Javier Santivanez, MSBA '17

A portrait of Javier Santivanez

It doesn’t take long to get Javier Santivanez animated when talking about data science, machine learning, and AI.  It’s easy to see why: After fifteen years working in the intersection of wireless technologies, business, and data science, he has been on the frontline of emerging data-driven technologies and sees the potential positive future impacts of machine learning. Mastering data science, he says, is equivalent to gaining a superpower.  “What is exciting is the capability of data to augment your decision making capabilities, as it moves you beyond gut feeling,” he says. “Data science and machine learning are augmenting our capability to make the best decision—not that machines will make decisions by themselves, but it’s like having an additional external advisor, and that gives you a superpower.” 

Javier has long been fascinated in the potentials of data and machine learning and has an extensive technical background. After getting his MS in engineering, he spent thirteen years with Nokia, an early pioneer of wireless technology. However, as he advanced into regional management roles and became more distant from the technical details, Javier figured the time was right to found his own company and explore a new consumer electronics category in high-end audio. “Once the company became profitable, I asked myself where is technology going?” he says. “I started getting very interested in machine learning and AI. I wanted to get a grasp on what was under the hood.”  

Javier scouted out MSBA programs that would give him fluency and application of data science beyond a surface capability of speaking the jargon.  Enter NYU Stern’s program, which offered a curriculum that blended the business application and computer science skillset that Javier sought. “There are some courses in the curriculum that are informational and many courses which will give you foundational knowledge which will last for many years. The program is balanced in that regard,” he says. 

Immediately after starting the program, Javier was confident he would get the “technical refresh” he’d hoped for.  He explains: “The program allowed me to get into a space that I couldn’t have gotten four years ago. By the time I finished the program I had mastered one script language and through continued studying I have mastered another one. This is going to be beyond speaking jargon, and by the end of program you will be able to build prototypes you could not do before. You feel like you gained superpowers, because you are able to analyze and predict things you didn’t even imagine you could do before.” 

Javier has been able to find immediate application for his new skillset in his role as Supply Chain Analytics Director at BrightStar, building prototypes he didn’t have the capability to do prior to the program, with the ultimate goal of creating "smart" wireless supply chains and effectively use insights to improve the day-to-day operations, speed, accuracy and scalability of order fulfillments.  He frequently consults his course material and textbooks, he says.  “In terms of return on investment, the program gave me the opportunity to stay current for many years to come.” 

Another highlight of the program for Javier was the opportunity to connect on a professional and personal level with his cohort. “I happen to be a very social engineer. I really like people,” he says.  Not only did Javier build personal relationships—he has formed lasting friendships with many of his peers with whom he keeps in frequent contact—he also appreciated the collective brainpower of his cohort during the experience.  “I have never seen so many smart people in one room. Everyone in the cohort was driven by a thirst for knowledge,” he says.  “The program can be very demanding and everyone supports one another—it was a very collaborative experience. [My peers] are humble and smart at the same time. It is a unique combination.”

As for what he might say to a candidate considering NYU’s MSBA program, Javier is unequivocal about the return on investment and value add to his career. His advice would be to take advantage of the collective brainpower of the faculty and the cohort, and dive deep into the material.  “Handle it with passion,” he says. “In the end, it’s about how passionate you are. The most powerful way to experience it is to be focused on the goal and to enjoy the education.”