Developing a More Balanced Skill Set 

Alejandra Lelo de Larrea Ibarra talks about why she left a job with Mexico’s Central Bank to join the MSiA program and what she hopes to do after she graduates later this year.

For many, a job like the one Alejandra Lelo de Larrea Ibarra held would be the crowning achievement of a career in financial analysis. After all, she contributed to shaping monetary policy for an entire nation.  

But Lelo de Larrea Ibarra, who spent seven years as an economic research analyst and data scientist with Mexico’s Central Bank, was looking for something more. She knew she needed to add to her skill set, and to do that, she turned to Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Analytics (MSiA) program.   

Lelo de Larrea IbarraLelo de Larrea Ibarra (MSiA '23) joined the program in September 2022 and has already developed new understandings of concepts she lacked beforehand. 

“I have a very technical background, so I wanted to round out my profile,” Lelo de Larrea Ibarra said. “I looked at the curriculum and I was very attracted by the combination of computational tools and leadership skills.”  

Lelo de Larrea Ibarra’s duties with Banco de Mexico (BM) ranged from conducting in-depth analysis of macroeconomic and monetary policy signals to deciphering the lessons being communicated through massive data sets. The MSiA program's strong emphasis on industry partner projects instead of made-up ones played a large role in her decision to join the program. 

“I really wanted to study in a program that embraced me applying my data science skills to real-life problems,” she said. “The hands-on approach of the program was a plus to me. Real-industry projects give you the opportunity to reinforce what has been learned in class, but also to challenge yourself, develop your curiosity, and go beyond your capabilities." 

One of the hands-on components that most appealed to her was the program's required summer internship. Students are required to spend at least 10 weeks working with an industry partner, and in 2022, students interned at a range of innovative companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Grainger, Nike, Paypal, Roblox, and Uber. 

Lelo de Larrea Ibarra secured an internship this summer with Deloitte, an industry-leading audit, consulting, tax, and advisory company.   

“My goal is to learn as much as I can from the consulting industry and to be able to help their AI team in developing data-driven solutions for the client,” she said. 

One of the most important lessons Lelo de Larrea Ibarra has embraced thanks to MSiA is the value of communication. It's an understanding she plans to bring to Deloitte and will leverage throughout her career. 

"You need to understand who your audience is and what you want your audience to get from your analysis," she said. "It doesn’t matter if you get the most accurate model with a very complicated pipeline, if you are unable to explain it to your stakeholders, it is not useful."  

Beyond her communication capabilities, Lelo de Larrea Ibarra has seen her critical thinking capabilities evolve during her time in the program. She's learned that the best data scientists can look at the big picture of a data set and the finite details within, all with the same level of detail and understanding.  

In thinking about what she wants to do after graduation, Lelo de Larrea Ibarra is keeping her options open. She said she has an opportunity to return to Mexico's Central Bank, but she also is open to pursuing a different career path.  

"I want to find a job that I enjoy, keeps me out of my comfort zone, and allows me to continue developing my professional career and strengthening my data scientist skills," she said. “I am open to the idea of switching fields and contributing to social good. The most important thing for me is to work in a place where data-driven solutions are needed and where my work can make the difference for the company and for society.” 

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