Pure chance…

Life seems to be a series of coincidences that lead us to where we are today. Sometimes the smallest of events can make the most drastic changes to our destination. For me, it was by pure chance that I even learned about NC State’s Institute for Advanced Analytics.

It was one picture, and one picture alone, that changed my life forever.

This is the slide that introduced me to the Institute for Advanced Analytics.

I discovered the Institute last year, my senior year, as a Computer Science (CS) student at the University of Mississippi after attending UNC’s Carolina Data Challenge— an annual data science event that was held virtually in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of our faculty sent an email about the event to all CS students, and I, with my blooming interest in data science, figured it would be a good place to learn about next steps after graduation.

There I saw a single slide about the Institute and was immediately curious about the program. I read through virtually every section on the website, and within a couple of hours (yes, so quickly that it scared me), I was convinced that I had to apply to this program. The recurring thought in my head for the next several months was

“This seems too good to be true”.

Now, I am about seven months into the program, and it has been everything that I had hoped for, and the focus on a well-rounded experience with personal growth and communication skills has been even more than expected. 

Prior to this program, I had never been to North Carolina and barely even knew about NC State University. The only information I had to go off of was the program’s amazing transparency on its curriculum and past student outcomes. This made the decision to commit to the Institute incredibly tough, and it required a sense of trust in the Institute’s successful track record. 

The catch phrase at the Institute is “Trust the process.” The program is difficult, but we are asked to put full effort into every task and trust that it will all lead to a successful result. Based on my current experience, the program really does feel like a well-oiled machine, and I am happy to trust the faculty to take me to where I need to be. 

What got me interested in data analytics was the idea of discovering something new. No matter how insignificant or specific to the dataset it may seem, data scientists discover relationships that no one else knows about. But these insights are difficult to draw, and data analytics is a difficult field with consistently high stakes and chances of miscalculations. 

I looked to the Institute because I did not have the knowledge to succeed in the analytics industry. One of the biggest things I have developed at the Institute is confidence in all aspects of my professional development. Along with my team members, I have built my statistical and coding foundations and learned about linear regression, logistic regression, and time series. The majority of the work we have done has been in teams, building confidence in my ability to work and communicate in a technical group environment. And lastly, we have focused on both our oral presentation and technical writing skills, giving me confidence in the extremely important skill of effectively conveying analytical findings to a non-technical audience. 

If you want to pursue a career in data science, then I assure you that the Institute for Advanced Analytics is worth consideration. It is the perfect place to develop the skills you need to start your career in data science. I am thankful for all the blind leaps and coincidences that have led me to exactly where I want to be.

Columnist: Connor Donlen