Flexibility Prepared I/O Psychology Graduate for Competitive Talent Acquisition Job
Adler University graduate Sahil Shah feels lucky he could put his education at the forefront of his work-life responsibilities, while splitting his time between the United States and India. Shah earned his online M.A. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology in 2014, and is working in talent acquisition for Baxalta, a global biopharmaceutical company.
We spoke with Shah about pursuing his master’s through Adler University, how the online experience allowed him to visit family in India, and how the I/O skills he learned prepared him for his work at Baxalta. Our interview has been edited for clarity and space.
What Did You Study before Pursuing Your Master’s through Adler?
I received my undergraduate degree in psychology, and minored in business administration from Knox College. It’s the location where Abraham Lincoln gave one of his earlier speeches against slavery.
I took an Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology course my senior year. The professor was incredibly knowledgeable. His lessons always focused on teamwork, and the value of cooperation inside of business. One day, our professor took the class to a swimming pool on campus to do a teamwork activity. Certain classmates were blindfolded, and others were not. Those who weren’t blindfolded had to help those who were find items in the pool to throw to their teammates. The teamwork aspect of industrial and organizational psychology really struck me.
I was debating at the time between pursuing my MBA and the M.A. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. The determining factor was the flexibility Adler’s online program offered, and the career options associated with this degree.
What Have You Been Doing Since Then?
The first year I was working on my master’s degree, I was in the States. The next year I was continuing the program in India. Being able to complete my master’s degree overseas is the beauty of the online degree.
While I was overseas, I was offered a job at a construction firm in India, where I worked (without pay) for six months. It was a great opportunity to gain some work experience and perspective of working overseas.
Upon graduation, I got a job at Baxalta, in talent acquisition. In this job, I find myself doing industrial and organizational work day in and day out. Since I work in talent acquisition, I help recruit candidates, interview people, do background checks, and things like that.
I spend most of my time strategizing how to improve work efficiency for all parties involved. A lot of this job is considering how different people in a certain professional setting are affected by the leadership around them. For example, Baxalta has over 80 plasma donation centers, which means there are different needs and assets for each center. Each center requires a different way of thinking.
I wouldn’t have been able to get this job without the experience I had, and what I learned in the master’s program with Adler University. Of course, the support that I received from my program director and faculty director was immeasurable, too.
Prior to taking the job with Baxalta, I volunteered at Adler in the virtual career center. Michelle Dennis, Program Director of I/O Psychology, offered me a position as an adjunct faculty for a small time. I eventually left after receiving the offer from Baxalta.
How Did You Balance Your Academic Responsibilities, Work Life, And Personal Life?
While I was a student, I worked as an HR consultant. I worked part time, to help support myself, and gain experience.
While completing my degree, I needed to learn how to organize and prioritize my tasks every day. The skills I needed to successfully finish my degree carried into the workplace.
Studying through Adler was an incredible experience — it was nothing short of a traditional classroom as far as standards go. The standards of teaching, and the work expected from us students remained high, and the flexibility of an online forum was an additional luxury.
Was There an Event that Prompted You to Pursue an I/O Psychology Master’s?
First, and most importantly, I chose Adler because of the emphasis the university puts on social justice. I really applaud and support that.
Second, I have background experience in business. When I was young, my parents were business owners. My father was always very aware of the bottom line. Something would go wrong, say an expensive repair needed to be made, and my dad would need to adjust certain costs to cover it. And even though costs were covered, none of these decisions were scientifically based, or proven.
The business my dad owns is rather large, and when you have a business of that capacity, you can’t make your decisions on a whim. It needs to be a useful decision that will be beneficial to you 15 years down the road. I saw my dad lose a lot of money because he didn’t have a trustworthy business consultant to help inform him.
I’ve always been interested in business, so I’ve been more clued in to the changing trends that circulate in the business world. I noticed that more multinational corporations were hiring positions specifically designated to improve work-life balance for employees.
My background in business, the growth of industrial organization, and Adler’s focus on social justice all persuaded me to choose this program with Adler University.
The education I received wasn’t just in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. It was how to help people lead better lives.
What Did You Like Best About the I/O Psychology Online Program?
I liked the Training: Theory, Design, and Evaluation class. The course focused heavily on case studies that taught how training and design methods were implemented in various multinational corporations. We identified how certain techniques affected a business’s culture, employee satisfaction, productivity, and bottom line.
We watched a television series that focused on the training of flight attendants. We learned the different methods that were embedded in the training plan, and the feedback of those who were being trained.
We also referred to our textbooks, and various research studies. However, it was the class activities that differentiated the course. The instructor also had a clear understanding of the content. She knew how to facilitate the classroom, answered our questions promptly, encouraged us to ask questions, and prompted great group discussions.
What Does Social Justice Mean to You?
My thesis was written on social justice. The paper was an integration of what I had learned over the two years with Adler. It focused on China’s economic health and the statistical research that represented how serious the cost of that success was for certain groups of people and other surrounding countries. I used this paper as an opportunity to focus on the gap between business and the people who it can affect. This project helped me see how social justice and industrial organizational psychology are directly related.
To me, social justice is providing a better lifestyle for the people in your community in a variety of ways. To have a healthy community, you have to learn more about each other, and learn more about people in general. This knowledge and perspective has the power to reduce violence and death in our world.
What Advice Do You Have for Prospective online I/O Psychology Students?
Adler University’s online aspect is really helpful for students who have responsibilities like families, children or work commitments. I may not have shared these commitments, but I was able to travel and spend time with my family overseas while completing my graduate degree. Not many schools offer that flexibility.
Secondly, earning a master’s in industrial organizational psychology really opens the door professionally. If you want to be in the sports field, you can be in industrial organizational psychology in the sports field. You really can pursue any avenue or interest by pursuing this degree.
Where Do You Hope to See Yourself in Five Years?
I see myself in a leadership position. I really want to be an executive coach and consultant. I also would love to work in mergers, specializing in the transitional period when two corporations combine. I want to be given a chance to use what I’ve learned in the Adler program and lead people.
I know whatever work that I do, it will be highly influential. Because that’s what industrial organizational psychology does, it affects people. People are usually at work for eight hours a day. It’s your job to make their work life feel satisfied — you have a chance to affect them positively for eight hours every day.
What Do You Like to Do for Fun?
I’m a huge sports fan, so watching sports, reading about sports is enjoyable to me. I love to keep active and work out. I also enjoy hanging out with friends.
I really loved what I was studying in this program. Adler University gave me the opportunity to pursue what I wanted to do. The flexibility of the online program allowed my life to thrive. I was able to fit my studying and academic responsibilities in seamlessly with my personal interests and needs.