Dreams and data

Penn State Beaver student turns childhood infatuation with data into a job with Fortune 500 company
Josh Nussbaum

Josh Nussbaum turned a childhood infatuation with data into a job at one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies.

Credit: Penn State

MONACA, Pa. — Josh Nussbaum stepped out of his car and into the parking lot.

He was ready.

As he made his way to the building’s entrance, he allowed himself a moment to reflect, tilting his head up to stare at the five stories of glass glittering before him.

“I’m here,” he thought. “Nineteen years of formal education is paying off today.”

“Here” was the corporate headquarters of Mylan, one of the world’s largest suppliers of generic and specialty pharmaceuticals, and all those years of education; they had landed him a student worker position in the Fortune 500 company’s enterprise business analytics division.

So, from now until September, Nussbaum gets to learn about data analysis from industry experts.

For him, it’s a huge deal.

Nussbaum, who is double-majoring in information sciences & technology and psychology at Penn State Beaver, has loved data since he was a child, at one point dutifully building an incredibly detailed database of his favorite music. (Perhaps detailed is too weak a word. Among the things the database can tell him are all of the songs he first heard in 2009 … while sitting in a gold Toyota … in Butler County … facing east. For the record, that’s seven songs.*)

“Data speaks to me,” Nussbaum said.

To the uninitiated, such passion for data might seem a bit peculiar. But for the experts, having access to facts and information is invaluable. Data can offer insight, mitigate bias, reveal unexpected relationships, turn a big picture into a small picture, or a small picture into a big picture.

“Data is becoming the lifeline of businesses,” said Ashu Kumar, the director of enterprise analytics at Mylan. “We’re seeing a data explosion all around us.”

Nussbaum’s infatuation with that explosion is the reason Kumar hired him.

“He has a keen interest and a passion to learn about data analytics,” Kumar said.

Nussbaum likes to think his persistence played a part, too. Shortly after meeting Kumar on the Beaver campus, Nussbaum connected with him on the social media site LinkedIn. Then he began seeking him out at events, like the 2015 Mylan Hackathon, where he was a participant and Kumar a judge.

“If I want something, I’m going to chase it,” Nussbaum said.

He started the job on Dec. 28 and is working 26 hours per week at the Mylan offices in Canonsburg. For now, he’s shadowing analytics team members, but, Kumar said, once Nussbaum has learned the basics, he’ll be treated like any other employee and, ideally, become an integral part of projects.

Nussbaum is anxious to graduate from training to collaborating. And he already imagines spinning an impressive performance into a job offer. But his ultimate goal — born when he was a child sitting on his grandfather’s lap, turning the key of a Ford Thunderbird, watching the needles jump to life — is to design automotive gauges. That one is going to take some time. Nussbaum is willing to wait.

“You don’t go from a sedentary lifestyle to running a marathon in a day,” he said. “I’ll take it in little bits and pieces.”

Just like data.

*The seven songs were: John Mellencamp’s “I Need a Lover,” Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Shake, Shake, Shake,” Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love,” Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” Steely Dan’s “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number,” and the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.”


April Johnston

Public Relations Director, Penn State Beaver

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