Fifteen years ago, I switched from a career in engineering to enter the world of business analytics. Luckily for me, despite a few hiccups during the first-year transition, analytics as a discipline was growing rapidly, and there were many critical skills that I could bring with me to solve countless problems facing businesses. There were some obvious advantages that this new career path in data analytics offered over engineering. First, the number of companies and job openings in the engineering world was limited and concentrated in a few tech hot spots in the country, whereas it seemed as if every company was going to have a need for an analytics department. Secondly, and more importantly, it seemed as if the number and types of challenges that businesses faced that could be addressed and solved by looking at data was going to be a lot more fun and keep me much more interested and engaged in my job than I could hope.
Interestingly, when I made the switch to analytics, I had always envisioned myself working in the financial services industry. It was easy to see the data they were working with, and compared to what I was doing in engineering, looking at financial data seemed like a natural next step. Little did I know that I was actually going to be drawn into the human side of analytics, and rather than looking at data capturing prices, I’d be looking at how people made decisions and evaluated financial decisions. My first job in analytics took me to a firm that used behavioral finance, A/B testing and terabits of data to make decisions on how to optimally extend credit terms to customers. My next destination took me to a marketing agency that used data to evaluate how people selected health care and insurance plans. Without knowing it, I had managed to get pulled into the world of marketing. I still had to think like an analyst, and use my training as a scientist, but I also wound up realizing that to be a complete data analyst, one had to be more of a Renaissance man, and be able to draw upon multiple disciplines to be really successful in this space.
During my time at Vanguard, I’ve switched from the role as a data analyst, to an analytics manager, back to an analyst again. Recently I moved to our Institutional Investor Group to be a data analyst, helping redesign the website for our retirement plan participants. Part of the reason I stepped down as a manager was because I saw the rapid changes occurring in our field, and had the chance to work with a group of data analysts who got to work with some great new tools. I had the privilege to work with a group of talented young analysts, who all demonstrated the critical growth mindset, and I saw them all develop so quickly into amazing contributors who really unlocked their potential. It reminded me why I chose to go into analytics in the first place – the new challenges, the need to continuously learn new tools, new problems to solve, and new people to work with.
Constantly learning and growing should be part of any successful data analyst’s career development. It took me 20 years to find a career and a company that has made me truly satisfied in my work, but Vanguard has been the perfect place for me to call home the past eight years. A company with a supportive culture that values development, that also has a growing need for using data to improve decision making – that’s what I had been searching for from the beginning! There’s nothing more rewarding in a career than actually being able to draw upon your skills and experience to help people make smarter decisions to help our clients. I couldn’t be happier that I wound up at Vanguard, getting the chance to do what I’m best at, to help make our company do what it does best – help our clients achieve financial success.
– Jeff W.