Classical musician Cindy Lee discovered something unexpected when she earned a minor in business from the Kelley School along with her Bachelor of Music in Performance from the Jacobs School of Music. Business was new to her and she thought Kelley courses might benefit her in managing freelance work as a professional harpist. It turned out that the strong work ethic she developed as a musician enabled her to pick up valuable business skills, such as using data analytics software. And that was just the beginning.
Lee completed her MS in Information Systems from the Kelley School in May 2022 and moved to Dallas to begin working as a cybersecurity consultant for the Big Four firm EY. She took her passion for music with her.
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What kind of experience did you have in business and technology when you applied for the MSIS program at the Kelley School?
I had none, except for my minor in business. Initially I was uneasy with tasks like downloading software. I realized during my minor, however, that the discipline I developed while learning to play different instruments enabled me to learn how to use application software such as Microsoft Excel and Access, too. I practiced over and over. The harp program at the Jacobs School of Music is one of the best in the world, and I immersed myself in the program, ensembles, and teaching in my studio. I can’t overstate how the work ethic I developed as a musician helped me succeed in the master’s in information systems program. The communication skills and project management skills I leaned on when I participated in and led ensembles also benefits my work on team projects.
Did you feel at a disadvantage because other MSIS students had business or IT undergraduate degrees?
Many of my classmates had degrees in fields outside of business and technology. The program prepared us well during the summer to start in step with our colleagues with undergraduate business degrees from Kelley. The MSIS program offers three concentrated summer bootcamps that incoming MSIS students can take to gain the fundamentals they need to succeed. I took two of the three bootcamps, which also include classes with Graduate Career Services to prepare for fall recruiting. The MSIS program required me to secure an internship, because my undergraduate degree was not in business. Because of this, I gained invaluable experience during an eight-month internship with Anthem. By the time I graduated, I felt well-prepared to begin my career because of the combination of MSIS coursework and real-world experience from my internship.
You began playing the piano at age 4 and then learned how to play violin and flute. You took up the harp as a teenager and attended an arts high school in Seoul. You performed at Carnegie Hall as the principal harpist for the IU Wind Ensemble. How did a business career appear on your horizon?
I came to Indiana University because of legendary harpist Susann McDonald and wanted to be a mentor someday like her. That desire led me to explore beyond academics such as giving private lessons to students and playing in smaller ensembles outside the formal music program. As I was gaining experience as a classical harpist, I felt that gaining business acumen would benefit my knowledge of the music industry. It led me to pursue a business minor. I was struck by the new perspective business provided—it focuses on current and future trends. I realized a career that combined business and technology would provide a wider range of career options and the prospect of working in an emerging field appealed to me.
Can you do both—work in consulting and as a musician?
Yes! I plan to learn how I can add value to music and nonprofit organizations with my business and music skills. While at IU, I served as a program manager and stage announcer for the USA International Harp Competition. Through that experience, I realized that the skill set that I gained in business applies to the music industry and can be used to fill in the gaps.
I’ve made great friends in harp performance and business. What I learn from my musician friends is different than what I learn from my business friends. I want to have both in my future.