More than spreadsheets and formulas, data analytics combines technology, creativity and strategic thinking to help diverse industries make innovative discoveries and leave an impact where it matters most.
Even historically, non-technical industries like agriculture, for instance, are tapping into data management and visualization to predict and reduce their carbon footprint – while others are using data to tell more compelling stories, improve health outcomes or advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
In other words, data science is for everyone and opens doors to a wide variety of career opportunities. Two SAS® users share more about how they landed in the data science space and how their data skills took their careers in new directions.
How sociology sparked an interest in data science
Growing up, Whitney Coggeshall never considered a career in data or computer science. Attending a rural high school, where few STEM classes were available, she had little exposure to math and science. So, with a heart set on a career in counseling, she decided to major in psychology. After earning her bachelor’s degree from James Madison University, Coggeshall decided to stick around to obtain a master’s degree in sociology, where she was first introduced to SAS.
“I realized I could be involved in psychology without actually being a counselor," Coggeshall says. “I got interested in measuring the unobservable and started getting more involved with educational assessments.”
After finishing her program, Coggeshall launched a career in research and assessment. She worked for five years as a measurement scientist, where she used research and psychometrics to create more reliable medical certification assessments. In 2022, she joined the Educational Testing Service as director of product impact research, where she uses analytics to make data-driven decisions in EdTech.
According to Coggeshall, developing skills in data and analytics creates unlimited opportunities for career growth – which is why it’s an investment worth making. “There are countless types of careers you can pursue if you like data, analytics and statistics, she says. “Opportunities are everywhere. Don't be afraid to explore nontraditional outlets.”
Pivoting from engineering to data analytics
Much like Coggeshall, Timothy Bowtell didn’t have data analytics on his radar growing up. He decided to become an engineer in his small country town in Australia and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Queensland.
He started his career as a mechanical engineer. However, after moving to support a new career opportunity for his wife, he found few open positions for junior engineers in the region. Hoping to use his problem-solving skills in a different capacity, he accepted a data analyst position at a hospital and began looking for opportunities to expand his skill set.
“I decided I needed to upskill to embrace the wealth of knowledge in the ever-growing field of data analytics,” Bowtell explains.
He pursued a master’s degree in data science at James Cook University, where he honed valuable data science skills and was first introduced to SAS – a decision that led him to his current role as a business intelligence analyst at the Moreton Bay Regional Council in South East Queensland. In this role, he supports the region's internal and external data reporting and explores smart city approaches to support one of Australia's largest and fastest-growing council areas.
Looking back, Bowtell recognizes that studying data science allowed him to support a career change and provided a foundation for several promising career opportunities.
“[It] expanded my data science horizons far more than I ever expected,” Bowtell said. “I had limited ideas about data science concepts such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing, and learning these new skills really opened my eyes to the vast possibilities and diverse avenues I could take in my data analytics career.”
A relatable story for everyone
Data science is for all. Despite having little exposure to data science early on in their academic careers, both Coggeshall and Bowtell were drawn to the field upon learning about its versatility, marketability and plethora of real-world applications.
Expanding their analytics skills with SAS allowed them to create opportunities and expand their career horizons – and rather than pigeonholing them into a narrow career path, it helped them to build a foundation for endless opportunities in the future.