From Novice to Know-How

The forthcoming paragraphs narrate the journey of Carlos, a current student at the Institute for Applied  Analytics (IAA). This narrative delves into themes of uncertainty, family bonds,  seized opportunities, and the perpetual search for fulfillment. Its overarching message resonates with the eternal truth that the pursuit of knowledge is an unending narrative. I hope you find it engaging and enlightening. Here we go. 

In the twilight of his prominent career as an economist, Carlos found himself at a crossroads. For decades, he had meticulously analyzed economic trends, advised governments, and written papers that had reshaped policies. Yet, as retirement loomed on the horizon, he yearned for a fresh challenge that could reignite his passion for data analysis and open new horizons. As he pursued various opportunities, he stumbled upon a data science program at the Institute for Advanced Analytics, a renowned institution with a stellar reputation in the field. What caught his eye was not just the Institute’s esteemed faculty or state-of-the-art facilities, but a profound sense of purpose that resonated deeply with him.

Carlos, Karina, Anna, and Yoli (Carlos’ mother) the day Anna moved to NCSU. August 2022.

This Institute, it turned out, was part of North Carolina State University, the same institution where his daughter, Anna, was pursuing her undergraduate degree. The serendipity of the situation struck him like a bolt of inspiration. He saw it as a sign from the universe, a chance to not only embark on this exciting new journey but also to maintain his bond with Anna. With unwavering determination and great guidance provided by Valerie, the talented Head of Admissions, he applied to the program.

His fellow students were half his age, but his experience as an economist brought a unique perspective to the classroom. Anna was delighted to have her father on campus as well as her beautiful mother, Karina, near her. Their discussions on data science, economics, and life’s intricacies became cherished moments, strengthening their connection. 

Carlos and Anna studying at the Hunt library. Fall 2023.  

Under the guidance of the program’s director, Dr. Rappa, a visionary leader in the field, Carlos found himself surrounded by a faculty of extraordinary educators. Dr. LaBarr, an incredible teacher, illuminated the intricacies of statistics. Dr. Simmons, an experienced analytical statistician, is a beacon of wisdom in the country’s statistical landscape. In the field of programming, students were exposed to a dynamic duo. The respectable Dr. Healey, with his unique charisma, had a profound knowledge of visualization techniques, particularly in Python. Meanwhile, Dr. Villanes, a warm Peruvian expert, shared her vast expertise in R and SQL. Carlos found himself uniquely drawn to the technical communication courses taught by Dr. Sarah Egan Warren. She is a passionate advocate for ethical storytelling and a masterful teacher, and she has helped him improve his professional writing and speaking skills. 

To earn his degree from the program, Carlos immersed himself in a practicum project, collaborating with a diverse group of classmates to devise data analytics solutions for challenges posed by a sponsor company. In the end, his journey at the Institute for Applied Analytics wasn’t just about acquiring a new skillset. It was a testament to the enduring power of curiosity, resilience, and the capacity to find inspiration in unexpected places. As he graduates from the program this spring, emotionally supported by Karina and Anna, Carlos feels a profound sense of accomplishment, knowing that he has once again embraced change and carved a meaningful path toward the next chapter of his life. The accomplished economist becomes an accomplished data scientist, forever grateful to all the remarkable people who brought him this wonderful new horizon. 

The culmination of his journey will not just be a diploma but a job offer from a well-established data analytics company. He is thankful to Dr. Rappa, Kathy, April, Kate, and the rest of the staff for their outstanding professional support. Nonetheless, Carlos proves that age was no obstacle to acquiring new expertise and thriving in a competitive field. Now, he shares his remarkable journey with those of his age and background, as well as with prospective students. He aims to inspire them to continue their quest for knowledge, debunking the misconception that one’s career is ever truly at its end. He has not just found a new horizon but has also proven that the pursuit of learning knows no age limits, and the rewards of perseverance are boundless. 

Columnist: Carlos Castillo