A few weeks into her co-op at Exelon Corporation, Hannah Knarr made her way to the office of a vice president. Armed with a whiteboard and a few dry erase markers, the senior Drexel mathematics major was tasked with explaining, in plain language, complex mathematical concepts relevant to the business. For Knarr, it was already clear that her communication skills were an important part of the value she brought to the Fortune 100 energy provider — and crucial in an environment that often required her to collaborate with coworkers and superiors across the country.
“The company had worked with other co-op students who were programming- and data-driven, but I was more of the mindset: ‘Let’s take a step back and make this useful.’ You can have a really sophisticated analysis that is probably more accurate, but if you can’t explain it, it won’t be useful,” she says.
Though her co-op was officially billed as “data science and marketing analytics,” Knarr soon began this type of communication work, translating data analysis to coworkers with less-technical backgrounds.
“One of our projects for Hannah was to help expand the use of data visualizations,” says Matthew Bogdan, a principal market analyst who worked closely with Knarr. “Hannah’s ability to concisely disseminate business analytics and intelligence helped us put insights into action across the salesforce.”
Knarr’s co-op employers were quick to notice her business-driven personality, she says, but she also wasn’t afraid to articulate the potential value of her unique skillset.
“I recognized that they had a real need that I could meet, and they were willing to invest in me, too,” she says. “I had a conversation with my boss to say, ‘What do you need? What are your priorities, and how can I meet them? How can we use my strengths to everyone’s advantage?’ Everyone wants to get something out of their co-op, but there’s also a lot of giving back that you can do.”
Her initiative and aptitude at Exelon led to an invitation to continue with the company after her co-op ended in September. She transitioned to working in competitive analysis, researching the energy industry and Exelon’s competitors in a role that fit both her interests and the company’s needs.
“Hannah’s leadership skills and determination to understand the energy industry helped us fill a key role in researching and identifying trends in the industry,” says Bogdan.
She has since continued her part-time work in competitive analysis, while taking a full course load at Drexel. By the time she graduates in March, she will have amassed a year’s worth of experience at Exelon — along with a new passion for the energy industry and an unexpected application of her degree. Her career goals are now firmly in the realm of business.
“Math is a good platform for getting into the business world because it gets you in the door on the basis of your skills,” Knarr says. “Even people who say, ‘We don’t do math here,’ recognize that it’s valuable.”
Knarr, who received an associate’s degree from Delaware Community College before coming to Drexel, says that, despite her successes, math hasn’t always come easy for her.
“I have always really struggled with math, but it was probably the thing that I enjoyed the most. I lived in Drexel’s Math Resource Center for the first two years of the program,” she laughs.
Knarr says she has always been fascinated by how and why numbers work the way they do — a curiosity fostered in Drexel’s Department of Mathematics. She credits the departmental focus on abstract reasoning with boosting her ability to think broadly and to reduce concepts to their simplest components.
“Math gives you a framework for how to think about things that aren’t math,” she says. “A lot of the math at Drexel is abstract, and it requires you to think outside of the box. I’m more creative than I thought I was, but I had to learn that.”