here

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