Stocking Grocery Shelves with the Touch of a Mouse

MSIT grad delivers the goods

Tuesday, March 7, 2017
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Rola Tokatli

When you’re at the grocery store, you probably don’t think much about the selection of products or how they got there, but that’s something Rola Tokatli thinks about every day. As a business intelligence report developer for the Associated Grocers of New England, she focuses on using data to make grocery stores, food sellers, distribution centers and deliveries as efficient as possible, saving employees time and consumers money.

Tokatli, who recently earned her Master of Science in information technology from the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, landed the position with  Associated Grocers of New England after meeting representatives from the company at the UNH Career and Internship Fair in Durham.

“They had this tool for about four years that they had highly invested in, yet it was not what they expected and the tool was not doing what they wanted it to do,” says Tokatli.

Her job was to tackle the data tool and help the grocers get their money’s worth. She focused on creating an interactive system for executive management, letting them see their sales margins, profits and where items were moving to improve their decision-making.

“The project was tremendously successful due to collaborative work with the senior team” says Tokatli. So much so that Mihaela Sabin, associate professor and coordinator of computing technology at UNH Manchester, suggested she keep going.

“Mihaela said you don’t have to stop the study. You can take it to the next level and base your (thesis) project on that,” says Tokatli.

“I needed to understand the business. It wasn’t only software development but also a business development aspect.”

From there, she added Google Maps, allowing managers to see each store, when it was getting shipments, changes in sales and more. The grocers liked her work and offered her a position. She has continued expanding and adding capabilities to the grocers’ system, increasing efficiency on all levels.

“It’s collecting data to make better use of it,” Tokatli says.

She notes that it was her ability to take classes like supply chain management at UNH Manchester that helped her excel in the position.

“I needed to understand the business,” she says. “It wasn’t only software development but also a business development aspect.”

Tokatli also credits the administration and faculty at UNH Manchester for helping her come to the information technology program in the first place. Six years ago, she was living in Syria and working as a mechanical engineer for the Ministry of Defense. That year, the conflict in Syria had just begun to take hold, and Tokatli decided to leave, coming to the United States to live with her sister in New Hampshire.

In a new country, Tokatli wanted to launch a new career, but she wasn’t sure where to begin. She thought returning to school might be a good option.

“To be honest UNH was my first choice,” she says. “I live in Manchester and it has a good reputation. In fact, right from the beginning I started emailing professors and administrators from the school.”

She soon heard back from administrators, who asked what they could do to help make the experience easier. Even after taking a break in her studies to focus on learning English and acclimating to her new home, mentors and advisors at UNH Manchester helped guide her transition back into the classroom to pick up where she had left off.

“They really do care,” says Tokatli. “They redirected me to the right people and got me direct answers about where to go.”

Photographer: 
David Vogt | freelance photographer