Perspective is the way we see things when we look at them from a certain distance and it allows us to appreciate their true value. — Ralph Pino
This past week I was interviewed about how my perspectives have changed through the course of my college career. I cannot think of an area of my life that hasn’t changed from the first day of college till today (less than 80 days till commencement) and am excited to reflect on how life has changed.
Here is my story:
I entered college as an electrical engineering major with a concentration in computer engineering. I honestly didn’t have much of a goal past getting my degree. ***This should have been a big red flag that engineering was not for me. Growing up in rural Oregon I had few opportunities to really learn what an engineer did on a daily basis. I was told by many respected adults that since I was smart and good at math that I should be an engineer … so I took their advice. Looking back I cannot imagine doing this.
At the time I applied to Grove City College, I tried to educate myself about what the field entailed, but there were no mentors to guide me and I always thought I would figure it out later. Starting college is always a dramatic transition, but my transition was worsened by poor preparation and the fact that I was not interested in the material. I decided to at least stick it out until I could discover what engineering was like outside of academics.
This led me to a summer internship at Concurrent Inc. The internship was part computer engineering part data management. I disliked most of the computer engineering work and enjoyed even the mundane aspects of data management (cleaning it). I had unknowingly started my journey to business analytics.
During my sophomore year of college, I continued my path towards a career in analytics when I changed my major to business economics and took my first statistics class. I enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of statistics and unearthed my unknown inner Excel nerd. Dr. Crute, Executive Director of Grove City College Graduate Studies, recognized my statistical acumen and became my mentor. She hand-picked me to join her research and explore my passion outside of the classroom setting.
The drive to understand the story behind the data drew me in and challenged me to accumulate the knowledge I needed to evaluate the data; I subsequently changed my major, for the third and final time, to business analysis and embraced the challenge to understand the data to ascertain the story behind it.
College has not only taught me many technical skills and knowledge, it has taught me even more important soft-skills. My strategic thinking, problem-solving and independent decision making skills have certainly been tested and refined throughout college.
One major experience of personal growth was when I studied abroad in Australia in January 2020. I was on a new continent 10,000 miles away from home. The experience was incredible. I got to try so many new things and loved the experience… until I was told that due to Covid-19, I had 24 hours to leave the country. I bought a ticket and packed my bags. The next morning I arrived at the airport and was told that I would not be allowed on the plane because it connected through New Zealand which had closed their boarders at 11:59 pm. the prior night.
I needed to come up with a plan B, and quick. I found one more flight that was direct from Australia to California; however, it left from Sydney, New South Wales and I was in the Gold Coast, Queensland (8 hours drive apart) and Australia was in the process of restricting inter-state travel !!! After a brief period of shock, wishing I could call someone to make this all better, I picked myself up and just barely boarded one of the last flights between these states. This only happened because college had taught me to power through stressful situations and to problem-solve out a solution.
College has been an incredible time of both personal and professional growth. Even if this last year has been nothing like anyone could have expected, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn with like-minded peers. Community was something I was looking for in a college and I am thrilled to say I found it. It looks different from freshman to senior year, but along the way I have built friendships with community members, faculty, classmates and random people I introduced myself to.
One specific question I was asked was “Do you have a 5-year plan?” This is a challenging question because I have an idea of where I want to be in five years, but less of an idea of how I will get there. I hope to get my masters degree in either analytics or and MBA with a concentration in business analytics, a job I enjoy — with some position of authority, get married and have a child or two.
However, I don’t even know what state I will be working in once I graduate. I am in the job application process and hope to secure a job before graduation, but this is a challenging time as an entry-level business analyst. I am competing against not just other new graduates, but experienced workers who have lost their job due to Covid.
My dream job isn’t at any one company or in any given location. Instead it is a list of activities I would like to do regularly. I want to mine data, find trends & patterns, develop theories to explain the stories behind the data, predict results of process and operational changes, develop my knowledge of analytics tools, and design and build effective data visualizations and presentations.
Another question I was asked was “is their anything you wish you could have changed about you college experience?” The simple answer is YES. I would wish Covid away. It has drastically changed school and made the job hunt quite challenging.
But Covid also gave me the opportunity to spend quality time with my amazing family. We had the opportunity to golf as a family because we were all home together. This changed to skiing in the winter, but I loved spending time at home. I haven’t lived at home since I left for college. I would visit over Christmas and Spring break, but I worked at various internships around the country in the summer. Now we have an adorable sheltie puppy named Lady who is as smart as she is beautiful.
Covid has changed the world and made college pretty weird, but it also provided opportunities I will forever be grateful for. That is true of most of my college career. I switched my major three times and learned a lot about myself through the process. I found my passion through this trial and error and cannot wish away the bad without sacrificing the good. So even through all the stress of having no idea where I was trying to go I would say I would not change a thing about my college experience.
After four years I can successfully say:
“Yes, I worked hard, I did every possible thing I could have done, and I am where I want to be.”
< — Lady wanted to say hello