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Heather Soma-Hauer ’16 turned an Otterbein project into a career with Bob Evans

Heather Soma-Hauer ’16 turned an Otterbein class project into a career with Bob Evans

Heather Soma-Hauer ’16 turned a classroom project into a career with Bob Evans Farms where she serves as a business process analyst in information technology for Bob Evans Foods at corporate headquarters located in New Albany, Ohio.

Business process analysts gather necessary information, perform data analysis, and maintain data and analyses for future use in financial planning. At Bob Evans, Soma-Hauer works with every department to help manage tools that theye use for reporting.

“I work with our end users and our developers—I’m also one of our developers. I make sure our end users know what information they want and understand what information they need,” she said.

Soma-Hauer took the long route to graduation, returning to Otterbein at age 31 to finish her degree she started in 2001. Marriage and two children had intervened, putting her college career on hold.

“Once the younger of my two children reached kindergarten, I decided it was time to go back and finish out the degree,” she said. “I went back and hit the ground running.”

She returned to Otterbein in Jan. 2014 with the idea of majoring in business marketing until she took a course in finance. Her advisor, Professor Allen Prindle, questioned why she was not doing something in math and suggested she explore a new minor Otterbein was offering, marketing analytics. Prindle told her she could combine her love of marketing with technology.

Just one course into her new minor, an analytics class with Associate Professor Michael Levin and Assistant Professor Yiyuan Liu, Soma-Hauer was hooked. Within a year, as a junior at Otterbein, Bob Evans would hire her.

Soma-Hauer and her student partner, Kate Elam ’16, chose to study Bob Evans Restaurants, which was at that point a part of Bob Evans Farms, and its carryout service in an analytics class taught by Liu. The idea behind the project was to choose a company and do an in-depth study of an issue the company was facing. The pair gathered research information from three Bob Evans restaurants and were near the end of the information gathering stage when the pair decided to call corporate.

“We had all the information from the restaurants so I thought let’s call the company,” Soma-Hauer said. “We got in touch with the marketing department and were invited to come and sit in on an analytics demonstration.”

During the demonstration, Soma-Hauer took issue with the type of analytical tool used in the demonstration and point-blank asked why they chose that method specifically.

“This was a learning opportunity for me. One person in the interview turned to me and asked if I would like a job with Bob Evans,” she said.

The job turned out to be a one-year internship, 25 hours a week, while Soma-Hauer finished her senior year at Otterbein. One day after graduation, she was working fulltime at Bob Evans as a business intelligence business analyst.

Turning a single moment into a career, however, comes from a lot of hard work.

“The internship changed my life,” Soma-Hauer said. “I put myself out there and it has paid off. I have a career because of it. It made my senior year hard. I was working 25 hours a week, taking a full class load, and doing a Distinction Project.”

The Distinction Program recognizes students for excellent scholarly work in their field of study. Students work with an advisor throughout the year to complete an independent research project or creative work. The work is defended in the spring before an advisory committee.

Soma-Hauer did a case study for a small business that turned into a book, The Case Study of Outstanding Store Fixtures.

“I looked at their inventory system to help them better understand what they could do to increase their sales, their customer retention and their product turnover,” Soma-Hauer said. “I followed them for three months, doing analytical research. I collected all of their data and showed them what could happen to their business in the future if they would adopt this software or if they would change this product mix.”

Any Otterbein student wishing to follow Soma-Hauer’s pathway to a career should heed her advice.

“Students really need to work with their advisors. The advisors I had gave me amazing advice. I felt like I could go to them any time and they were always there willing to listen. Students need to take their classes seriously. They need to think about what they really want to do. And they need to do an internship.”

Learn more about the Otterbein Department of Business, Accounting and Economics.