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.

Where are they now?

From the very beginning of the course, I have always enjoyed Employability weeks. These are special events designed by the Careers team in order to prepare us for life ahead. Over the two terms, there have been many events, such as Networking day, Team Building away days, and one-on-one sessions with Martine and Peter (Career Mentors). In such a demanding course as ours, these weeks have been a source of relief, when we don’t have to think about the theories of HRM or the concepts and mathematics of Economics.

One event that stood out to me the most was “Where are they now?” It was basically an event where MSc Management alumni came and told us about their experience while pursuing the course and journey after they had finished and had gone on to pursue jobs. Some of them had over 10 years of experience now, and some of them had graduated just last year. They all had the different opinions and yet in many ways, they were all the same. One alumna, who had graduated in 2002 and had a work experience of over 10 years under her belt, told us to persevere while applying for jobs. She suggested websites which she found relevant when she was applying for placements. Listening to her story rejuvenated us and filled us with hope. After all, failure is not the end and success is not all. She was an international student and I could relate to her story as in many ways, I am going through a similar phase, the confusion of whether to go back to India to work or to keep applying to get a job here in the UK. She chose to go back to China and returned after a few years of experience.

Another alum from the 2012-13 batch, who is currently working in Rapid7, described his learning from the course as a stepping stone to the future. He mentioned that the course taught him the essentials but working life had much more in store. He mentioned that he did not have a technical background, but the knack for learning. He also mentioned that it is essential for us to figure out our strengths and be honest while applying for jobs.

Another alum from the same batch, who is currently working in DHL, mentioned his struggles while applying for jobs. He mentioned that he applied for 27 jobs and got rejected at some stage or the other before landing the job in DHL as a consultant. His will to not take no for an answer made me wonder. I am going through the rejection phase myself, where most of the companies do not provide VISA sponsorship. When they do, they don’t like my application form. If I clear that round, I get rejected in the situational judgment test and if all goes well, there is absolutely no way I’m clearing the video interview round. So far, zero success rate. But what is life without struggle? To have a good story, we need failures and the will to fight back. (Luckily, I am not scared of failure so bring it on, Life!!!)

The session was not just inspirational but informative too. All the alumni gave us insights, not just into the struggles they faced, but how we can apply to the companies they are currently working in. I connected with most of them on Linkedin and asked for their advice on my CV and on whether their companies provide VISA sponsorships. I feel that this event was a good opportunity for people like me who felt they were lost. Getting rejections is not easy but knowing that others have faced the exact same thing and have still made it work somehow, makes it a lot easier.

Volunteering in schools with Lancaster University Student Union

Lancaster University Student Union (LUSU) offers a wide range of volunteering opportunities and school volunteering is one of them. I chose to attend an introductory session on this project because, not only did I want to be engaged with the local community, but also I was interested in knowing more about the education system in the UK and in helping people achieve their potential. What unfolded during the session made this opportunity evermore compelling.

The session started with the reasons that inspired LUSU to develop the schools volunteering project. The project aims at bringing to pupils the opportunity to engage with university students and at helping them to consider going to university as a future option. The focus is on children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds or vulnerable pupils. Then the project’s development manager shared his experience with us on how children have different thoughts and impressions about going to university: while it could be a very possible option for some, for others, it was a path that they have never heard of.

The volunteering coordinator explained how LUSU will support us through this journey and how the different opportunities can be flexible, accessible and suitable to the volunteers’ passion and experience. The students who express an interest in school volunteering would be matched with a primary or secondary school, depending on the type of work they prefer. The aim is to get the best possible experience for both the volunteers and the pupils.

I am looking forward to starting my school volunteering placement in January. This opportunity will allow me to reinforce the positive impact that the project has on the community while engaging in a rewarding activity. I will have the chance to share with the pupils their classroom environment, as well as discuss with them my experience as a university student to increase their awareness of the option to continue their education in the future.

I am also looking forward to the impact that this experience will have on me. Through this project, I will have the chance to know more about the local culture as well as broaden my own future career aspirations. As an international student at LUMS, I am hoping to gain more international exposure and flexibility to discuss various issues with pupils, teachers and other students who are engaged in this project. Also, the activities will influence my communication and rapport-building skills, which have important and transferable aspects that I can use in a variety of situations. Last but not least, I am looking forward to this rewarding opportunity that will allow me to give back to the community and make a difference in other people’s lives.

Learning Opportunities at Lancaster University

Lancaster University Management School provides opportunities to learn outside of the conventional classroom based learning, creating a learning environment well suited to various styles of learner.

One such learning experience that I have taken part in during my second year of study is a management module, which involves working with a live client, to aid in resolving a real-world problem from the organisation.

The module is competitive from the beginning, with each group competing for their organisation of choice from a list of business (local and some further afield) who have partnered with the University to work with Management School students. This involves producing a ‘project bid’, in which the team must illustrate their understanding of their chosen client’s issues, as well as the team strengths to create an argument demonstrating why they should be allowed to work with the particular client. Once the bids have been evaluated, those who presented the strongest arguments are awarded the clients they requested to work with, and all other teams are allocated the remaining organisations.

Luckily for me, our project bid was strong enough to be awarded the client that we most wanted to work with. This was a small, local charity which meant our experience was very intensive and our involvement was perceived as being particularly important to the client.

Working with a charity was particularly rewarding, and a personal highlight was visiting the charity at the start of the module to learn more about the client. This was a great opportunity to speak to stakeholders and staff members to find out first hand important information about the problems faced. It was also great to be in a learning environment outside of University, in a real working environment and facing real organisational issues.

The project did not come without its challenges, though. An important part of the process for my group was to collect primary research, which involved approaching local people in the town centre. This proved to be more difficult than we had ever imagined, and encouraging people to speak to us wasn’t exactly easy!

The module runs over two terms, and is an intensive, hands on, real life experience. Working outside of the classroom acts as an opportunity to fully understand and experience the discrepancies between theory and practice, and understand the subject (in my case, management consultancy) in a much more in depth way compared to simply learning through lectures and seminars. Not only this, but this experience is a great CV booster – you can demonstrate real life skills working in a professional manner with genuine clients who have sought your help.

The assessment for this module involves an individual essay, which acts as an opportunity to reflect on the learning experience and how your understanding of the subject has changed with exposure to a real world consultancy issue. There is also a group report and presentation to the client, allowing you to showcase your hard work. The presentation is primarily for the client but moderated by the module tutors and lecturers, and therefore it really requires you to integrate your theoretical knowledge and practical experience in order to appeal to the different audiences.

I chose to study this module because I wanted to gain hands on experience whilst learning, and that is exactly what it provided. It truly is a one of a kind learning experience which inarguably throws you in at the deep end. Nevertheless, the experience is invaluable, providing real work experience and aiding in your academic study. It is an excellent opportunity to develop your interpersonal skills, and be able to show your understanding of a University subject in the real world.

Is an Industrial Placement for me?

I have known since the day I decided that I wanted to study a business related degree that I wanted to complete an industrial placement as part of my time at University. I knew that the experience this would offer me would be invaluable, not only for furthering my understanding of my subject, but also when it comes to applying for graduate jobs when I leave Lancaster. But the decision isn’t always so easy for everyone.

Applying for a placement year can be incredibly scary. Because it divides your degree into two segments (first and second year, the placement, and then returning for final year), this means that everyone else completing a three-year course will have graduated by the time you return. This is something I am absolutely not looking forward to – leaving my friends behind during what would have been my last year with them.

Not only that but during first year I felt completely unprepared for a real life, real responsibility, real workload job. As much as I was loving University life, I wasn’t ready to take the next leap on my career path. These are the fears that often prevent people from applying for a placement year as part of their degree.

I cannot stress enough how valuable a placement year is. This is especially true in industries like mine (Marketing) where not just graduate jobs but the job market in general is fiercely competitive. A placement gives you the upper hand over other candidates – you already have a whole year of work experience in your field, working on real projects with real people in a real company. That is something that makes you stand head and shoulders above your competitors when it comes to finding a job at the end of your degree.

Not only that, but the beauty of getting a job in-between your degree is that the support on offer to you is unlike any you will experience outside of University. The dedicated LUMS Careers Team is always on hand – during term time and holidays – to offer you support and guidance, look over your applications, and put you in touch with previous Lancaster students who can guide you through your application with first hand experience themselves.

I myself am already feeling the benefits of a placement year, and I am still only in the application stages. I know I am more confident and independent, and where last year just thinking about a placement year make my stomach churn, now I am excited by the prospects and the opportunities that lie just around the corner. Yes – I am still out of my comfort zone, and each application poses a new challenge, but that is exactly what an employer wants to see. The entire process improves your resilience, self-confidence and ambition.

So if you’re considering a placement year as part of your Lancaster degree, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Though there are sacrifices involved, and some of your friends won’t be here when you return for your final year, the benefits more than outweigh the costs.

Why I Chose Lancaster

Applying for University can be daunting – it presents what for many is the first major ‘fork in the road’ moment in life. Two years ago, I had concluded my nationwide University tour -the infamous hunt for the perfect degree programme and perfect University that my friends and I had become so familiar with – and settled on my decision.

I remember vividly two University open days – Leeds and Lancaster. Both excellent institutes. Both very high up the league tables for Marketing (first and second). Both fiercely competing for applicants, and I was torn. Leeds was everything the inner teenager in me wanted – the bright lights of the big city, far away from home, a reputable night out. Lancaster appealed to me rationally – a safer city, closer to home and most importantly, first in the country for my course.

I fought with myself for months, visited both applicant days and, eventually, firmed Lancaster after speaking to a student ambassador on the open day who assured me Lancaster met both needs – the very best teaching quality and the great student night out that my heart desired.

Not only this, but in my months of torment in deciding on which University to firm, I eventually weighed up the pros and cons of each University, and Lancaster came out on top by a country mile.

Firstly, the Lancaster University Management School rankings are incredibly high – consistently ranked within the top 10 Business Schools in the UK and within the top 1% globally. This gives makes me a student of one of the best Business Schools in the world, which is completely invaluable when it comes to applying for jobs, internships and placements.

Which leads nicely onto my next point – Lancaster has some seriously impressive links with companies who offer industrial placements for University students. As a placement year is something I have always wanted to complete as part of my degree, the way Lancaster approaches this was a hugely influential factor in my decision to come here. I found at other Universities, the general attitude towards industrial placements was ‘you can do one if you want, but you’re on your own in organising it’. Lancaster could not be more different. The Management School has a dedicated careers service specifically for placement students, runs drop-in sessions and lectures, mock assessment centres, interviews, psychometric tests and CV and cover letter workshops to ensure that every student is fully and completely prepared for both the application process and the actual work place. This is something I really value and having such a strong support network throughout the entire process made the idea of a placement year seem a lot less daunting.

The final major benefit of Lancaster which really swayed my decision was the campus. I come from a relatively small area and have never experienced living in a city (in fact, the only time I ever used a bus was when visiting family friends in Edinburgh – talk about country bumpkin!). As a result, I wasn’t convinced about how much I would really enjoy city life – I felt like I would embrace it for the first term but the novelty of not being within walking distance of everything (literally, everything) as I was at home would quickly wear off. Lancaster was the perfect in-between – just out of the city, I would have access to the city life with the comfort of a campus bubble to retreat to.

Here’s me visiting my accommodation just after A level results day when I knew I’d made it, not knowing how my University experience would unfold or where the next four years would take me.

becca-farish-outside-accommodation

Having been here for a year now, I am confident I made the right decision with Lancaster.

 

Come, get yourself a taste of Lancaster!

Come around here, and experience all the tastes LUMS has to offer!

LumsCupcakes Ipshitha

Hola! I am Ipshita and currently pursuing a MSc in Human Resources and Knowledge Management. This is not my first time in the UK, nor is it my first time in Lancaster, but it is the first time I have been here for more than just a summer school or a holiday. I have travelled quite a bit, almost to 13 countries and a few times alone as well. I flew alone for the first time when I was 6, but this is the first time I have ever lived by myself for a whole year! As life is, there have been ups and downs, but the best things are so worthy that I would never trade them for anything else.

I am fond of travelling, meeting new people and experiencing cultures. I remember a new module we started in the second term, the professor decided to ask everyone to introduce themselves, as he wrote down all their native countries on the board. He started with the last row, there were 10 students and all 10 of them were from 10 different countries! Could you believe that? In total, there were 37 students from 18 different countries! Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, France, Greece, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and the United Kingdom. It was the first time that it really hit me that I am actually studying in a truly global environment. Not to mention the friends I have made from many other countries.

Apart from academics, this experience is also enriching because of how I have grown internally. Stepping away from your comfort zone can really do wonders! (those quotes you see on Instagram or tumbler are true!) The magic actually happens outside your comfort zone.

There were all sorts of things I was worried about before coming. I have always been the younger kid in the class. When the course was about to begin, I thought to myself “A 20-year-old kid doing masters? Nah, they will for sure treat me like a baby”. I was pretty wrong. I have gotten to know people from all walks of life and I have learnt a great deal from every single one of them.
Also, before the course began, I wanted a self-sufficient studio because I did not know what kind of people I might have to share my flat with. I am glad I chose an en-suite room with a sharing kitchen,  I have made some of the best friends I could on my flat. Moreover, I have actually learnt to cook a few good meals from scratch! [mind that, ramen noodle is not cooking].

The experience is not just the academics, being here at Lancaster University is a package of an experience!

 

How international is the Master of Science in International Business & Strategy in reality?

Hi! I’m Tobias, and I am currently studying the Master of Science in International Business & Strategy programme. Before beginning this programme at Lancaster University Management School, I would never have expected to get such an international experience as I have gotten during the past year.

Tobias IBS

I remember my first day here in the United Kingdom: I arrived at the Manchester airport after a long flight from Hong Kong where I just finished my Internship. Waiting at the bus terminal of the airport for an organized bus to Lancaster. At that moment I started to realize, that I was the only European student in the hall – all others are from Asia. This discovery continued at the campus of the University. The graduate college is basically kind of a small village with students from all over the world. I started to share my flat with students from Russia, New Zealand, England, Thailand and Lebanon. My class of 28 students is a collection of 15 different nationalities.

All this internationalization brings so many things together not only in terms of studying but also in terms of social skills. I started to think in different ways and different perspectives. I have learned to speak in different languages and by doing a group work, it surprised me how people in different countries have various style of working. Of course it complicating the steps of achievement at the beginning, but in the end you did not only achieve the goal of the module, but also learned how to work and communicate with complete different people. This unique skill is so valuable since this kind of experience you will not find it in books which it will be an important skill for future international career.

As it would not be already enough international, the university provides even more opportunity for the person like me who are keen to explore a new experience. For example, I could choose an elective program in cooperation with the Peking University in China. In that context, I spent two incredible weeks at the Management School of the Peking University in Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai. And again, the class was another collection of nationalities: Only four students were coming from LUMS, about ten from top US universities, another ten from Australia and couple of students from other top ranked business school around the world. Moreover, this programme introduced us not only in theory into the Chinese market, but also through company visits and cultural trips to main touristic attractions in these Chinese cities.

Last but not least, by studying here, it is not just meeting people and saying goodbye after the graduation. We are talking about the beautiful friendship and relationship that we have been spending together in a year. Hence, in the future, it could grow as an international business connection or even true friends for the rest of your life.