Privacy in the world of Big Data

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my Business Ethics class for a guest lecture, wondering about what I had just heard. The slide was titled, “ I am an Advertiser, you can trust me!” It got me thinking about the ways in which consumers are being manipulated. But then it got me thinking if the advertisers or companies who collect data on their consumers are to be blamed or are the consumers who blindly agree to share their data without understanding the consequences are to be blamed? I decided to further explore this topic and do my assignment on it. I decided to explore Big Data and Privacy.

 

Big Data is a buzzword these days and there is no denying that the technology has helped industries cater to the basic needs of their consumers through customisation. I came across the word Big Data years ago in some news article. But I did not completely understand it until my Digital Transformation of Businesses class. It was only then, did I actually understand what Big Data is. The size or type of data collected is not the only distinguishable feature, it is the insight that this data provides that makes it special. These insights can be used for any commercial purpose, for example, the business model of Uber is based on Big Data, Uber does not own the cars that are rented but it owns the network of those car owners and drivers and thousands of customers who are willing to rent those cars. Big Data became a buzzword because it gave businesses the power to make valuable strategic decisions based on it. It has introduced new horizons for businesses, some organisations choose to be data users, some become data facilitators and yet others choose to be data suppliers.

 

But going back to the initial question, what about the consumers’ privacy? Is that the priority of organisations? There are laws and then there are ethics. Following laws does not imply that organisations are being ethical. Facebook complies with all the regulations yet Cambridge Analytica happened but it is not just Facebook’s fault, it is also the responsibility of consumers to be equally vigilant, to read the consent forms before blindly agreeing to the terms, to have different passwords for different accounts and to have strong passwords. I know it is difficult to have different passwords but there are so many applications these days which remember those passwords for their users. There is always a solution if we are willing to find it. It is also the fault of the lawmakers to not have kept up with the fast-paced technological advancements. The privacy laws and regulations are still archaic in most non-EU countries. Finally, I would just like to say that no regulation can prevent invasion of privacy in this hyper-connected world unless we are careful. So be vigilant and protect your privacy, because no one else can!

MSc Management- Block Taught Structure

When I was deciding to join MSc Management at Lancaster University, I had absolutely no idea that the course was block taught. Most of you will not even know what it is.. I’ve been there.

Block taught quite literally means being taught in blocks, where each block was a week’s period and each module was taught in that time period. It is a very interesting concept. Throughout the week just one module was taught from 9am-5pm. We did case studies and group work and everything else related to that module in just that week. However, the final assessments are usually scheduled two weeks after finishing the module, be it exams or individual essays. To summarise, my month, on the whole, looked something like the first two weeks of intense classes and group work and then the next two weeks chasing deadlines for the modules that I had just finished.

I had never experienced such structure before and thus for the first few months, I struggled to cope with the deadlines and to keep up with whatever was being taught in the class, but as the year progressed I noticed that my ability to understand things and to manage my time improved exponentially. I no longer needed to go through the slides as I understood almost everything in class and also made concise notes while being taught. Also, in order to keep up with the deadlines, I followed strict schedules and began working on the assignments or preparing for the exams while the lectures were going on, rather than leaving things to the last moment.

I prefer this structure over being taught multiple modules at the same time because I could focus on just one module and, moreover, it helps reduce stress. It’s far less stressful to have exams and assessments spread over the entire year than to have all the exams at the end of the term or year for that matter. The month of May is dreaded by everyone as this is usually the month when everyone has exams. However, it’s not the same for me. Having finished all my exams, I have had the opportunity to enjoy the weather. Summer in the UK is a rare occurrence and I am enjoying every bit of sunshine.

TWO + TWO

The perks of doing a general Masters course is that you get to participate in the events organised for other specialised courses as well and that you still have the time to decide what you want to do in the future. I developed a knack for Marketing modules and I wanted to test my understanding. So as soon as I came across the opportunity to participate in the event organised by Creative Resources where I could put all the theories into practice, I seized it.

The event was held in Manchester on 16th February. It was a platform for students of various institutes and courses to come together and tackle youth-loneliness. We were provided with a brief explaining the issue at length and were then put into teams of 5-6 members. Each group was assigned a mentor who was an industry professional. There were other mentors who we could approach at any time with questions. The aim of the event was to come up with unique solutions which could be undertaken by organisations to tackle the issue at hand. The solutions could be anything ranging from mobile applications to websites or even campaigns.

Loneliness is becoming a major problem amongst youths. This event was an opportunity to not only talk about it openly but also to tackle the issue head-on. All the groups came up with unique ideas. For example, one team suggested that people who feel lonely should wear yellow colour t-shirts on a particular day of the week. They also wanted to spread awareness about this day and encourage everyone to communicate with people who were feeling lonely (wearing yellow). It was a very simple idea and yet it could be put into effect.

Having stayed back for the Christmas vacation, I understood that it can be particularly difficult for people from other cultures, who may feel a little alienated at times, feeling a little left out and most importantly missing what you have left behind. Amidst all this, we often tend to forget the opportunity we get to explore new things and to embrace new cultures. All we need is a little positive nudge. I shared my experience with my team and they all understood my perspective and we decided to focus specifically on the loneliness issues faced by the international students. However, our target audience comprised of all University students. After a lot of discussion and guidance from many mentors, we came up with an App, which would allow the international students to connect with the local students according to their hobbies. We wanted to create value for all the students utilising our services by creating cultural exchanges.

It was a very well-organised event and I learned a lot about the real world. Coming up with ideas under pressure and working better in teams were my biggest learnings from the day. In just a day, I had met total strangers, discussed the issues, and most importantly understood their perspective. It was the first time that I was working directly with the creative side of Marketing.  Coming up with taglines and logos was a thrilling experience in itself. Overall, it was a unique experience and I look forward to utilising the skills I acquired that day.

The Strategy Simulation Challenge

The final term is finally upon us at Lancaster University and I thought this would be the perfect chance to share with you all a module that I enjoyed last term – The Strategy Simulation Challenge, which enables you to manage your very own virtual airline company!

My career ambition is to have a role which involves strategy planning, so I chose the module because I felt that it would be the perfect platform to gain insight into a strategy role. So, after signing up to the module at the end of my second year, I had been particularly excited when last term finally came around so that I could start the challenge.

For me, an appealing element of the module was the module design because it is very different to others I have studied. This is because it comprises of practical activities in a simulated environment which include making weekly strategic decisions for the airline, producing a company shareholder report and delivering a company presentation. The varied activities involved with the challenge made the module interesting and enabled me to learn about the different ways in which a company develops and communicates their strategy to various stakeholders.

At the start of the challenge, participants are split into teams and you can really get into role by allocating team members a management role. For example, within my team we allocated roles including marketing manager, human resource manager and financial manager. Then, one of the first activities to complete is to come up with a company name and catchphrase and design a logo. This was a particularly fun part of the module because it enabled us to apply our creativity whilst also allowing us to consider a brand strategy, such as the brand image we would like to portray.

A key element of the challenge was to choose a positioning for the airline and develop a strategy which would support the company to successfully achieve the chosen positioning. For example, you could choose to enter the market as a low cost airline carrier or a luxury airline carrier. Then throughout the challenge you have to identify the business activities and investments which will support you to achieve the strategy. For my company, we chose to position as a low cost, quality carrier airline and therefore we developed a strategy which would enable us to keep costs down and deliver to customers a good quality service.

The key decisions we had to make each week included expenditure decisions for business activities, including marketing, Corporate Social Responsibility and employee training. This meant that the challenge enabled us to visualise in practice the effect of increasing or decreasing the expenditure on business activities each week. However, the simulation programme also prompted me to consider other factors, such as lower customer demand in winter and the activity of competing teams. Therefore, the challenge also enabled me to learn about responding to competitors and dealing with elements which can influence an airline company.

My team were successfully able to develop a business strategy which led us to achieve a profit. After completing the module I feel more confident making strategic decisions and I have learnt how to create and implement a strategy for a business. I really enjoyed taking part in the module and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about business management or strategy management.

Being a Member of PMers

At Lancaster University I am spoilt for choice over which societies to join and dedicate time to – From the baking society to the Disney society to the Economics society, there is literally something for everyone to get involved in!

However, with over 200 societies available to join it can be easy to miss a society at the Freshers Fair. So, this brings me on to share with you a society that I joined in my second year – The Project Management Society (also known as PMers).

To be honest, I had heard about the society in my first year. However I had felt naive to join because I thought the society was just for Project Management students. – But how I was wrong!

I rediscovered the society during my second year when one of my friends, a Marketing student, shared with me her experience of being a member of the society. My friend told me how the Project Management Society provided her the opportunity to manage a project from start to end and learn about the different stages involved.

From this, the Project Management Society stood out to me because it sounded exciting to be able to get involved with supporting campus activities and events that I had attended during my first year. Not only that, but as a Business Studies student who does not study a Project Management module, I felt that getting involved with live projects would be a chance to learn more about executing projects and also allow me to apply and share the skills and knowledge I had gained from my course.

So, as a member of other societies too, I decided to join the society as a project team member, rather than a project manager. As a project team member, the role allowed me to volunteer and help with the elements involved with the projects being run throughout the year. Which, as I learnt, enabled me to take on roles including photography, ticket selling, and event set-up.

Two of my highlights from being a member for the past two years are getting involved with the Japanese Koinobori Festival 2017 and the Korean Festival 2018. At the Japanese Festival I supported the event, which celebrated Japanese culture, by being an event photographer and at the Korean Festival I collected tickets and served Korean food. I really enjoyed volunteering at these events and it felt rewarding to know that I had been able to support the success of the events.

As it comes to the end of my final year, I am glad that I discovered the Project Management Society and I believe it has provided me with a platform to develop and learn new skills, whilst also meeting and making many new friends. I feel that as a project team member I have been able to learn more about the process involved with launching projects. In addition, I have been able to recognise and appreciate how all of the different roles collectively contribute to creating a successful project.

From being a member, along with creating memories, I will take away the skills I have developed. I feel I have strengthened my team working skills, the ability to communicate to large audiences and developed confidence working at large events.

Networking in London

I don’t know if the sound of networking is a daunting prospect for everyone, but it certainly was for me before the Capital Connections programme. Entering a room of CEO’s, managers and vice presidents, to name a few, was certainly something to be apprehensive about…But I was ready to embrace it.

Studying at Lancaster University Management School, the benefits of networking and the value that social capital can bring are topics commonly spoken of. However, actually building social capital? This was something new for me.

Attending a preparatory workshop with Jackie, Capital Connections Skills developer, I was provided the opportunity to practice and develop my networking skills. It was relieving to know that I was not the only one new to networking. Practicing with other students on the programme, I came away feeling confident and prepared to immerse myself at the networking events that awaited me.

The highlight of the programme was the networking event at Wallacespace in the vibrant district, Covent Garden. At the event, I had the chance to demonstrate my networking skills with professionals who had been in my shoes before – Lancaster University graduates.

I was amazed at how interested the alumni were to hear about myself and their willingness to share their knowledge and advice with me. It was particularly interesting that whilst exchanging experiences about Lancaster University, alumni recognised the value of the skills I am developing through membership in societies. Additionally, the suggestions alumni provided about societies and activities to get involved in has inspired and motivated me to discover even more of what Lancaster University has to offer me.

To finish the evening, it was a privilege to receive an invitation to dine with Liqiang Xu, a senior associate at Deloitte. This was the perfect opportunity to hear more about Liqiang Xu’s experience living in London, whilst capturing the atmosphere of living in the cultural capital of the world.

From visiting just a handful of the workplaces in London, from the BBC to EY, I’ve been awakened to the many exciting and interesting roles available for graduates in London. One thing I discovered is that many of the Lancaster University Alumni that I had the pleasure of meeting had pursued diverse career paths, with many unrelated to their degree subject. This so, I have taken the message to keep my career options open and to always pursue a career I will enjoy.

Looking back on the experience that Capital Connections have provided me, I have learnt that networking isn’t as daunting as I first thought and that with practice it is a skill that can eventually come naturally. Working in London indeed sounds an exciting prospect and I have certainly increased my interest in living and working in this vibrant business and leisure landscape. It is pleasing to hear that the Capital Connections programme is running again this year in April. I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to learn more about career opportunities in London and to develop networking skills.

Why I chose Lancaster

The decision to go to University is not an easy one to make. It represents the first major choice that many will have to make, that will potentially have a major impact on the rest of their lives. Not only this but the wealth of factors that a potential student has to consider can seem pretty overwhelming. I remember my decision to come to University as if it was yesterday- when in actual fact it was over 2 years ago.

My ‘Road to University’ began around the time when I was halfway through my first year at college (around February 2014). I had been weighing up the pros and cons of coming to University for a few months prior to this, and having eventually settled on the idea that yes, this is what I wanted to do with my life, I started thinking about it seriously. But that of course meant that I had to know what I wanted to study.

This was the first major hurdle I had to overcome. For my A-Levels, I had chosen to do Media Studies, BTEC Business and English Language. At that point in time, there was one subject that I preferred to the rest-Media. My teachers made the subject so interesting , and it was also really interesting to learn about the dynamics surrounding something that we interact with on a daily basis. With this in mind, I felt like I would be interested in considering a Media-related degree. There was one area of Media that had always fascinated me- Journalism.

I therefore began to start searching for Universities that offered Journalism. I travelled all around the UK (with the assistance of my parents) to find a University that would be perfect for me, not only in terms of courses, but in terms of the general student life as well.  I looked at Nottingham Trent University, Huddersfield University, University of Salford and Newcastle University. Every time I looked at a University I had my little notebook with me, writing down what I liked about each one and what I didn’t like. Unfortunately, I could not escape the feeling that every time I looked at somewhere, that there was something missing.

This was the point where I had my first serious think about whether I was looking at the right places, or looking at the right course. After a few weeks consideration, I decided that I wasn’t as hung up on Journalism as I had originally thought. It was at this moment where I had an epiphany. I had been getting good grades in Business at college, and I was enjoying the subject just as much as I was enjoying Media. It felt that it was a logical step for me to want to do a Business-related degree.

So once again I embarked on another wide search for Universities offering Business-related degrees, and this journey seemed to be so much easier. I was now much more confident that this is what I wanted to do. I looked at fewer Universities when I was considering Business, looking at both Loughborough University and the University of Edinburgh. Yet no matter how enthusiastic I tried to be, there was still the notion of something being missing.

Then it all changed. One of my friends from home had just graduated from Lancaster University, where he was studying Accounting and Finance. He could not have been more enthusiastic about his time there. We had a long chat about his experiences, both in the academic sense and the sense of his general student life. I felt that I should look into the University and see if his experiences would be well founded.

On my first open day to Lancaster University, I immediately knew that he was telling the truth. As soon as I set foot on the campus, I was in awe. It had everything that you could need, within walking distance of the accommodation- 1 tick.

I then went to hear about some of the courses that were offered, and was in total shock. Not only did the University offer a massive variety of courses, relating to nearly every business sector that there is, they were all based in a dedicated Management School. Even more impressive, was the fact that the Management School was regularly ranked within the top 10 Universities for most Business-related courses in the UK, and within the top 1% globally. Tick number 2.

But obviously it was all well and good thinking that the course was brilliant, but what would happen if I did not like the area where I was going to be staying?  I need not worry. Not only was Lancaster brilliant for having every shop I would ever need, but it was also not a massive leap from a tiny rural village, to a big city- the perfect combination of both. Tick number 3.

There was one last thing that would potentially influence my decision- societies. I knew that I would be doing a lot of studying, but I also knew that I would want to fill my spare time doing things that I would enjoy. My jaw simply dropped when I saw the massive range of societies that the University offered, from Taekwondo to Tea Appreciation. From Anime to Rugby Union. Tick number 4.

Even my parents could see that I was much happier with this University than I had been with all the others I had looked at. It was from this point forward that I knew, this was where I wanted to spend the next 3/4 years of my life.

Having been here for a year already, I can safely say that it was one of the best decisions that I ever made choosing to study here. I have made so many new friends, and I am studying a subject that I love, at a University that impresses me day after day.