Three elements that launched an international student's U.S. career

MALVERN, Pa. — After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Milad Toliyati saw immediate success in his home country of Iran. He took a marketing consultant position with Kalleh, a dairy company ranked by Euromonitor as one of the top 50 brands in the world. Still, Toliyati was inspired to push himself further and broaden his horizons. He set his sights on graduate school abroad and chose to pursue a master of engineering management degree at Penn State Great Valley.

Toliyati completed the program in a year and a half. Drawn to the Philadelphia job market, he enrolled in courses over the summer so he could re-enter the workforce as quickly as possible.

His hard work paid off. Just four years after receiving his degree, he is now the director of Axis Academy at Axis Group, a leading business intelligence and analytics consultancy headquartered in New Jersey.

While finding a job in the United States can be difficult for international students, Toliyati credits three things that helped him launch a successful career.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Toliyati’s CPT authorization empowered him to work remotely as a business analyst with Elitech Group during his last semester at Great Valley. CPT is available to non-U.S. citizens with a student visa, providing them with opportunities to work full time or part time in a role related to their academic program.

While at Elitech Group, he established and led the business intelligence and analytics practice. He increased sales by creating an innovative data-driven set of solutions that identified growth opportunities to support strategic objectives. According to Toliyati, acquiring real-world U.S.-based relevant job experience is invaluable to creating opportunities for foreign students.

The power of the Penn State name

As a special mission campus of Penn State, the Great Valley campus is designed for working professionals. Toliyati’s classes were full of people from a wide variety of industries, experiences, and backgrounds, which provided him with exceptional networking opportunities.

“I appreciated the class discussions,” he said. “It was interesting for me to hear how my classmates could relate what we learned to their workplace. I gained so much just by listening to the questions they asked. Outside the classroom, they provided career advice and even helped me with my resume.”

Toliyati also had the unique opportunity to attend job fairs at University Park and meet alumni and company representatives, developing his connections even further. This eventually led to him finding his Axis Group role through the recommendation of a Penn State alumnus.

Value of an interdisciplinary degree

Penn State Great Valley’s Master of Engineering Management program utilizes an interdisciplinary approach by combining both engineering and business concepts. Toliyati learned a great deal from his world-class courses in decision and risk analysis, technical project management, and economics and financial studies.

The multifaceted degree allowed Toliyati to harness various acquired strengths when interviewing for jobs after graduation. If pursuing technology-focused jobs, he could position himself as an engineer, drawing on the technical skills cultivated through the program. Alternatively, if interviewing for consulting roles, he could highlight the business aspects of his degree. He even brought completed assignments to interviews, demonstrating how Penn State’s courses were compatible with market requirements and company needs.

“The degree equipped me with technical and non-technical skills,” said Toliyati. “It gave me a competitive advantage during my job search. And at my role at Axis Group, it’s the best of both worlds. I use both skills daily.”

As a strategic initiatives manager, he leads business transformation and change by creating strategic solutions and advising on data strategies for multiple Fortune 1000 customers in order to expand their scope and increase their efficiency. Now in his third year at the company, his strategic role has expanded: he creates growth opportunities and operational effectiveness through strategic initiatives including knowledge management, innovation management, and cultural transformation. He recently overhauled the structure of a sales organization to effectively increase synergy and customer success with innovative problem-solving methodologies. Many of these ideas were cultivated in a creativity and problem-solving course taught by Kathryn Jablokow.

“Dr. Jablokow’s class made me think about how teams work together — what motivates them and how they communicate — and how that relates to innovation,” he said. “It’s helped me take the next step in my job and implement new initiatives so we can be more successful and better leaders.”

He recently embarked on a new journey to promote data literacy among business professionals, citizens, and policy makers around the world in his role as the Director of Axis Academy.

“I feel that I am changing the world by improving my client’s operating models,” he added. “Data is a new currency and being able to help individuals speak the language of data is a global mission that makes me proud.”