Divya Anand graduated from the School of Information with a master’s in information management and systems in 2014. Prior to the I School, she graduated from Bharathiar University in India with a bachelor’s in visual communications and a master’s in business administration from S. P. Jain Institute of Management & Research. She is currently a group product manager at Uber and an accomplished author.
Why did you choose the I School?
I was working as a product manager in India in 2011, when I realized that UX design would be a skill that would soon be sought after in the industry in India. Initially, I considered certification programs, but then decided to take a career break to pursue a master’s instead. I chose the I School because of the faculty, the location, and the flexibility that the MIMS program offered in terms of crafting my own path. I also had an additional push from my cousin, Janani Vasudev, who is also a MIMS alum (Class of 2010).
What was your favorite thing about the I School?
The community. Whether it was my friends, other alums, the faculty, or the staff, everyone was super welcoming and always around to answer my numerous questions. The classes helped me explore my interest in design, and also offered me the opportunity to think of how I could use this skill to be a better product manager. I really enjoyed the flexibility the program offered, and used it to take classes outside the I School as well.
What was your favorite class?
It’s very hard to pick since I still use much of what I learned at the I School at work, but if I had to pick, my favorites were:
Technologies for Creativity and Learning with Kimiko Ryokai — This class taught me a lot about how children learn, and really helped me with my team’s capstone project, Wordcraft. While I haven’t had the opportunity to work on a product that targets children, I still use many of the principles from this class when it comes to how I engage with my toddler, and even when writing childrens’ books.
Applied Behavioral Economics with Steven Weber — This class really made me think. I still remember the exercise where we tried to modify a specific behavior over the course of a few weeks, and how it opened my eyes to the kinds of nudges that can help truly change a behavior.
You’re currently a Group Product Manager at Uber as well as an author. What compels you to work in the field of product management and to write books? How do you juggle both?
I enjoy being able to create customer-centric products, especially ones that I frequently use, like Uber. In the past, I’ve worked on India-specific features for Kindle as well as launching new benefits for Prime in India. In each of these roles, I’ve been able to solve unique and challenging problems in a way that has ultimately created a better experience for users.
I write because it helps me unwind. I’ve written books in many genres, but my favorite amongst these is writing for children as it also gives me the opportunity to interact with very opinionated young readers, who always leave me with food for thought.
I generally write when I have some time off — over the weekends, later in the evenings and so on. This used to be very easy a few years ago but has become a lot harder now that I also have a two year old who demands that I “close the laptop” when she’s around!
Is there an achievement or project that you are most proud of (post-graduation)?
An achievement that came out of the I School was that our capstone project, Wordcraft, was presented as a poster at the CHI Play Conference at London in 2015. I’m very proud of how far our work traveled, and grateful for the opportunity to work with both Kimiko Ryokai and Marti Hearst for a few months even after graduating.
What advice would you give your past self as an I School student?
Make use of every opportunity that the I School offers you — whether it’s exploring courses outside of the school, networking, attending more events, applying for grants or even just enjoying all that Berkeley has to offer!