Four takeaways from the first Cognizant digital consulting workshop

We recently completed the first of two in-person workshops for the inaugural cohort of the Cognizant Business Analyst Certificate Program, which launched in March.

The program is fully supported by Cognizant Consulting, and students taking the 12-weeks of digital consultant training are guaranteed an interview for a business analyst position with Cognizant when they complete the certificate. There are no out-of-pocket costs for the students who enrolled in this program.

Consistent with ASU’s fast-paced approach to innovation, we launched this certificate within a matter of weeks after signing the agreement with Cognizant Consulting. We had approximately 300 applications for the program within a period of two to three weeks of the announcement. Nearly 50 students began the first three-week online module in which they learned the fundamentals of business analysis.

The objectives of the two-day, in-person workshop during the first week of April was to reinforce the fundamentals of business analysis and give the students an opportunity to meet with and learn from Cognizant executives. Chief Operations Officer Nishanth Vallabhu and Chief People Officer Noreen Kamka spent the entire duration of the two-day workshop with the students along with some of their direct reports who are directors of various industry practices including media and telecom, health care, insurance, and retail sectors. Cognizant Lead Business Analyst Catherine Baganz facilitated the workshop.

The in-person aspect of the workshop was a great experience for both students and faculty. I can’t recall a single occasion in my decades of academic experience where we had so many high-profile industry mentors helping students at such a high level of intensity. Cognizant consultants brought a live case study and asked students to come up with solutions to the client problem by the end of the session. As the student groups worked on their solution approaches, the executives rotated between them, giving feedback and insights on how to resolve the problem.

When students presented their final solutions, they received immediate advice on presentation skills and solution quality. Cognizant executives also gave kudos to students who presented unique solutions. Two of the 10 teams were selected as winners, but I thought everyone deserved to be a winner.

I left with many positive impressions from the first Cognizant in-person workshop, including:

  • The academic diversity and quality of the first cohort are incredible. The student presentations were high caliber, and the talent level and depth of subject-matter expertise just after the first module were truly impressive.
  • Cognizant executives gave several tips to the students that I think are important for any budding analyst to remember, such as extensively taking notes, paying attention to the client, listening to the client’s pain points, and reusing the same vocabulary/language in client presentations.
  • Students got to know more about the consulting world and gained a better understanding of industry-specific digital business opportunities. These insights are incredibly important to know in planning a career in consulting.
  • The workshop was an ideal way for students to experience a community feel in a predominantly online program. The level of camaraderie and collaborative spirit were perfect precursors to the kind of work environment students will experience when they begin their career at Cognizant Consulting.

All in all, I believe we have successfully put together a unique learning opportunity for students in this program. I hope for many more close partnerships with Cognizant Consulting and our other corporate partners. In a fast-paced digital world, universities and corporations need to continue to innovate and develop together.

By Raghu Santanam