BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Students studying business analytics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business recently received a unique opportunity to meet Aarti Shah, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief information and digital officer of one of the world’s leading healthcare companies, Eli Lilly and Company.
Shah is known for her inspirational and sincere leadership style and for successfully leading global cross-functional teams — from vision development to strategy creation to execution. This was evident in her presentation on Sept. 5 to around 150 Kelley undergraduate students and faculty and at another event with more than 50 female MBA students.
Much of her presentation focused on digital and data analytic trends and their impact on business models in the future, but she also provided Kelley students with warm, meaningful advice gleaned from her life and career, which includes 25 years at Lilly, in positions of steadily increasing importance. She leads all of Lilly’s efforts in technology, digital health, cyber security, advanced analytics and data sciences globally.
After expressing admiration for the Kelley School and the depth of its programs in business analytics, information science and cybersecurity, Shah emphasized to students the importance of their professors and others who serve as their mentors and coaches.
“I am who I am today because I have been blessed with some amazing, amazing people in this journey and can never forget that unwavering support and strength from my family, my mentors and coaches and my spiritual Master. I am also very thankful to Lilly who provided me with various opportunities and invested in my development. They helped me believe in myself and gave me the confidence and guidance throughout my journey,” said Shah, who originally joined Lilly in 1994 as a senior statistician.
“You have amazing opportunities,” she added. “The faculty who are here, the alumni and the seniors – leverage them – and also when you have an opportunity to reach back, as you are moving forward, make sure you give back.”
Shah’s tenure at Lilly includes extensive experience in drug development and commercialization, technology, cybersecurity, digital transformation, advanced analytics and data sciences. She cautioned students against becoming complacent in one career path and encouraged them to stay open to new challenges. “Be comfortable becoming uncomfortable,” she said. “When you have a diversity of experiences, you never know what new doors will open up to you.”
Students encouraged to remain lifelong learners
She also encouraged everyone to become a lifelong learner. “Have that innate curiosity, that thirst for learning and always be a student of leadership,” she said. “The moment you say ‘I know it all,’ your growth stops. We all have a big ‘to-do list.’ I ask people today – even my senior executives – what is your ‘to-learn list for this year?’”
The rate of speed with which technology is advancing has increased exponentially in the last quarter century. Any major device that isn’t now connected to the Internet soon will be. By next year, more than 200 billion devices will be tied into cloud networks and generating data.
Healthcare is among industries most impacted by the changing landscape of technology. Shah observed that digital products, including software that nudges patients toward making good health decisions, are now being prescribed by doctors, in addition to medications. Virtual clinical trials – without actual patients – are being utilized to speed up drug development and lower development costs.
If it isn’t already the case, in the future every company will become a data and tech company of some kind.
“Take time to understand analytics,” Shah told the students. “You have a great major in business analytics here at Kelley. I was talking with several of the faculty earlier this afternoon and I said that some kind of curriculum in analytics should become mandatory for every student. No matter what field or role one is pursuing, proficiency in data analytics will be required.”
But it’s not just about understanding information technology. Having a high EQ – emotional quotient – is just as important as having a high IQ, and more so in the future, she said, adding that having soft skills are vital too.
During her visit, Shah also met with Kelley deans and program directors, including those involved with graduate programs in business administration and information science. She encouraged students who are doing an undergraduate degree in general management to consider returning to school for a master’s degree after they’ve had a few years of professional experience.
“Please trust me, trust your faculty and whoever advises you or coaches you – go out there, do great, work for three or four years and then pursue your master’s or your MBA,” she said. “Once you get used to that lifestyle, it’s hard to become a student again.”
She praised Kelley’s efforts to create programs like its Master of Science in Information Systems, which allows students to transition directly from earning their bachelor’s degree into the master’s program over a five-year period, as well as a new combined MBA/MSIS degree. “Wow, I can’t wait for those 12 students to graduate and see what they end up doing,” she said of those in the new program.
“Leverage what you are getting at the Kelley School,” she added, proudly noting that one of her sons is an alumnus and her second son is a senior at IU. “Exploit the opportunities that this institution provides. I am so thoroughly impressed with the program and the faculty, but most important is the passion of your faculty to invest in your development.”