Special to Mustang Daily
Statistics majors at Cal Poly don’t have a problem finding jobs, but the department is doing everything it can to improve the odds that graduates get one, associate professor Jimmy Doi said.
The statistics program brings alumni from different fields to come and speak about their success and give a reality check to undergrads, Doi said. Alumni presentations give the undergrads an idea of what they can do with their degree.
“We as faculty can say ‘You can get a job doing this, this and this’,” Doi said. “But when they see alumni saying, ‘This is where I’m working at’ and ‘This is how I’m successful’, I think it gives them an optimism.”
Graduates are going into all types of industries, he said. Graduates usually end up with careers in whatever interests them, he said.
“One person, very successful, is working at Disney,” Doi said. “Another one working at Yahoo!, and one working at Google, I believe.”
Others have gone into other types of industry, such as insurance and banking, he said.
Saba Abuhay is an alumna who now works with Amgen, the biggest biotechnical company in the world. She spoke at the alumni presentation in November.
Undergrads should seek guidance from faculty and staff, pay attention to job postings early in senior year, get an internship and maintain relationships over time, she told the audience. Graduate schools find work experience very important, she said.
She had a job two months after graduation, she said.
“Once you secure your job, get a mentor,” Abuhay said.
People skills are important for statistics majors, she said. They’re just as important as domain and technical skills.
“Statistics gives you analytical problem solving skills from your degree but you need collaboration skills as well,” Abuhay said.
At Amgen, Abuhay takes data and turns it into meaning, she said. She makes charts and graphs from sales and marketing, research and development and operations and manufacturing.
“I go to the technical guy to see what he needs, and then finds ways to collaborate it with the business side,” Abuhay said.
There is an intermeshing of technology and business, Abuhay said. It’s valuable to be able to have those communication skills to translate technology into English, she said.
Statistics senior Samantha Law understands the importance of being able to translate technical information into English, she said.
“My ultimate career goal is to be a statistical consultant,” Law said. “I enjoy turning data into knowledge and translating that for others in ways they can understand.”
Law attends the alumni events because she is interested in learning about the variety of projects, industries and problems statistics can be used for, she said.
Alumni presentations really shed light on the types of opportunities that are available and give students a better understanding of what to expect in their careers, she said.
“If you have a clear idea of what your future career goals are, then you can better understand what it is you need be doing now to get there,” Law said. “Depending on what you want to do, there are many paths to take.”
The events help with career goals because they show students what others in their field are doing and working on, Law said. Ultimately, it helps students better assess what their personal future aspirations are.
“Sometimes I hear presentations and it reiterates my passion for a certain subject. I think, ‘Wow I would love to be working on something like that right now’,” Law said. “Or on the other hand, I might go to a presentation and nothing really stuck out to me so I leave knowing I will not be heading into that sector of statistics.”
Every presentation is worth going to because students will learn something new, Law said.
“I find them to be very rewarding and beneficial,” Law said.
Not all students are going straight to industry, Doi said. The students who apply to graduate school are also all getting into good schools, he said.
“I’m guesstimating here, but of our graduates 50 percent go into getting a job and roughly 50 percent go into graduate school,” Doi said, “Both are successful either way.”
Doi teaches many students about mathematical graduate school. This led him to start a very informal seminar that provides students with information about graduate school, he said.
The seminar in the spring helps students going into a mathematical graduate program to understand the procedures, he said.
“I help them look at GRE, what graduate school application process is like, to give them a calendar of where they need to start and what graduate school is like,” Doi said.
Spring gives them the time they need to start shopping around in summer and do road trips before the application starts in fall, he said.
In his time at Cal Poly, Doi has seen two students get accepted to the doctorate program at Stanford, he said.
“Stanford and Berkeley are the top graduate schools in the world, and it’s competitive to get in there,” Doi said. “For a pretty small program like ours, to have students go there is pretty amazing.”
Another aspect that’s helping students have such great success in graduate school is the rigorous curriculum in the program, Doi said. Although the undergraduate program has a variety of courses, it more resembles a graduate program.
“There are some topics that are quite advanced that wouldn’t normally be found in other undergraduate programs,” Doi said.
One of the requirements statistics has that is unheard of in other programs is the statistical software Cal Poly requires students to learn before they graduate, Doi said. Typically, it’s learned during the first year of graduate school.
To have that under knowledge already as a degree requirement is really a testament as to how strong the program is, Doi said.
Senior project goes hand in hand with the depth of the curriculum, Doi said. The department has a vigorous senior project. The senior projects are like mini-research projects. They’re not to the same extent as a dissertation though, he said.
“They get their hands dirty with some advanced research or looking at data and actually performing data analysis,” Doi said.
That can be really impressive because when graduates go to an interview they have a finished product of their senior project, Doi said. They have experience looking at data sets and coming up with analyses and conclusions for a client.
“You can just hit the ground running,” Doi said.
When employers hear students have taken coursework that usually isn’t seen until graduate school, it makes for more advantage, he said.
The recession is not slowing down the job market either, Doi said. Going into industry, just about every graduate can find a job right now. Statisticians are so high in demand, even in a poor economy students have good luck finding a job, Doi said.
The options are wide open because of a high demand, Doi said.
“Just about every industry you can think of is looking for data analysts,” Doi said.
Because of the success that alumni are having in industry, companies have begun calling the statistics department and asking to send more graduates over, he said.
“I don’t think I’ve heard of a lot of cases where students said I applied all over and I didn’t get a job,” Doi said.
The reason students are able to find success in their careers is also because the reputation Cal Poly Statistics Department has gotten, Doi said.
That’s one of the reasons he applied here, he said.
“I applied here because this was my No. 1 choice,” Doi said. “I don’t think I’m exaggerating, this is one of the best statistics programs in the nation.”
Statistics is growing, Doi said. The Department recently hired four new faculty members because the other departments need more stats classes. Statistics is very high in demand, he said.
“Thankfully, we’ve been able to attract some very strong students, and they’ve been going onto great successful careers,” Doi said. “It’s a pretty healthy outlook for our program.”