Sapna Jawid Piracha: Big data, philanthropy & travel

Sapna Piracha became Pakistan’s only female to sit on a panel of design engineers for the construction of the Gandhara International Airport, which upon completion will be one of the world’s largest airports.

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‌Originally from Pakistan, Sapna Jawid Piracha MBA ’15 earned her undergraduate degree in robotics and automation engineering from Air University Islamabad. Soon after, she became Pakistan’s only female to sit on a panel of design engineers for the construction of the Gandhara International Airport, which upon completion will be one of the world’s largest airports.

Sapna’s experience at UMass Dartmouth embodies a true spirit of passion and hard work. She has earned her MBA degree with special interests in big data and supply chain management and is currently in the process of publishing her first paper on data mining and artificial intelligence.

Sapna is passionate about traveling the world, mountain climbing, and exploring nature. She is planning an expedition to climb Mount Everest in 2017. Her ultimate goal is to raise the literacy rate of Pakistan by empowering women and youth.

An undergraduate focus on engineering with graduate studies in business

I am a technology-driven business major who loves to play with binary code. I have always been fascinated by engines, robots, and buildings. While pursuing my undergrad degree in engineering, I discovered that the other side of the coin was way more powerful and it needed to be polished. Following my instincts and the advice of others, I got into public speaking and leadership. It was then that I realized I would need to get my MBA and refine my technical strengths. I have lived a rigorous life on a remote construction site for two years as a heat ventilation and air conditioning engineer; I realized there that an MBA would give shape to all my skills.

Big data: the “next big thing”

My focus for the MBA is big data, which is the upcoming “next big thing” in the market. Robotics and big data have one thing in common, which is artificial intelligence. In both fields, you bring a machine and a digit to life. This is what makes it so interesting.

Exploring beyond technical engineering

I was very blessed to work for two world-famous companies right after completing my engineering undergrad studies. I first served as an Assistant Manager at Toyota and was then recruited by China State Construction Engineering Corporation, the third largest company in the world, for the famous Gandhara [Pakistan] airport project. Things were going great, and I never thought I would resign for a personal quest for something greater.

I reached a saturation point very early, however, and started aiming for managerial positions, which required a business degree and lots of experience. The thought of “why not be the boss myself?” made me expand beyond my technical engineering boundaries and explore the world of business, data, and leadership. Since I wanted to be exposed to diverse cultures and opportunities, I knew the U.S. was the place to study business. I did some homework and landed here at UMass Dartmouth.

Experiences at UMassD, from data analytics to martial arts

Since my time here at UMass was very short (one-and-a-half years), I realized on Day One that there’s a lot to be done. I’m leaving with great memories and many achievements.

I decided soon after coming here that I would combine my technical and business strengths through “data analytics.” I served as a data analyst for UMass Dartmouth’s Student Success Collaborative and as a teaching assistant of business statistics.

My love of reading and writing took me to UMassD’s Writing and Reading Center, where I served as a graduate tutor. I have been the vice president of the MBA Association, which serves as the voice of business students. I truly enjoyed coordinating and arranging various events and being a student representative for the Charlton College of Business.

Recently, my team represented UMass Dartmouth for the first time at the Supply Chain and Inventory case study competition at the Northeast District Chapter of the American Production and Inventory Control Society. I was also a part of the team that won second prize in UMassD’s first Startup Weekend.

I trained in taekwondo martial arts for several years, but had not been active. At UMassD, I was able to join the Shotokan and Karate Club.

First publication: “Data mining through neural networks”

Since I aim to work in the field of big data, I am trying to gain a competitive edge in the field. I plan to complete my Six Sigma certification soon, while also working on my first publication: “Data mining through neural networks.” I am working to make predictions of closing prices on the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock market index through neural networks.

Hit the road and aim for the summit

I am a fan of the universe and its wonders, and I love to disappear into the wilderness every once in a while. Mountains give me an adrenaline rush and make me feel so insignificant and small beside their grandeur. As soon as I see a mountain, I can’t stop dreaming of pushing my limits and reaching its top. I have completed many treks and have reached a few summits.

Exploring the world is the best way of killing pride, ego and the “me” factor, since it makes us realize the invisible place we hold in this world. Real experience comes from putting that backpack on with a few survival items and hitting the road with people you haven’t met before. I plan on climbing Mount Aconcagua [Argentina] this year, and ultimately, in 2017, that giant beast which we all call Everest.

The future: education for underprivileged children

In the end, it all comes down to humanity and what we have done to make this world a better place to live in. I believe that all our education and resources should contribute to making people’s lives better. I have been a volunteer all my life, from raising relief funds for natural disasters to working for the education of those who cannot pay for it. I want to make a huge network of schools across Pakistan that kids from underprivileged communities can attend for free. Education is a right that every child is born with, and I wish to play my part in extending this right to the unfortunate children who have been denied this right.

I also want to travel the world and wish to be a skilled mountaineer one day.

Two words: humanity and travel

I am passionate about philanthropy and am a strong advocate of humanitarian services and charitable work. At times—well, to be accurate, most of the time—I find solace in wild terrains and mountains and am able to disconnect from the cyber grid to refuel my grey matter through extreme adventure. If there are two words that that define my passions, I would say “humanity” and “travel.”

Simple words of advice

Break the boundaries that don’t make sense.

More information

Master's in Business Administration


College of Business, Features - Commencement, Features - Graduate