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Risk and Analytics Student Lands New Role With Caterpillar

By Samantha Beavers

When North Carolina native Zach Kraszeski first launched his career, it didn’t take long for him to discover the immense value of risk management and analytics. Working in the nuclear industry with GE Hitachi Nuclear (GEH), he quickly learned about the costs of regulatory and compliance risk – and being a curious, analytical person, he developed an interest in leveraging data to manage risk and solve problems.

His career took him from working in new plants engineering with GEH – where he honed his skills in requirements management and object-oriented databases – to managing a global cloud-based application lifecycle management tool with GE Digital. He then left the nuclear industry to work for nCino, a fintech start-up – where his interest in data and risk continued to deepen. 

“In nuclear, non-compliance of a federal, state or customer requirement can trickle down and have significant impacts from both time and financial aspects – if not shut down a project completely. In the banking industry, the risk is complex and even more fluid around changing markets, regulatory implications, data security, etc,” Kraszeski says. “Having access to not only customer data but also internal data is crucial for utilizing predictive analytics and determining organizational strategy for the future.”

Creating opportunities

Through data, Kraszeski says, organizations can make strategic decisions to shape the future, minimize losses and even gain a competitive edge amidst uncertainty – which is why boosting his analytics skills became so important. Looking for a master’s program that suited his needs, he came across the Master of Management, Risk and Analytics (MRA) program at NC State.

“Poole College of Management’s reputation as a leader in data-driven decision-making and risk analysis caught my attention. The program’s rigorous curriculum, focusing on quantitative methods and statistical modeling, offered the perfect blend of theory and practical application that I sought,” he says. “Moreover, NC State’s emphasis on experiential learning and industry partnerships truly resonated with me. I firmly believe that true expertise is gained not just through academic study, but also through real-world exposure and hands-on experience.”

With the opportunity to collaborate with industry professionals and tackle real-life risk challenges in the MRA program, Kraszeski knew he could develop a robust skill set while also putting knowledge into practice. Recognizing the impact it could have on his future endeavors, he decided to go for it.

As it turned out, the investment paid off quickly.

“After just a few months into my MRA journey, a former colleague of mine spotted my presence on LinkedIn and promptly approached me regarding the prospect of exploring Caterpillar Digital as a senior data specialist. I must say, it has been a truly astounding opportunity,” he says.

Solving problems

In his new role, Kraszeski collaborates with cross-functional teams to develop data-driven solutions that align with Caterpillar’s strategic goals and operational requirements – with the goal of driving continuous improvement throughout the organization. 

‘I work within the segment specifically responsible for developing, implementing and sustaining the data governance framework – including best practices for the numerous global verticals within the Caterpillar brand. By establishing robust data management processes, we increase the accuracy, integrity and security of the data, which enables reliable decision-making and fosters a culture of data-driven innovation within Caterpillar,” he says. “I am truly thrilled to be part of the Caterpillar team. Contributing to the success and growth of a global industry leader is a tremendous opportunity.” 

For Kraszeski, enhancing his analytics skills through the MRA program is an opportunity to become a more effective problem-solver.

“I’m a critical and strategic thinker and I enjoy tackling intricate problems and breaking them down into manageable components. Each of the roles I’ve held has fueled my natural inclination to dissect multifaceted challenges and identify patterns. You know that expression, ‘Can’t see the forest for the trees’? I’m someone who likes to connect the dots in order to see the forest through the trees,” he says.

“My background, coupled with my passion for uncovering patterns and trends, enables me to approach problems with an analytical yet strategic mindset. I can effectively analyze data sets, capture the underlying relationships and extract meaningful insights. As a result, I’m able to originate innovative and effective solutions that mitigate risks and maximize opportunities.”

Gaining perspective

Beyond putting new tools and techniques in his toolbox, Kraszeski has found that the interdisciplinary nature of the MRA program has equipped him to be a stronger, more strategic leader.

“The program brings together students and faculty from diverse backgrounds – including finance, mathematics, statistics and computer science. This rich blend of expertise fosters a dynamic and collaborative learning environment where we can explore risk analytics from multiple perspectives. This has broadened my understanding of risk management and exposed me to a wide range of analytical approaches and methodologies,” he says.

Additionally, he notes that the program faculty bring much more than expertise to the table.

“The professors are not only highly knowledgeable in their respective fields but also genuinely passionate about sharing their insights and guiding us through concepts,” Kraszeski says. “Their dedication to our growth and success is evident in their approachable nature, willingness to mentor and ability to bridge the gap between academia and industry.”

Building a foundation

Looking ahead, Kraszeski is eager to continue leveraging his knowledge and passion to help organizations navigate uncertainty, drive strategic outcomes and optimize operational processes.

“I have a keen interest in the strategic aspects of risk management, so in the future, I envision myself taking on dynamic and challenging leadership roles where I can leverage analytics to enhance organizational risk management practices, shape risk culture and guide risk governance frameworks,” he says. 

Through the MRA program, Kraszeski believes he is building the solid foundation needed to become an expert in his field. Between the rigorous curriculum, experiential learning opportunities and network of like-minded professionals, he is confident that he is receiving the tools and resources needed to drive business growth and create sustainable value for organizations.

And while he tends to many irons in the fire as a full-time employee, husband and father of three kids under the age of four, he knows the investment he’s making – and the discipline it requires – will be well worth it.

“Pursuing the MRA program while juggling a myriad of responsibilities has been a challenging, yet incredibly rewarding, experience. Balancing the demands of coursework, professional commitments and family life requires effective time management, prioritization and open communication,” Kraszeski says. “It has been incredibly important to find a harmonious balance that allows me to dedicate quality time to my studies while still being present for my family and actively engaging in their lives. My family’s unwavering encouragement and understanding have been instrumental in my ability to pursue this degree and work towards my career goals as well as my personal goals.”

To learn more about the Master of Management, Risk and Analytics (MRA) program at NC State’s Poole College of Management, click here.