Yale students got an opportunity over the weekend to hear more about careers in data and the new digital economy at an event organized by the Association of Yale Alumni.

The event was part of the “Careers, Life and Yale” series, a program in its third year that brings alumni back to campus to discuss the industries in which they work and their careers with students. This weekend’s event — which the AYA hosted in partnership with the Office of Career Strategy, alumni organizations and campus groups — focused on data science and the new economy and drew the largest crowd in the program’s history: More than 460 students signed up for only 130 slots.

“Students want to hear what’s really needed out there … [and] have somebody come back who is really doing this now, as opposed to [listen to] a professor who is trying to do it theoretically,” said Stephen Blum ’74, senior director of strategic initiatives for AYA.

On Friday and Saturday, participants attended sessions on life skills such as mentorship and time management, as well as four industry-specific workshops — Tech & Media, Financial Services, Consulting & Strategy and BioScience & Health. The alumni who conducted the panels have worked for more than 40 different companies throughout their careers, ranging from Amazon to Panasonic.

Students talked further with the panelists at lunches and dinners sponsored by the AYA.

“The really cool thing about these [events] is that alums come back, they want to come back, they’re excited to be back and provide wisdom,” Blum said. “It’s a form of mentoring and it complements what [the Office of Career Strategy] does so well. Because OCS, I think, really has to focus on the mechanics of getting you in front of employers and we can be more of the storytellers, the wisdom-providers.”

Karim Shah ’81 GRD ’07 — the moderator of the Consulting & Strategy panel and the CEO of SafeRock, an analytics and consulting firm — said a gap exists between students and alumni that needs to be bridged. He added that there is a stigma at Yale, especially among graduate students, associated with pursuing careers outside academia and that this stigma negatively affects students.

The ultimate goal of events like the one that took place this weekend, Shah said, is for alumni to become resources for students from all socioeconomic and learning backgrounds.

Karin Kricorian ’94, data science director for Disney and a panelist, said she hopes AYA’s discussion panels will assuage students’ fears about their futures.

“There is a lot of anxiety about people’s futures among Yale students that is not really warranted,” Kricorian said. “Events like this can help people see … [that] you’ve got a lot of options [and] all of them are good.”

Kricorian’s hopes for the talk were realized for some students. Osama Zayyad ’12 SPH ’13 MED ’18, who attended the event, said he appreciated how the event exhibited the opportunities available in data science and “showed what you can do with a Yale degree.” He added that he particularly enjoyed the Tech & Media and BioScience & Health panel discussions because he is interested in learning about artificial intelligence and how it can be applied to different problems.

Lan Duan SPH ’19 also said she enjoyed the event.

“I’m not so familiar with every industry, so getting into those sessions and learning about different things is very exciting,” Duan said. “I hope we can do this more.”

Anastasiia Posnova | anastasiia.posnova@yale.edu