Why I'm Doing Data Analytics
Let's be honest. Being a new professional is hard. I loved and was very grateful to have my jobs in academic affairs and university communications and conducting student success research - it's exactly what I wanted! But juggling multiple contracts at once is not always easy. All the while applying for job after job and going to interview after interview and seeing no ROI was trying. And then there's the consideration of living with MS, and the importance of finding both stable employment/income and pharmaceutical insurance for my medicine.
As do many people, I'm terrified of failure, and feeling rejection from job opportunities was hard to deal with. The oft-debated "value of liberal arts" really started to weigh down on me. Had I made a mistake in getting a sociology degree? Was I unemployable?
With this looming sense of dread of my unemployability, I tried to stay positive and consider new steps I could take to advance my career, and shake this feeling of failure.
Looking at the work I was doing—writing reports on retention and student success data, coordinating a research project from scratch, and learning more about the value of data-informed decision making—I saw that my basic knowledge of excel and averages was enough to get by, but I knew there was so much more that could be done.
Paying attention to the cultural discourses about social media, surveillance, directed/targeted marketing, and That Election™, I noticed the word "data" being thrown around. Using the knowledge I developed through my Sociology degree helped me understand the systemic factors going into these shared conversations about how data was being collected, used, manipulated, and the ethical/societal considerations behind all of it. But I wanted technical knowledge.
While all this is happening, York University's School of Continuing Studies was launching a new part-time dual certificate program in Big Data Analytics. This is perfect! A program I could complete while working, wherever that would be, giving me transferable skills and knowledge to any sector.
In my role at the MS Society of Canada, I've spent the first few months acclimating to the organizational culture, ensuring I know my role, responsibility, and goals. Now having started the program, I find myself seeing how I can merge both my academic work in data analytics and professional work in non-profit program delivery. I'm excited to step out of my comfort zone through programming, and merging that with my understanding of social change, advocacy, and social justice.
So overall, what did I learn? My experience and what I learned during my undergraduate degree, in and outside of the classroom, were and are important! Liberal arts educations are valuable. It's central to the reason why I wanted the job I'm in right now, and how I go it. But it's not everything. And I want to continue learning and expanding my horizons, which means being open to new opportunities, and stepping outside my comfort zone. I've got to walk the talk, and continue to challenge myself.
What have you done to go outside your comfort zone? How do you merge your academic and professional experiences?