Alumni Spotlight on Osman Akgun (PhD IEOR '12)

IEOR sat down with Class of 2012 alum, Osman Akgun to discuss all things IEOR. Akgun is a Senior Research Analyst at Bailard, Inc. He was first hired as an intern while studying at UC Berkeley and has been happily employed there ever since

What brought you to IEOR?

I got my undergraduate degree in industrial engineering in Turkey. Honestly, I did not know much about industrial engineering in the beginning. Turkey has a Student Selection and Placement System, which is a standardized test you have to take to enter university. High-scoring students usually get directed into engineering programs - that was just the norm in Turkey. Although I did not know much about industrial engineering at the time, I did know Turkey had a very highly rated program for industrial engineering, which is why I decided to pursue it.

When I started taking classes in industrial engineering, I discovered that I really enjoyed it. It was like applied math, and I have always really liked numbers and math, even in high school. And IEOR was not very specific like other engineering programs. You can basically apply industrial engineering to any problem that you face in real life. For example, right now I work in finance, but I know a lot of people from college who work in supply chain or they work in the airline industry to plan airline scheduling. Industrial Engineering is very broad, and once you have the foundations, there is a great amount of flexibility for what you can focus on. I chose it randomly for my undergraduate studies, but I really enjoyed it. Especially the probability and statistics side of it.

Favorite IEOR class?

Introduction to Stochastic Processes. Rhonda Righter was teaching that class. Even before I attended Berkeley I had taken some probability classes and really enjoyed them, so Rhonda’s class was an advanced version of my undergraduate probability courses. Rhonda is such a great professor too. My experience in that class made me really want to work with Rhonda for my Ph.D.

Favorite IEOR memory?

When I first started teaching as a graduate student instructor I didn’t have a lot of experience, and I don’t think I had very good student reviews in my first year! But I got better and better, and then finally in my last year I won the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award. I remember I grew to really enjoy office hours with students, and I think the students really enjoyed office hours as well. Being able to see my improvement as a teacher was remarkable.

Words of advice for current students?

Keep your options open! In Turkey, I ended up studying IEOR a bit randomly, but looking back now and knowing everything I know now, I would still definitely pursue IEOR. For people who are good at mathematics and want to apply that to real life problems, IEOR has a very broad application area, which allows you to explore different career trajectories before having to commit to one thing.

Thank you, Osman, for sharing your story with Berkeley IEOR!