Project Manager by Day; Student by Night
by Giselle Diaz
Every soon to be graduate faces the question, “What are you doing after college?” Most are torn between jumping into a career or continuing their education in a graduate program. If you’re anything like Nabeel however, you just go with both.
Entering at 21, Nabeel Saleem is currently the youngest member of The Fung Institute’s part time Master of Engineering program in Data-Driven Decision Analytics. However, he has been a long time member of the Berkeley community.
Nabeel completed his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) at UC Berkeley in 2016. However he always knew that he wanted a business and management side to his education and as an undergrad, took several business and management courses as his electives. Along with his EECS degree, he received the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Technology (CET) from UC Berkeley’s Sutardja Center of Entrepreneurship and Technology. However, Nabeel wanted a stronger foundation in both disciplines. “If there was an undergraduate program that had both EECS and business management, I would have tried to do it,” says Nabeel.
Part of his desire for a well-rounded career stems from the influence of his parents. Both of Nabeel’s parents have Master’s degrees, and his household consistently stressed the importance of a well-rounded education. Nabeel knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue higher education in a holistic program that would combine several of his interests and passions. He first learned about the MEng program as a freshman at Cal and was immediately attracted to it.
“A Master’s program in a technical field does not have that business side and an MBA doesn’t have the technical side, but the fact that this program is a cross-section between a conventional M.S. and MBA is something which really caught my attention,” said Nabeel.
With this goal in mind, Nabeel applied for this professional graduate program while also looking for jobs in management thinking he’d be lucky to get one of them. Yet within a few days of each other, Nabeel learned that he had been accepted into Berkeley’s Master of Engineering Program and was offered a position as an Associate Project Manager at Adobe.
So what’s a long time Berkeley student to do? Seize both opportunities.
Although Berkeley students are notorious for crowding their schedules with everything from honors courses to extracurriculars, managing a full time job while pursuing a Master’s degree is no easy feat. Luckily for Nabeel, Adobe was extremely supportive of his education. When he was originally hired, taking the job would have meant moving to Virginia. However, after speaking with his boss, Nabeel was able to stay in the Bay Area and works out of Adobe’s San Francisco office. He now enjoys a flexible (but not easy) work schedule where he can come to UC Berkeley twice a week for his evening classes.
“Although pretty nascent, more and more project managers have started using metrics and data analytics to reduce uncertainty and improve overall project performance. Right now in my current role, the use of analytics are limited and utilized for tasks such as forecasting revenue but I want it to have more of an impact in driving decisions for project managers.”
Nabeel fully realizes that starting off in a management role is unconventional for most fresh college graduates with his background. “A typical role for someone with an EECS background is to start off his or her career as a front end, back end, or full stack engineer. “I had internships in some of those areas but I realized that I wanted to start my career in a multidisciplinary role that sits at the intersection of many different areas such as technology, business, and design” says Nabeel. His desire to work in this type of role led him to a project management role at Adobe, where he gets to work with developers, business analysts, and many other teams. “I manage all day-to-day activities of projects from inception to closure,” says Nabeel. “My role is very client-facing and customer-centric. I maintain regular communication with customers and internal teams and constantly manage customer expectations.”
One of his most recent projects involved a complete overhaul of the State of Tennessee’s website.
The client purchased the Adobe Marketing Cloud, now under the Experience Cloud, and the goal was to integrate these metrics and analytics into a newly designed website using Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), which is Adobe’s web content management system. Nabeel regularly flew out to Nashville to oversee the execution of the project and make sure that all Adobe platforms were being implemented correctly. He was in charge of requirements management and worked with the client and internal teams to come up with effective user stories for developers to implement in an agile methodological process. Additionally, he performed tasks such as annotating wireframes and author dialogs for components and templates. Although his role included tasks that were beyond the scope of project management, Nabeel experienced how different teams come together, especially on such a large-scale multimillion dollar project. The project has now shifted phases and Nabeel is currently leading several other exciting and new projects.
With one more year left before he finishes his degree, Nabeel is already contributing towards shaping the future of the Part Time Decision Analytics program. “I’m on the student leadership committee and my role is to attend career events and pitch the program to students and employers and help students with their job searches. I have also interviewed potential candidates for the program.” Word of advice: “Be relaxed and be yourself!”