Teamwork Makes the Tech Work
Stevens’ Industry Capstone Program takes the classroom into the real world.
As an engineering major at Stevens Institute of Technology, James Margiotta became well-versed in designing and building all sorts of mechanical devices, but his time in the Stevens School of Business also taught him how to build a team.
Analytics MBA in 2023. His coursework provided background and knowledge in the language of business, applying new innovations across organizations and interpreting data to identify trends and make strategic recommendations. The Industry Capstone Program allowed him to put those concepts into action.James graduated from Stevens with his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2022 and completed his
“There's really no other course like it because you do get that professional experience,” he explained. “It's very unique in that sense. It was great to speak to a real-world application of my work during these interviews, and I think that definitely helped me.”
The Stevens Industry Capstone Program is the culmination of a student’s coursework and provides the opportunity to consult with an industry partner or work on a research project that applies to an industry need. Christina Alwell, the manager of the program. provides 1:1 career advising to all MBA/AMBA graduate students.
“It was an absolute pleasure to work with James, as an advisee and as the MBA lead for his Industry Capstone Program team,” Christina said. “James and I were able to review his professional portfolio, discuss his post-grad aspirations, and discuss the opportunity to serve as the MBA Lead for his ICP team. We select each MBA lead and look for students who can effectively and professionally collaborate with their peers, faculty advisor, and corporate partner. James excelled in this role, and I was grateful to have his support throughout the semester!”
James’ ICP team went to work on a consulting project with Whitestone Associates, a private equity firm that helps facilitate company sales and acquisitions. In another example of how Stevens is able to bridge academics and business, the founder of Whitestone, Frank Gallucci, is an adjunct professor who worked with James in the classroom.
“I had Professor Gallucci, who happened to be the founder and the project lead on this,” James said. “I had him for two courses, including entrepreneurship and strategic thinking. Those courses were definitely very helpful in being able to understand how to manage the group and make sure people are happy with the work they're doing, but also be efficient.”
The challenge for James and his team was to create an AI algorithm that could examine Whitestone’s database of companies and help predict how likely they were to sell. The team of six included finance, MBA and Analytics MBA programs. James’ first task was to understand everyone’s skillset and apply them to the appropriate part of the project. The result was two subgroups—the data cleaning team and the algorithm team.
“The team cleaning the data that they already had, went through it and verified everything is up to date,” he said. “The people that were more in the machine learning analytics focused on taking these factors and making the predictive algorithm.”
The amount of data to work with made this a long-term project but James and his team were able to make great strides during the semester. Not only were they able to clean a lot of the information in the database, but also added to the algorithm to make it more accurate.
“We’re very proud that we were able to factor in the age of the CEO,” he explained, “The older the CEO, the more likely a company is to sell. That wasn't an easy task. It took a lot of different creative methods.”
One of those methods was to scrape data available on LinkedIn and find when the CEOs graduated from college and estimate their age. Solutions such as this were necessary because “private companies don't just give you data.”
While he worked on plenty of group projects, including a Senior Design initiative involving a wheelchair walker, the Industry Capstone Program gave him the opportunity to put his leadership skills to the test in a real-world exercise. His first week was dedicated to literal notetaking about strengths, weaknesses and his teammates’ preferences.
“I've been able to understand how groups work and how to make sure that work's getting done efficiently but people are still happy in doing what they want to do and getting the most out of it,” he said.
While meant to build its expertise and skills, the team was far from on its own.
“Professor Galluci and Professor (Zachary) Feinstein, who was the project faculty advisor, would provide us with a lot of insight and make sure that we were on the right track every week,” he said. “it was essentially a consulting project. Each week we would have our deadlines and give updates to make sure that we were meeting the standards that they were looking for.”
While James’ engineering background honed his problem-solving skills and technical proficiency, the Analytics MBA gave him the interpersonal and leadership experience required of the next generation of leaders in the digital economy.
“Doing this felt like a real consulting project, actually working for a big four consulting firm,” he said. “I very much valued that experience. I got to work with people that I probably would not have even spoken to if it weren't for this project. I was able to make some great professional connections.”