Industrial engineering alumna selected as keynote speaker at national conference

Miranda Buckheit
March 16, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pooja Dewan, a Penn State industrial engineering alumna, has been named a keynote speaker for the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) Annual Conference, scheduled to be held in New Orleans from May 30 to June 2, 2020. Dewan was selected for her years of experience and expertise working with data and analytics to improve organizational decision making.  

"This is such an honor," said Dewan, who currently serves as vice president and chief data and analytics officer for Otis, the world’s leading provider of elevators, escalators and moving walkways. "I was attending this conference as a student 20 years ago, so this is a great experience addressing them. Being chosen to serve as a keynote speaker highlights how data and analytics can drive change."

Dewan received her master’s and doctoral degrees from the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME) in 1999 and 2001, respectively.

“I enjoyed working with Dewan when she was a graduate student and I am very proud of her accomplishments,” Sanjay Joshi, professor of industrial engineering, said. “She was never afraid to tackle difficult problems or do hands-on work in the manufacturing lab. She held her own in the group and is an excellent example of a woman who leads in STEM.”

Dewan spent her master's degree focusing on manufacturing, automatic and robotic controls, scheduling and planning. For her doctorate, she slightly shifted gears to focus on mathematics, production distribution and how to make operations run as efficiently as possible.

"I chose Penn State because it was a highly ranked university," Dewan said. “There was a great population of students and faculty in a nice location, and I had great access to classes in engineering, business, statistics and computer science taught by faculty doing cutting-edge research and development."

After graduating from Penn State, Dewan worked for BNSF Railway, North America's largest freight railroad network, with 32,500 miles of rail across the western two-thirds of the United States. She joined the company as a senior operations research specialist and rose to chief data scientist. 

During her time with BNSF Railway, her team received the INFORMS Prize in 2018. INFORMS is the leading international association for operations research and analytics professionals.

"The prize is an honor from INFORMS because it's for those that show effective integration of analytics and operations research to drive meaningful impact in an organization," Dewan said. "I was very proud to have an opportunity to build a strong team and lead them to this recognition."

After a little over 20 years with BNSF, Dewan transitioned to her current role with Otis Elevator. In her role, she oversees the organization's data and analytics, as well as cloud data analytics for their offices across their diverse countries. 

Dewan attributes her success to her technical skills, but also her soft skills. She believes that communication skills are critical for industrial engineers.

"You need to be able to do your job, but also know how to package technical content in simple business language and how the content impacts the end users," she said. "Often, fresh graduate students will make assumptions to satisfy what they can solve. To be successful, you have to be able to work with people to solve the actual problems and convey how this kind of work helps them."

Dewan noted that presenting information in a meaningful way makes the difference between attention and understanding and concern for a project as opposed to disinterest or rejection.  

She believes that her career, in sum, is based on passion, perseverance, communication and inclusion.

"Industrial engineering is a beautiful domain because it's focused on continuous improvement across a broad range of industries," Dewan said. "Breakthroughs aren't made in silos. Industrial engineers are part of a fast-paced field, so we need to continue learning to stay current with our technical skills, as well as to bring new competencies into our toolkits.”

In addition to her full-time work, Dewan currently serves as the chair for the INFORMS Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Advanced Analytics, Operations Research and Management Science and is a member of the INFORMS Strategic Planning Committee and vice president of the INFORMS Practice Section.


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Last Updated March 17, 2020