Master’s in Business Analytics: George Ponirakis, Imperial College

Student Name: George Ponirakis

Graduate Business School: Imperial College Business School

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: Passionate about applied data science, avid fan of niche music genres and most team sports.

Master’s Graduation Class: 2019.

Undergraduate School and Major: Athens University of Economics and Business, Management Science and Technology.

Current Employer and Job Title: Lloyds Banking Group, Data Scientist.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:  The biggest accomplishment for me personally is being an onboarding representative for the next graduate cohort in my workplace. Although this is not directly related to data science, being in touch with the new graduates all the way from the start of their journey as candidates has been highly rewarding. Having been in their position one year before, I was able to guide them through the process and answer their questions. This is something I will always try to be involved with throughout my career, as I know how stressful it can be applying for positions as a graduate.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student:  Apart from my academic performance, knowledge, and career opportunities, being a student ambassador was equally rewarding. I was able to talk with a lot of prospective students and help them gain valuable insights into the program. Furthermore, I was also part of events where I was able to represent our program and answer any questions applicants may have had. 

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Choosing Imperial College Business School for my Master’s in Business Analytics was a product of my own research, as well as the advice of some professors from my undergraduate degree. Imperial’s focus on skills that are highly applicable to a career in data science (such as a focus on applied programming), as well as the opportunity to study at one of the world’s top universities for sciences in general was a key factor in my choice. I also set up a couple of meetings with some professors from my undergraduate degree who first sparked my interest in data science, and they reaffirmed that Imperial was the way to go for me. 

What led you to choose a Master’s in Business Analytics over an MBA? Given that I did not have substantial industry experience at the time, I needed a specialized master’s which would provide me with practical knowledge of data science and would help me secure a role in this field. I believe that choice would still be the same if I had industry experience in another field, and I wanted to pursue a role in Data Science. 

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? My favourite course was definitely Machine Learning! It was my first actual introduction with the techniques I have used and will continue to use in my career. Machine Learning as a course was designed in a way that allowed for many algorithms and techniques to be broadly covered, while giving us the opportunity to dive deeper into each one of them if we wished. Every teaching week was accompanied by a practical programming exercise, which really helped with the understanding of not only the algorithms themselves, but also how they may be potentially applied to solve problems in business settings. It formed the basis of a lot of the elective courses; hence it was a particularly important part of the programme, and a personal favourite of mine.

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? Imperial College Business School’s Careers Service certainly set the ground for me to be able to confidently apply and secure my first job out of the program. From the beginning, we had regular workshops on different parts of the application process and how to excel in them. Additionally, we had the option to schedule meetings with Imperial career consultants to work on certain parts of the process or even have a general career talk. Finally, I had the chance to participate in numerous employer events, where I could talk with people from different companies and really gauge if a particular role or company might be right for me.

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? When I get asked this question, I always say that my classmates were the best cohort I have ever been a part of. The cohort was truly diverse, ranging from people coming straight from their undergraduate degrees to those with some industry experience. Furthermore, the percentage of international students like me was high, therefore it was interesting to hear everyone’s experiences from their home countries in comparison to London. Last but not least, my classmates were above all driven people who wanted to develop themselves via this program. Given the amount of team assignments we had to complete and
the collaboration they required, all of those aspects were especially important in enhancing my business school experience.

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? My favourite faculty member was Wolfram Wiesemann, who oversaw two courses at the time, namely Machine Learning and Optimisation & Decision Models. What stood out for me was how knowledgeable he was, as well as his passion for ingraining his knowledge in us. He was also open to discussion and was ready to hear – and discuss in detail – any questions or opinions from his students. Finally, his lectures were very intelligently structured, in a way that made the subject matter easy to assimilate.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? My best advice would be to think of where you would want your career to be after you finish the program. If your aspirations align with what this programme offers, which is a good knowledge of business analytics and data science, as well as a competitive advantage in pursuing positions like Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Business Analyst etc., then you should go for it! 

I would also advise to think of your background and brush up on any knowledge gaps in mathematics and statistics. As for the application process, and having already taken the things I have mentioned above into consideration, I would say that the most important part is to be yourself, and show why you really aspire to be a student at Imperial! 

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? My best memory from this program has to be the induction celebration event that Imperial College Business School hosted for us in the Natural History Museum in London! It was the first chance to meet all my classmates and teachers in a more casual setting, and the planning and execution was spot on.