Student Stories: Different Paths can Lead to Data Science Careers
The Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute congratulates Ben Garski on his recent hire as Risk Selection Data and Analytics Specialist for Northwestern Mutual. In his new role, Ben will work with health data in the claims and underwriting departments, providing doctors with self-service options for accessing data that will remove inefficiencies caused by using a manual process.
Ben didn’t start his education knowing he wanted to go into the field of data science. He earned an undergraduate degree from UW-Oshkosh in Kinesiology with a minor in Business. As part of his minor, he was required to take an information technology class where he developed an interest in the area.
“I got a part-time job in Tech support after taking that class and through that, I heard about a conference on sports analytics. It interested me since I was going to school for Kinesiology. That event was where I first heard about data science.” Ben chose to pursue a Master of Science in Information Science and Technology from UW-Milwaukee and graduated in August 2020.
As he completed his graduate degree program, Ben worked with the NMDSI as a Junior Data Analyst through an internship at Northwestern Mutual. He worked to create a dashboard for the NMDSI that monitors the progress towards goals. He also became a research assistant on the NMDSI-funded Elecurator project. This project, currently ongoing, tracks the major issues engaging both candidates and voters in the 2020 presidential election cycle. Using a technique known as social curation, the team analyzes multiple sources of data to see what topics are important to voters and how the candidates are speaking about those same issues. As part of the project, Ben created different topic models using transcripts from political ads and worked with social media data to analyze Twitter posts related to the election. “With Elecurator, I think I got more experience with data engineering and I’ll be able to use what I learned in my new job.”
During his time with the NMDSI, Ben says that the connections he made were crucial to help him land his new gig. “The connections were really important. That combined with learning different programming languages was helpful. I was able to apply both Python and R during my time with the NMDSI. I think that helped me during my interview.”
For any students who might be unsure about pursuing an education in data science, Ben wants you to know that no matter what your background is, you can still find ways to incorporate data science and maybe even choose that as your career path. “It’s not too late – I never heard of data science until I started my master’s program and even then, I still didn’t really know what it entailed. You can get into data science in a variety of different ways and at different points in your education. So, do whatever interests you. Whether that’s in biology or medicine or something completely different, there’s ways to incorporate data science into those areas. You still have the opportunity to pursue what you enjoy while incorporating data and analytics into a variety of different fields.”