How a Thesis-Inspired Quest to Gain Industry Experience Turned Into a 12-Year Path to Principal
Right after undergrad, Principal Omer entered into an Operations Research PhD program at Cornell. In his second year, he asked his professor if he could take a year-long leave of absence to work in the industry, so his thesis would be more applicable to actual business issues. That’s when he found ZS and started as an Operations Research Analyst in the then-16-person Boston office, which has now grown to almost 100 ZSers.
“After a year, Cornell called wondering if I was ready to continue working on my thesis,” Omer recalled. “I asked if I could stay a year longer. And that was over 12 years ago.”
With his master’s degree in hand, Omer went on to focus on analytics around healthcare providers, patients and payers. After several marketing mix projects, Omer joined Chairman Jaideep Bajaj (Princeton) to help build ZS’s Customer-Centric Marketing (CCM) practice.
“I had worked on marketing mix and other analytics projects with Principal Pratap Khedkar and Principal Shankar Viswanathan, optimizing multi-channel marketing efforts and that was my introduction to the CCM team with Jaideep,” Omer said. “I enjoyed being part of something so revolutionary and building a new solution essentially from the ground up.”
Today, Omer leads the analytics space within the CCM practice area.
Now we understand what you do. Let’s talk about why. How does our core purpose statement resonate with you?
My core purpose evolved over time. At first, when I saw that the title of the position at ZS (“Operations Research Associate”) was the same as the name of my program at Cornell and my undergrad, I realized it was going to be a great fit. ZS is a firm that applies operations research to solve complex client problems. After some time, my core purpose came full circle when I realized that in addition to actually solving the problems, I was able to see the impact I created for my clients, along with the personal connections I was making.
Today, the notion of “togetherness” resonates with me on a different level. I’m fortunate to have worked and grown with many of the same people on my teams, watching many of them transform from associates into managers.
If you had to choose one hashtag to describe your ZS career, what would it be?
#NeverStopLearning. At another firm, the learning curve may be steep at the beginning before it eventually tapers off and you settle in. Here, because you’re able to reinvent yourself, you always have the chance to learn new things — no matter what level you’re at. It’s one of the main reasons I’ve stayed over 12 years.
What’s your life like outside of work and how do you balance it with your career?
My wife and I have 5-year-old twin boys. I try to frontload and maximize the amount of work I do during the week, especially when I’m traveling, so I can devote my time at home to them including mornings before school, evenings and weekends. We capitalize on the seasons and love playing in the snow together. We also do a fair amount of traveling together and play lots of fun games at home.
I’m also an avid photographer and my wife, who is a biochemistry researcher by training, is now a full-time photographer. We started a small business together several years ago and she does the majority of the work, but I get to help her with fun assignments. I love playing with light and trying out new techniques. I’m using my left brain a lot at ZS during the day, and photography gives me a chance to be creative and flex my right brain as well.