A Lead Software Engineer for ScienceIO, Hajjar’s MSCAPP experience motivated her to pivot from political campaigns to data-driven healthcare advocacy for women and families.
Headshot of Nora Hajjar
Nora Hajjar

Nora Hajjar’s interest in public policy came naturally. “My mom’s family came from Portugal, and my dad immigrated to the United States from Lebanon. We would discuss the politics in both countries at the dinner table, and I became interested in learning more about the countries from which my family originated,” Hajjar said.

“Luckily, I got to travel and experience many different cultures at a young age, which made me really interested in studying foreign policy,” she said.

In middle and high school, Hajjar participated in Model UN, and she also attended a summer program in international affairs at Georgetown University. She eventually attended Georgetown University and graduated with a degree in political science and economics in 2012. While an undergraduate, she interned with former US congressional members Representative Michael Capuano (D-MA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA).

After graduation, Hajjar worked in advertising technology, “but the foreign policy bug was still in me.” In June 2016 she joined the Hillary for America campaign as a targeting analyst. “I helped create models to determine which voters to target with get out the vote efforts, what kind of media campaigns should be used to nudge and attract voters, and then tracked how well the campaigns were doing. Since Hillary Clinton had a robust foreign policy portfolio, the role  tied together what I did for work and the international issues I was passionate about,” Hajjar said.

After the campaign ended, Hajjar sought to return to the technology sector at a female-founded company, joining ClassPass, a fitness and wellness industry application, as a data analyst. “I enjoyed the company and the work, but I wanted to join another political campaign. I realized earning a graduate degree would be a good way to gain skills while waiting for the next presidential cycle.” The Harris Master of Science in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) program stood out because she could learn technical skills while also applying it to policy work.

“In the politics and campaign world, more data analysis skills are needed, so I figured I would be a better asset if I leveled up my tech skills,” she said. “I didn’t just want a computer science degree because it is often isolated from where you seek to apply it. MSCAPP allows you to apply computer science directly to policy work.”

At Harris, Hajjar improved computer science skills, such as machine learning, while also taking policy-specific classes. It was those policy classes that sparked Hajjar’s interest in domestic policies, particularly issues around crime and health.

“I thought I would go back to campaigns after graduation, but my coursework inspired me to pivot. In my role as Lead Software Engineer for ScienceIO, I am building the backend and infrastructure to process high volumes of data through ML pipelines in order to deliver inference to our clients at scale,” Hajjar said. “I am better at the role because I took classes in a lot of different areas in the MSCAPP program. My time in MSCAPP honestly changed my trajectory. Fortunately, Harris has resources to help students make the most of their experience, no matter their path.”