Capstone Students Design Themselves Into Coveted Tech Jobs

Ben Gadzik, Jack Nork '91 (CLAS), Tharun Palla '24 MS, and Deepthi Pai Manoor '24 MS at Reality Interactive in Middletown

From left at Reality Interactive: operations manager Ben Gadzik, Palla, Nork, and Manoor

If you’ve compared cell-phone costs at a Spectrum/Charter kiosk, played around on a display screen at a BMW dealer designing your own dream car, or compared features on a series of premium hot tubs, you’ve likely experienced the work of Reality Interactive in Middletown, Connecticut. The high-tech firm creates customer-focused, digital display technology experiences for Fortune 500 and other multinational companies, including BMW, Nintendo, Titleist, Behr Paint Company, and P.C. Richard & Son. “What we accomplish here is breathtaking,” says Jack Nork ’91 (CLAS), the company’s implementation director. “When I see the finished product, it is actually cooler than I ever thought. We have smart, highly educated employees who love to learn new things and then apply them.’’

Last semester those employees included interns Deepthi Pai Manoor ’24 MS and Tharun Palla ’24 MS, two of 39 students who took part in a Reality Interactive–sponsored Capstone project for the School of Business’ master’s in business analytics and project management. Nork suspected that the company could both offer graduate students a hands-on experience in the real world and, in turn, expose the company to a talent pipeline. CEO Jim Ligotti agreed.

“Students loved the real-life experience of solving a business problem using data analytics,” says professor Sudip Bhattacharjee, who designed this course several years ago and mentored this group of students. They data mined massive amounts of digital display logs, he says, to find anomalies that negatively affected the customer experience. They worked closely with Reality Interactive reps, getting feedback and support and giving actionable insights.

“What was interesting to me was that every team approached the problem differently, and that gave us the opportunity to pick and choose the solutions we wanted to pursue,’’ says Nork. “It’s a win-win. UConn brings in top-notch, excited students to solve complex problems and bring solutions to Connecticut companies,’’ Nork says. “We want to continue our partnership with UConn so we can help students who can also help us. This program is really, really good. I want other people to know how good it is for students and businesses in Connecticut.’’

“This close-knit, familial experience did more than just sharpen my technical skills,” says Manoor. “It imbued me with a passionate understanding of leadership and strategic innovation, pivotal for my future career milestones.”

By Claire Hall
Photo by Peter Morenus


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