The University of Akron Master of Science - MS, Applied Mathematics
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How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
Yeah. So I guess I'll start just a college. Um, So I started at the University of Akron, and I was actually there to be a chemical engineering student. I did that for the first year and a half. Um, is kind of everything I expected it to be Science heavy, math, heavy. But I actually ended up. I guess one of the first incidents was my when my calculus teacher is actually I was in, like, killed three on. He mentioned that they had this five year program that was a bachelor's and a master's that you could pair together. Um, a bachelor's of applied math with a bunch of different choices of a master's degree. Um, and I realized pretty quickly with the engineering that I felt personally like, it was a lot of memorization. I didn't get a much of, like the back story on how they got to certain equations and things like that. And I just wasn't feeling his passion about it. And suddenly I realized, you know, I'd always been good at math. I'd liked it, but I've kind of gone more the science route so suddenly, I was like, You know what? I'm going to switch this five year program. I'm going to focus more on the math side, end up choosing to do the program where both my bachelors and Masters was in applied math, but throughout my time doing that switch. So I did five years to get the two degrees, but I still kind of kept my math stuff aligned with science. So even my, um, thesis was on, like corrosion rates of metal and how to model that. So it's kind of funny thinking that I ended up after that running into search Discovery, my company now at a career fair, and they were actually one of the only companies that had, like, math degree is one of the things they were looking for in a candidate because I had gone and talked to a bunch of these engineering companies saying, You know, I've started as an engineer, kept up with a lot of science stuff, but technically my degree is math and they weren't very interested, and I was kind of crushed because I thought that was my comfort zone. That's what I was going to go into. You know, I had the skills, but because I didn't have engineering as my actual degree title. They didn't really care. Um, so luckily, search Discovery interviewed with them, and I found out that they were a digital analytics, kind of like Web analytics marketing sort of consulting firm. Um, and I had no idea about marketing or Web analytics or anything, but I really liked the sound of the company. I really like that. I would get to be kind of in a consulting role where I would get to work with people across different industries. And so I ended up going for it. I got the job I started. Um, and I loved it. Andi, that's kind of how I got to where I am today, just using those problem solving skills from my math degree and really just focusing on being adaptable and continually learning as my job gave me new opportunities.

What responsibilities and decisions does one handle in a job like yours? What are the top three priorities? What are weekly work hours like?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
mainly as an analyst. Right now, my focus is more on, like Web data still, But in general, if we were to kind of back up and not care about the subject of, like, maybe what I was looking at each day, it really is Thio. Help my clients answer business questions that they have. Eso doesn't really matter the topic as long as they have the data. It's my job to kind of one elicit the right question from them. Understand? They may have in an email typed, Hey, I want to know the conversion rate of someone filling out this form. Well, it's like, Okay, that's great. But maybe it's more of a conversation of what's the goal of your website? What is the business impact you're trying to drive? Are you on Lee caring about the conversion on this form? Or do we need toe? Look at slightly different metrics here s oh, really? Getting to the root of what they're trying to understand is a big part of my job to actually looking at the data and analyzing to answer that question, making sure the data is trustworthy and that you know what I say A number represents is really what it represents. So that is a lot of what I dio is double checking, triple checking, making sure. Yeah, that exact calculation that's done is truthful. And then I think the third thing would be being able to present what you find back to your client. Like So you take it from business context. You go look at the technical numbers and kind of the nitty gritty things, and then you have to make that self editing of deciding. What do I need to show them? And how do I need to explain this to answer what they actually cared about, Um, and then weekly work hours. So we work 40 hours a week, but it's a little interesting with my job because I work with multiple clients. They don't all get equal amounts of my time, so it depends on my forecast for those projects. So it's kind of like a puzzle of one of my forecasted, like, what do I used to get the task done? And then how does that fit into my 40 hour work week? I mean, it's it's normal to go over maybe a little bit here and there, but I would say for my company, it's pretty close to exactly 40 every week,

What tools (software programs, frameworks, models, algorithms, languages) are typically used in a role like yours?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
so for me specifically, Um And I would say any web data analyst you're gonna use Adobe analytics. Um, you'd be using Google analytics. So I focus more on Adobe. That just happens to be kind of what my client work has been over the past couple of years. But Google analytics would be really, really common to for a position like mine. Um, another big one for me right now, actually, on a certain client is being able to use equal to pull data from their database, um, to get, you know, the right values I need in the right form to do my analysis and then kind of once I get out of their database using sequel, um, it may be joining more files from different sources using are doing some calculation and are. But a lot of times you can kind of rangel those tables with our and then you come out with an excel sheet and then in excel, actually a good way to do some of your visuals. Because in the end, we end up delivering an analysis, usually in a power point or something very readable. Sometimes we'll design a dashboard, so within those first tools I mentioned, like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics. Sometimes they'll want a dashboard that they can interact with themselves. So that last piece is really can I design a dashboard they can clearly use and answers their questions again? Or how am I getting my data visualized and put in a power point so that it's something nice and understandable for them? A swell. So I would say that's kind of like the progression of tools and skills.

What are major challenges and pain points in a job like yours? What approaches are effective in overcoming them? Discussing examples will help students learn better.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
Yeah. So I think one of the biggest things I kind of mentioned before was getting a well defined question from your stakeholder or your client. Sometimes they may say, you know Oh, just take a look at our traffic and tell us if you see anything interesting. Um, well, that's kind of one of the biggest red flags you can run into. As an analyst, you could go look at the data a million different ways. You could, you know, think something's interesting, but really, it's just a normal increase decrease or was caused by something they did and expected, you know. So the worst thing toe happen is when they want you to just go dig and you come up and you're like, Oh, well, I found this, this and this and they're kind of like either I expected that. That doesn't really matter to me. Maybe you get them to say, Oh, that's cool. But it's like if they didn't have something in mind of why they needed to know that it's not, it probably won't drive them to do anything differently. So it's then it kind of feels like you had wasted time, so I think one of the best ways to go about that when you're told to just find insights is again toe elicit what they're trying to achieve. It doesn't have to be. I'm not gonna go do anything until you state of business question. You can't do that. You do have to have the interpersonal skills to say. Okay, so what's the main goal of your site? What are some things you guys have been doing lately? Thio drive to that business goal. You know, have you been running a lot of extra media, you know, spent a lot of money on these campaigns to try and get people to buy more of blank. Um, so I think making sure you always come back and get context that happens a lot. Um, in my job is me just asking, clarifying questions, just really trying to get the context on their business, you know? So if I'm working with a web store and I find out that they they say, Hey, we wanna see, you know, is our traffic doing anything interesting on our one new product page? And it's like, Well, what did you What did you spend to, you know, drive to this. Have you guys been doing extra activity? And then I find out Oh, we did a lot of paid search around this. So it's like I can then go in and analyze. How exactly did your page search traffic perform? Did they fall out throughout the conversion funnel from that product page? So then I can give them something that's a lot more valuable. Um, I think another thing kind of along those same lines is if you end up answering the wrong question. So you've had a conversation. You assume what they're asking is, um did did my clients or I guess I have my clients. So let's say I'm working for pharmaceutical company and they say, Did we drive doctors to go order samples and you end up answering like you didn't know that was their exact question. And you go and you do a whole analysis and you end up talking about coupons. And how many people were clicking cts to get into the funnel eso again? It's making sure you also align with the stakeholders, saying this is what I'm hearing. This is what I think. Your question is getting them to sign off Because if you don't have that sign off, um, either you get lead down a rabbit hole or you come back with something that wasn't what they needed and then e think one of the other things that we run into a lot on git depends on the client and there set up and their data. But sometimes you start analysis assuming you'll have a certain data source and you end up finding out that you don't. And I think the biggest thing There is early communication to your stakeholder helping them understand that, Hey, we you know, it was understood that this was available. We're running into an issue where one we don't trust it or it's actually we don't actually have access to it. So then it's working with them to reset expectations of either we have to move forward without this piece of data or, you know it will slow down our timeline and let's get access to it to do the analysis you truly want. Um, so I think a big part of the job is communicating and being transparent of, you know, you can only control so much of what you have access to and working with the client, so that's a big piece of it.

What are the job titles of people who someone in your role routinely works with, within and outside of the organization? What approaches are effective in working with them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
I think for me. Well, another role that I work with is just other analysts in general, either internally or externally, I would say, because we're in similar roles, Um, communication might be a little easier because you kind of have that shared mindset of the creative thinking of how my answering a question How is something going toe look in a dashboard Or, you know, in a report compared to if I am working with, let's say I tear developers or even internally, more data engineering people in my company and then the i t developers for a website at my client's company. Um, I think they usually are really good at their job because they're really good at organizing and having structure, and they need details. So when I'm communicating with them, it's not going to be a secretive, as with an analyst, for I'm saying, you know, I'm envisioning I want to show them a trend. I want to be able to give them these metrics. You know, they're kind of like Okay, well, what does that mean? You need from me on the website? You know what? What can I do to actually help get you there. And so you have to be much more specific and kind of layout. Technically, what support you need, Um it's much more definition based. So you're gonna give them the exact definition for the number you're trying to get, um, things like that, or like what? Filters and segments you need to be able to put on it. How granular do you need the values to be? So it's kind of making sure you step into that technical mindset to give them that level of detail that they need to do their job. Um, then another role that I work with a lot internally would be project managers. So every client, every project there is ah, Project leader, Project manager, kind of running and thinking of because we're a consulting firm, we get a forecast of ours that the client expects to be billed for. So an X amount of hours The project manager has to know these 10 tasks need to be done by these five team members, and we have this many weeks to complete it. So when talking to somebody that's thinking that project scope and time and money, it's important again, I think, to communicate How long do you think this will take you? Did they properly scope it? Have they set proper expectations with the client for what's being delivered when it's being delivered? And if you hit roadblocks, you need to communicate that to them early on because they're going to be the ones that need to then communicate that to the client. So that's a big one. Is being able thio have that that view of yourself in your work and be mindful of like, Hey, I need to stick within the scope of the project to make the product manager happy. And the client, um, I think the other one. Ah, lot of my stakeholders. So the people at the company that we directly kind of report to and have hired us. They are a lot of times they're marketers. Eso they're very creative. They're the ones running the media. They're the ones trying to build up a brand trying to drive more revenue. Um, and because they're very creative and business side focused again, it's kind of like the translation we talked about earlier. It's it's me understanding and talking at the business level with them and then helping translate to them. Hey, this is what your data showing, and this is what it means at that business level. So I think you have to play translator a lot in this type of role.

What things do you like about your job? Were there any pleasant surprises?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
Well, one thing I really like about my company, I guess. I mean, I love we'll start with the job and I'll go to my company. My position. I think my favorite thing about it is playing that middleman translator role. Um, I've always enjoyed working with people, but as I said, my background was very math technical. You know, I had a lot of classes with a lot of people that didn't like the working with people, you know, they were happy to not have to do a lot of face to face extra stuff. But I've always liked that. So in my role of being an analyst, I love being that translator. I love talking the business. I love getting the problem statement, and I love going back in solving the problem with something as technical and proven as math and then kind of showing them like, Hey, this is what it means for what you actually care about. I've loved being kind of in that roll. And then I think a surprising ah pleasant surprise was that I found my company to do that at because, like I said, I've never done marketing. And then I found out that it didn't really matter what topic I was doing this for that That was the role that made me happy and that if I could understand enough about the topic I was doing math on, then it was fine and I enjoyed it. And my company being a consulting firm gives you so many opportunities to see so many different types of clients, um, different types of problem statements, different topics on DNA that has been huge. I think another pleasant surprise I had was that you don't have to go into your job knowing anything like fancy, I guess. I mean, some jobs you have toe, of course, like engineering. You had to take that base coursework to be ready. But like, you don't know how. You don't have to know everything going in because when you get there, I think a lot of companies are looking for someone that's willing to continually learn. Um and I know my company. That's a big thing. They gave us a ton of opportunities coming in right from college to kind of explore, like, what are you interested in? What skills can you improve on right away? You know what opportunities. Can we give you with clients to expand that kind of based knowledge and figure out what you like and where you're going to really excel? E think another pleasant surprise. And this is probably because of the company I work for. But everyone at my company is really there to better each other. You have a lot of knowledge sharing. It's okay to say, you know, I don't know. I have these 10 questions about what's going on and they're willing Thio help you through that. And then they also have a nice expectation of you, then passing on that knowledge to someone newer than you. So I've really liked the team style of it and being able to both, you know, be mentored and mentor others.

What skills and qualities does your team look for while hiring? What kind of questions does your team typically ask from candidates?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
so big thing at search Discovery is our eight core values. So it's judgment, vision, accountability, craftsmanship, humility, pioneering resilience. And then the newest one is wellness. So when they're hiring, they go through and see. You know, is this person someone that will live out Those eight core values is that someone that really takes them toe heart and, you know, strives to do those throughout their work for their client, for themselves, for their team members. So that's kind of a big thing at search Discovery. Um, another thing. Is there again looking for people that are willing to continually be learning? Our industry is very fast paced. New things come up so you're not going toe, you know, learn everything in three years, and then you're just going to be an expert and nothing's going to change. I mean, things change on a monthly basis with the technology we worked with new data, you can get new clients coming on all of those things. Um, new laws and policies around data privacy, like this is all very front of mind for a lot of people, and so you have to be willing to continue to get better Ah, Big one again is a team player someone that can communicate and wants to do what's needed to be done for, you know, the betterment of the whole team. Um, because our big thing to at our company is we help people thrive so that business can thrive. So our company works to help us thrive so we can help our clients thrive. So then their business thrives. So I think that's a very important part that we look for when hiring.Yeah, so they'll Ah, Big One is so say when they're interviewing around the core values, they're asking about humility. They'll say, You know, when is the time you've made a mistake and you actually had to go and apologize to someone for it, you know? How did that go? How did you feel? Tell us the story. Um, you know, maybe. What did you do afterwards? That's a common one. Um, same thing for accountability or judgment. They'll ask you for specific examples of, Like, when? When did you kind of take a misstep? And you had to own up to it and fix it? Like what? What did that situation look like for you?

What helped you to stand out in your hiring process? How should someone prepare for an interview for a job like yours?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
for my interviews. I think some of my experience that helped me waas being a math major, I felt very comfortable in my problem solving skills. Like I I knew how to logically start from a problem statement and start to formulate what, what would be information. I would need to know to start to answer some of those smaller questions to answer the big questions. So I think that thought process really helped me for what I was interviewing for, um, the other thing. Communication skills. So I had I had actually played volleyball at Akron. That's how I ended up there. Um, and so I had communication skills from working on a team of 14 girls very closely. For five years. I was a team captain, you know, I had Thio talk to the coaches and the players and play a leadership role. And I did a lot of speaking to, you know, young groups of girls through that. So I could articulate in my interview that I was very comfortable talking with rolls above me, um, roles that were below me, kind of laddered upto what role I was playing things like that. I think that helps a lot and then another one is being agile, like change, agile. So when a new situation comes up, I told them, I've learned because of volleyball on because of my coursework. I was very comfortable being uncomfortable. There were many times where mentally, physically like things were new and I had never done them before or they were kind of a level harder than I had ever had to push myself. But the fact that I had that background where I was kind of comfortable stepping into something I knew was unknown and just figuring out as I went S. O. I think that really played into the continued learning and just kind of being humble enough to admit like, I don't know, but I'm going to try my best, and I will reach out for help as I need it.

Can you discuss career accomplishment(s) that you feel good about? Please discuss the problem context, your solution, and the impact you made.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
actually, this year, I think, was my most proud, like career accomplishment that I feel really good about. So I had talked about those eight core values that we have. And so our company is. I don't want to get it wrong, but I believe we're almost 130 people. So we're not a huge company, Um, but 130 people. That's a decent amount. And so, with the eight core values, every year we do the awards where one person gets an award for each core value and they're actually peer nominated. So they sent around surveys and they say, You know, do you have people in mind that you would like to nominate for each of the core values? And you don't have to nominate someone for each one, But it's kind of like you take the time to raise your hand and tell a story about this person, and I ended up being nominated for in winning the Accountability Award. And so I mean, I out of 130 people to get one of those eight awards was blown away. And just to know that in the you know, kind of intro to who won. They take snippets of things that people submitted about me, people that I work closely with. So that was really touching and kind. And it really reflected all the hard work I've put into to make sure I'm a team player and that I'm communicating clearly. And I'm trying to be that, like, sponge, you know, im ah, level one in the company and just working to increase my skills and really be able to play a bigger part in each project that I'm on. So to get recognized for that was a really big deal.

What is a future career path for professionals in your role? How long does it typically take to advance through various roles? How easy are such promotions to come by?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
So I think future career paths, if you start as an analyst, are kind of endless. Not gonna lie because you could. This side is an analyst. You want to be more technical and go data engineering. You could decide you love analytics and get into advanced analytics and keep doing whether analytics and be really, really good at it, because the technology and understanding the pitfalls of you know, I t. P coming up in the different privacy laws like you could do this type of role forever and ever and just keep advancing and maybe changing the industry you're analyzing for like that's always an option there. Another one is optimization, and experimentation is huge. So I know I've been starting to look more into being an analyst when people are running tests on their websites, right? So that's very statistical. But it's kind of creative because the marketers, they're wanting to, you know, run these tests. Um, so you could go that way and start helping the program manager for their experimentation programs that companies, um, you could even decide you love the math so much in the statistics that you actually want to go and become more of a data scientist where you understand all those models and the best, you know, math models to use on different situations. So I really do think the opportunities are endless there. Um, how long it typically takes to advance through roles. I'm really not sure. Like I said, I'm kind of in my first roll out of college. Um, and it depends on your company. It depends on where you're at and how many skills you need to grow to get to that next level. I don't think there should ever be any rush, though, because, um, kind of talking about the getting promotions part. A lot of times you have to start performing at that next level before you get the promotion. So I think sometimes just focusing on yourself and, you know, like, what little experiences and pieces can I kind of beef up my skills, you know? Do I need a little more of the engineering focuses that on my own time? Is that something I can do with the work I do every day? Um, and just slowly but surely, like building up your base to say now I'm at the next level. I'm ready for the promotion. And I think a big thing to is keep, like, a like a yea me folder. That's what minds called in my email and keep all of the files. Like any good feedback, any great projects, anything you, you know, have proof of like I did this. It was something new. It created great impact. I got great recognition from the client. Those always help make your case to say, Hey, I'm at that next level. I'm ready to be promoted.

What college programs did you attend and what were their best parts? How did each of your college programs prepare you for your career?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
Oh, gosh, I feel like I took some money. Um, I will say, I think I do not believe you need a masters degree to, like, go get a job again. Unless it's like a title for certain positions. Like, you know, psychology. You have to have kind of those like upper degrees and things. But, um, I don't think 100% of the time you have to have a masters, But I will say I really enjoyed my master's degree. I really enjoyed that next level of the course work I was able to take and just that deeper understanding. And it was all focused on a topic I chose that I enjoyed. So I think that really stuck with me on been thinking of specific classes I took one. That I think is really, really helpful, actually, is, ah, logic course again, Just another piece to think about when you're problem solving so the and and or statements understanding like, how do you actually go through and prove something? I think it just gives you a better foundation if you want to be somebody problem solving in general, like I just think it was a great course um, the other ones would for me, is math theory like I like knowing why, Like, why is that true? Why does that prove it? What does that mean to actually have cause ality and not just a correlation. So dipping into the stats, like, I think staff is really important. People in business use it a lot more than you would think, or they should be using it. And if they don't know how to use it, then technically, like they're drawing conclusions and they're not right. So I'm very passionate about the math theory because it's the proof of, like, why you can do what you're claiming you're doing. And I think another big one that is helpful, really, for any industry you're going to be in would be coding. Um, you don't have to be, you know, the best person at are you don't have to be able to look at a blank screen and just start coating like I Google constantly. But I do have to use our and I think it's a really handy tool. So if you can get that exposure early on, even thinking of coding as a language, so like if I ever have toe work in a new coding language. At least I've seen a couple other ones like I started in Matt Lab and I took C plus plus in college. But then at work, I at least have that foundation to help me understand and learn the syntax of using our. So it wasn't as big of a jump, whereas if I had none of that background, it would have been a lot harder when they are really helpful at my job.

What three life lessons have you learned over your career? If any, please also discuss your experiences facing adversity, or trying something unusual.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
don't take yourself too seriously unless you're working with lives and millions of dollars. And maybe that's where you're at in your first job. But I would say your first job, like give yourself some patients and likes, um Grace again. I I still turn to that humility of like, it's okay not to know. And if you're humble in the beginning and you ask a question within the first six months of working somewhere, it's gonna be a lot better than if you wait a year and a half. And then suddenly you get the courage to ask the question, and your manager realizes you haven't known that for a year and a half, you know what I mean? I think that's a big one. Um ah, third one, I think, Or a second one. I guess a second one would be. I think you're capable of a lot more growth than you expect. Um, being uncomfortable, I think can really shine some light on like what you actually enjoy doing and where your true strengths lie. Eso just being be willing to like, raise your hand and take on new experiences. It doesn't have to be perfectly in line with what you do every day, like it's OK to expand and try those things. Um, and a third one really do research on where you work like your your work is important, but it should, like, enhance your happiness to appoint like, yes, it's a job. But you shouldn't be miserable going there every day, so sometimes opening up like the scope of where you're looking. Thio, what are the top 10 best companies to work for in some area you're interested in living And maybe it's something you didn't think about an industry didn't think about what You might as well go for it because you only have had, you know, so many years off coursework to kind of decide what you like. But there's so many different jobs out there that, you know, college hasn't helped you experience yet.adversity feeling. I faced a lot of adversity with my sports career. Actually, um, a lot of my chemical engineering, uh, professors actually would find out because so I would travel during the fall for volleyball. I would have to miss some classes, and so we would go and we would show each professor Hey, these were the days I'm gon lined up with the syllabus. Hey, I'm going to be missing this day, and I know it's a test cannot, You know, I need to reschedule. I need to do this and that. And a lot of times, the engineering professors would tell me like I don't think you're going to stay in this class. I think you're going to drop it. You're probably gonna fail like you can't miss this many classes and still pass. Um, I did, though. I did pass all those classes I'm proud to say s so I think that was a big one. Um, and then the adversity of looking for your first job like that iss scary and hard. And there were so many times I was told no, or they didn't even look at my resume. They didn't email me back they didn't call me back. But I will say for all the nose like you only need one. Yes. So just be like, resilient and know that, like, you're going to get a lot more nose than you get of Yes.

What starting job and internships would you recommend to students who hope to grow professionally like you? What other parting advice, dos, and don'ts would you give?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Nov 12 2020
so because I played valuable, I actually never got to have an internship. And as you intelligent, stop me from getting a first job. Um, I think letting yourself again gather as many experiences as you can. Whether that's an internship job, maybe it's in the exact field you want to go for. Maybe it's not, Um, but I think also focusing on the intangibles that you can develop. So people skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence skills, um, time management again being agile, all of those things being just accountable in general. Like if you could take any experience to do that and really round yourself out as a person that they're gonna want working at their company and then you show up and say, Oh, yeah, and I'm really smart and I'm willing to learn whatever you teach me like, I don't think there's a recipe to do that. I think it's very flexible. Um, yeah, because, yeah, I didn't have a job or internship before, like in the summers or anything before going and trying to get my first job. But I had all those intangibles that I built upI would say, Don't pigeonhole yourself. I think, Yeah, just keep your eyes very open. Tow anything new and interesting that, like peaks. Your interest? Um, because even within my 1st 34 years of working, I can already feel my passions, my skills, my thoughts for the future change a lot in good ways, in ways I never would have thought. So I think sometimes just being more open is probably my biggest piece of advice.