She’s not a rocket scientist, but she probably could have been. Heer Thaker received her bachelor’s of Technology in Instrumentation and Control from Nirma University in India, and before moving to the United States, she interned with ISRO, which is India’s equivalent to NASA. And while she considers her previous education to be quite the opposite of information management, this year she will be finishing her Master’s in Information Management with a focus in Data Science.

Heer Thaker headshot

Heer Thaker G’22

She was in India doing internet research on different graduate programs when she became interested in the courses at the iSchool. Thaker says, “it was the most flexible curriculum that I had seen so far. I had other universities in mind, but when I saw the curriculum and the professors and the rankings, Syracuse is one of the best universities around.” Though she wasn’t sure whether she belonged in data science or Information Management when she first came to the iSchool in early 2020, she was pleased to find that the supportive faculty were well- suited to help her hone her skills and passions, and find her calling within the field of information management.

About the iSchool Thaker says, “the flexibility in the master’s is very necessary. It creates a journey for you. You are enthralled and exploring; and then you find your final destination.” At the iSchool she experienced faculty, staff, and a student body that were all invested in similar explorations that were also tied into her own success. She says that “the best thing is that many of the professors here have practical experience. They are working in some relevant organization that makes them teach with some practical and professional examples. So that makes you a lot more prepared for your professional journey.”

As part of the required coursework for her iSchool program, and as a determined academic, she wanted a memorable and challenging internship; as an international student, she needed to branch out socially. Thaker found both of these things in the Good Life Youth Foundation. “Coming from another country, it was really important for me to meet new people, but in-person classes got canceled due to the pandemic so I wasn’t actually meeting professors and classmates. Good Life gave me that chance. They also gave me a good combination of the management side and the data side, and I strongly believed in their mission and what they were doing for society,” she says.

Thaker led a team of interns when she first started at Good Life–an organization that has built a robust framework to support and encourage creative, entrepreneurial, and productive engagement and opportunity for community youths. Many of her responsibilities at the foundation drew from such different skill sets that she was learning and growing professionally, as fast as she was acclimating to American culture. She was empowered by the responsibility, opportunity, and professional exposure, in the ecosystem of such a grounded and socially conscious organization.

“The flexibility in the master’s is very necessary. It creates a journey for you. You are enthralled and exploring; and then you find your final destination.”

During this internship Thaker discovered that her time at Good Life imparted much of the same desired effect on her as its mission intended in the community. She gained leadership skills and confidence with her own professional prowess. She discovered a passion and proclivity for project management, as well as the skill set to manage people. She had developed the tools needed for her next opportunity, interning at Tesla.

Glad for the preparedness that she felt for her transition from academic settings, to the corporate setting of Tesla, Thaker excelled as a Supply Chain Manager Intern. She was combining her analytical and interpersonal skills while gaining valuable management experience in a large corporate culture. She was putting her data science and project management classes to real-world use. Thaker emphasizes that “internships are the greatest contribution to your journey.” She appreciates that they are a mandatory part of the iSchool curriculum precisely because they forced her to explore new opportunities, and ended up being so valuable to her.

Thaker has also found a lot of education outside of classrooms and internships. She has gained a majority of her cultural acclimation through extracurricular activities. Serving as the Community Advisor for the South Campus (of Syracuse University), she was exposed to a lot of informal communication, and the social nuances that make cultural understanding more possible. She became far more in-tune with the country, state, and local customs that had been so recently foreign to her.

Thaker is certain that the classes she chose, professors she’d met, and her experiences through the iSchool had prepared her for the career path she was envisioning. She looks back at it this way: “I got into a lot of Universities, but the curriculum that Syracuse offers is amazing. They have both tracks, the management side, but also the data science side. It really helps in deciding which path to take with my career.”