Prepared and Ready for the Next Step: Student Success Stories

When a student says she is prepared and ready for the next step in life, we consider that a success story worth sharing! We sat down with soon-to-be graduate, Jessica Gronsbell, UMBC Data Science Graduate Program, and asked her a few questions about her experience with the program, faculty, and peers. She shared her story with us, and also some exciting news about a great opportunity offered to her. She already landed a job with a leading organization, Nielsen, even before she graduates in May 2019. They are holding the position for her.

How did you hear about the Data Science program?

I got my bachelor’s in mathematics here at UMBC. Throughout my career, I knew I liked math and statistics and had skills in computer science. Then, I learned about data science at a career fair! I saw the Nielsen display advertising for math, statistics, and computer science and thought, “Oh, I can do all of those things!” They told me about data science and what their company did – that’s what really sparked my interest. Shortly after, while pursuing my undergraduate education, I got a research position in the Division of Information Technology department. My supervisor told me that UMBC had a Data Science master’s program that I could transition into smoothly. I started right after graduating with my bachelor’s.

Did you have a favorite class?

The Introduction to Data Science, course 601, offered me incredible insights. Going in, I knew a lot of bits and pieces about data science, but the introductory course put it all together and mapped it out in a way I understood. The instructor put concrete examples to words and ideas that I already knew, which helped clarify topics I was unsure of. It also taught me how to compartmentalize and why certain actions are taken in specific situations over others.

Can you talk about your interaction with the instructors?

The instructors in my program were really accessible and knowledgeable about the field. In fact, one of the instructors started his own startup that focused on data science. He knew what building a company from the ground up looked like and shared those insights with us. Another instructor works for the Social Security Administration (SSA). So, she had a lot of useful information for high-level situations. I could approach my instructors with ease and they provided advice when it came to job searching and what kinds of things I needed to pay attention to.

Another thing I found helpful – a lot of the instructors work during the day and teach during the evening. So, they bring great experience and really valuable advice. Everything that I learned through my courses is relevant to what I’ll be doing in my field every day.

What did you gain from the program?

I definitely think the Data Science program helped prepare me for the next step in my life. One important take away that I was honestly really surprised to get from this program was my increase in skill in public speaking. Many of the classes required presentations as part of the final. But, there was actually a class that focused solely on public speaking and presentations. I am so much more confident speaking in front of people now as a result.

I also became a better group member. Most companies want to see that you’re able to work in a team. So even though I prefer to work individually, I had to get comfortable working with others. I appreciate that element of my studies so much now because in every single interview I’m asked to explain an experience I had working in a team. Because of this program and the classes offered, I feel so much more prepared to work on a team. Altogether, I definitely think the program set me up for success.

Additionally, one thing that I’ll never forget was the little “ah-ha” or genius moments I had. Whether it was in the classroom or during a presentation, those little victories motivated me to keep going. In those moments I would think, “I know this. I know what I’m doing.”

How are you feeling about entering the field?

I am so excited about data science because it is still relatively new and continues to grow as more and more people learn about it. Not only do I look forward to being able to work inside of it, but I also look forward to learning about newer developments and the different ways people are using it.

I’m also excited because this program gave me the opportunity to find what is important to me in a job. My “ah-ha!” moment came about during a job search while I was juggling different job opportunities and interviews. I  was having a really hard time deciding on just one. To decide, I needed to narrow down exactly what I wanted from a job. I knew that I wanted to do meaningful work. So, it was nice to know that I would rather wait to find a job that aligns with my goals than accepting the first one that was offered. Nielsen aligns with my goals.

What’s your next step?

After graduation, I’ll start working for Nielsen. I had known about them for a couple of years and I really appreciated them as a company. They had an emerging leaders program, which is a two-year rotational program that begins once you graduate and allows you to rotate between different offices and positions. I interviewed for that program in Florida and everyone I spoke with was very qualified. Even though I didn’t get into that program, they contacted me for a different position. They thought I’d be a good fit for the company, and since they knew I was local to the Columbia area, they contacted the recruiter. Hence, I was able to get an interview with the Columbia office and was hired.

Would you do it again?

I would 100 percent do it all over again. Honestly, the program was the perfect amount of challenge and doability. The instructors were really helpful, and it definitely prepared me better for job opportunities. It’s really nice to be able to say I’ll have my master’s done once I start working. I know what I’m doing, where I’m going, and I’m so excited.

Learn how you can claim your future with a career in Data Science.

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