Alumni Accomplishments

Women in STEM

MSITM alumnus adds human component to data projects.

Woman sitting with back to dual-screen computer.

Avanti Tatiraju, MSITM ’18, discovered her calling and career merging her interest in data and healthcare thanks to the real-world projects she worked on as a graduate business student. (Photo credit: Rob Hall)


icon of a calendarMarch 11, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Kelli Warshefski

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupations in the science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields are projected to increase 8.8 percent by 2028 — compared to 5 percent for non-STEM-related fields.

While the occupational need is high, the U.S. female-to-male ratio in the STEM workforce is off balance. Although 46.7 percent of those employed in sciences are women, only 25.6 percent are employed in computer and mathematics and 15.6 percent in architecture and engineering occupations.

Why does this matter? For STEM fields that are rooted in research, the need is evident: diverse theories derive from diverse perspectives.

It’s that type perspective Avanti Tatiraju, MSITM ’18, brings to her role thanks to her combination of education, experience and perspective.

Born and educated with a MBA in India, Tatiraju worked as an analyst at a bank, where she was the sole woman in her division. While she enjoyed the work, Tatiraju felt undervalued for the high-pressure atmosphere. She and her husband eventually left India to seek more opportunities in the U.S. In search of a new career path, she discovered Oakland University’s master’s in IT management (MSITM) program.

“As a child, I never knew whether to go with data or programming, because I loved both,” recalls Tatiraju. She was able to pursue both with OU’s MSITM and its optional specialization in data analytics.

Tatiraju felt at home in the program, working closely with faculty and securing graduate assistantships for two semesters. Her first was text analytics for Ford, using a new tool to analyze complaints for common words. The tool allowed customers to discuss automotive safety. Her goal was to sort through the common words. But there was a missing component: a human connection. Tatiraju found that common words, out of context, lacked an effective means for a solution. She was drawn to finding this human connection in her second assistantship, where she began work on a unique research project with Henry Ford Health Systems.

“Working in a hospital was so much more real,” Tatiraju explains. “The human component is always necessary. You need face-to-face interaction in order to gather accurate data.”

Tatiraju found her calling. She immersed herself in the data analysis of healthcare, researching the common threads of people diagnosed with sepsis — a common, but potentially deadly condition caused by an infection. The research project served as an internship. Upon graduating from Oakland, Tatiraju seamlessly transitioned straight into a career with Henry Ford Health Systems as an access technology analyst.

“It feels amazing that I can contribute something back to society and I’m proud to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Tatiraju. “Healthcare feels like home to me.”

This excerpt is adapted from an article in the Spring 2020 issue of OU Magazine focused on Women in STEM. Oakland University School of Business Administration alumnus Avanti Tatiraju, MSITM ’18, was featured for the technology section.

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