Michelle Smilowitz

President, HydroGeo Group

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background.

I’m currently president and CEO of HydroGeo Group, a small consulting firm that primarily caters to the mining industry. We provide specialized technical services to help solve water-related issues.

I am spearheading a movement in the mining industry to move from deterministic modeling to stochastic modeling [a form of modeling that includes one or more random variables]. I’m looking to automate processes and implement machine learning and artificial intelligence to increase free cash flow for my clients, reduce time to value, and risk response time. I believe by automating processes and implementing machine learning these objectives are easier to achieve.

What made you decide to choose the Harvard Business Analytics Program? How do you feel this program is different from other, similar programs?

In order to be most successful in my ambitions, I knew I needed to advance my education in the field of predictive analytics. I was interested in three programs: the Harvard Business Analytics Program and programs at MIT and Stanford. I selected Harvard for its professors and the intimate experience offered through the online learning environment.

To me, these two aspects make Harvard much different from the others. The opportunity to personally interact with such accomplished professors and a talented cohort of students—engaging in conversations as though we are all together in a classroom, combined with the diversity of disciplines and expertise—were the distinguishing factors that ultimately led me to choose this program.

How has what you have learned in the program impacted the work you are currently doing?

I am applying what I’ve learned in this program on a daily basis. I have a new understanding of the value of crowdsourcing, and I understand the need to explore, exploit, and appreciate the value of organizational ambidexterity. These concepts have been keywords for me in the past, but through Harvard Business Analytics, I fully understand how to move from concept to implementation.

Is there a moment—either part of a course, with a professor, or with a peer—that stands out to you as particularly influential?

I cannot single it down to one experience, as I’ve had many “wow moments” where I realize the professor has just answered or confirmed a theory or process that will help me lead change and be successful. Each course has offered a unique set of tools that directly relates to my objectives.

[Professors] Karim Lakhani and Marco Iansiti taught me about crowdsourcing and how to best implement digital transformation in my industry, Margo Seltzer and David Parkes enhanced my programming skills and improved my ability to manage developers, and Michael Tushman provided a foundation for restructuring organizations to lead change. Throughout each of their courses, I found myself finding solutions to questions I had not yet resolved or confirmed.

What advice do you have for others considering this program?

I would strongly consider Harvard Business Analytics over other programs because of the unique and intimate experience it offers combined with the exceptional and diverse talent pool and group of professors. I would ask others to first define their objectives and future goals so they can have a clear path for implementing the tools they gain. I advise them to wait until they are ready to commit and have the time to commit.

It’s a fast-paced learning environment, and they need to be ready to work hard, interact, and keep up with the talent of the others in their cohort.