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NCR and Georgia Tech: Partners in Problem Solving

Working together pays off in strong industry/academic collaboration
The rigorous curriculum at Georgia Tech helped Sheila Trinh prepare for the challenges of her summer internship at NCR.

The rigorous curriculum at Georgia Tech helped Sheila Trinh prepare for the challenges of her summer internship at NCR.

Opposites attract—but sometimes it’s what two entities have in common that brings them together. For Georgia Tech and NCR, a shared love of technology and problem solving cements a strong partnership that not only benefits Georgia Tech and NCR, but the entire Atlanta tech community.

Georgia Tech and NCR’s headquarters are located less than a quarter of a mile apart. The two were actually created within one year of each other in 1884 (NCR) and 1885 (the Georgia Institute of Technology)—and both have led the way in technological innovation for more than a century.

The Talent Pipeline

NCR is one of the largest employers of GT students. In 2022 alone, NCR hired approximately 270 Georgia Tech students for both full-time employment and internships. According to Tony Burdett, the university relations leader for NCR as well as a Georgia Tech ISyE ’95 graduate, when just full-time jobs are considered, NCR has hired more than 300 graduates over the last three years from multiple colleges across campus including Scheller, the College of Engineering, and the College of Computing.

Business analytics and data science are a particular focus for NCR. 

“We depend upon business analytics, data science, and the associated job roles in order to stay ahead of our competition, and to accomplish our mission of Customer #1” said NCR Executive Vice President Bill VanCuren. “Every day we use advanced technology to gain strategic insights. It’s challenging work, but we hire the best of the best and we find many of those future employees at Georgia Tech.”

Sheila Trinh, a Scheller undergraduate student concentrating in operations and supply chain management, spent this past summer interning at NCR: “At Tech, you are surrounded by great minds and people. I found the same, fast-paced, challenging environment at NCR and loved the opportunity they provided to get real-world experience at such a respected international company.” Trinh landed her Inside Sales summer internship through the Denning Technology & Management (T&M) Program, where NCR is a corporate affiliate.

The partnership between GT and NCR extends beyond hiring. NCR’s employees participate in career fairs, business practicums, hackathons, open houses, club panels, and many other campus activities.  

“We are engaged at every level, from our CEO on down,” said Burdett. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we have employees on the Tech campus at least 20 times each semester. We get to know students, some from the day they walk on campus as freshmen.”

One of the Business Analytic Center’s (BAC) longest-running Executive Council members, NCR executives are active members of the BAC Board of Advisors, attend the BAC Career Fair every Fall, and frequently take part in the Business Analytics Practicum taught by BAC Managing Director Keith Werle.

“We—and our students—love working with NCR,” said BAC Corporate Engagement Manager Sherri von Behren. “They consistently invest in the Georgia Tech community and give back in so many ways, including time, money, expertise, and employee involvement. Their generosity definitely pays off and is reflected in the impressive brand recognition they’ve built across the Institute.”

NCR also partners with Georgia Tech to help fuel the continued emergence of midtown Atlanta’s technology hub. “NCR was one of the first companies to put down roots in Midtown,” said Burdett. “One of the many reasons I joined NCR was seeing the powerful impact of industry/academic collaboration in Atlanta.”

The Business Analytics Practicum

For the 2022 Spring Business Analytics Practicum, NCR executives led by IT Senior Manager, Big Data and Analytics Gedeon Kamga, asked the student team to analyze and identify opportunities to drive improvements in operational efficiencies.

“As a company, we take pride in contributing to the strength and growth of the students,” said Kamga. “The challenge this past Spring was a machine learning and data science problem. The students received real-life data which came with all kinds of anomalies. Before they could tackle the business problem, the students first had to clean up the data. That’s a valuable learning tool they don’t learn in the classroom.”

Sarah (Dongcheng) Ge is an MSA student who participated in the Spring Business Analytics Practicum class. She agrees with Kamga on the importance of the practicum for students:

“In most school projects, our focus would mainly be “how to build a cool model”, but this one used NCR’s data and we were able to interact with the data scientists who work at NCR. As an MSA student, I’ve become strong in the technical aspects of analytics. NCR and the Business Analytics Practicum gave me a holistic view of data science, and it was one of the most valuable classes I have taken at Georgia Tech.”

Beyond helping the students, Kamga explains several reasons behind NCR’s practicum participation.

“1. We know by doing this we are impacting the local economy because talented employees with strong backgrounds in AI and machine learning will positively contribute by using the skillsets they acquired, whether they accept a job at NCR or somewhere else.

2. Because we work with Georgia Tech and have such good collaboration and impact, it will make NCR’s brand recognized and well-known, therefore helping us attract more local talent.

3. When we work with these students on a real-life project, we don’t just take their work and put it in a drawer. We use it to improve our current business practices. Even if we don’t implement their suggestions, their conclusions may open up our eyes and reveal certain areas we should be exploring.”

A Problem-solving Partnership

Both Georgia Tech and NCR make problem solving a solid part of their mission.

Ivan Alvarez is NCR’s VP enterprise data and advanced analytics. “Over the years, we’ve found that GT grads are problem solvers who fit in very well at NCR. One of the most important things we do at NCR is give our employees the ability to own problems very early in their careers.”

VanCuren adds: “We don’t have to tell our employees to solve a problem. They find the problems and then go solve them.”

As AI becomes increasingly complex and technological innovations fuel constant change, there is no doubt problem solving will continue to be a highly valued commodity for both Georgia Tech and NCR.

“NCR’s positive impact on our students cannot be overemphasized,” sums up the BAC’s von Behren. “We really look forward to continuing and growing this powerful partnership.”

Coming soon! Part II in this series examining the GT/NCR partnership: NCR’s Georgia Tech Alumni/Student Panel

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