Thanks to new and emerging technologies, data is everywhere. Everything from the songs we listen to on Spotify, the shows we watch on Netflix, and the steps we take while wearing a fitbit can be tracked, quantified, and connected to tell a data-driven story about our lives.
While this reveals much about us as individuals and consumers, the applications for collecting data on a larger scale are endless, and data literacy is becoming an in-demand skill for employers.
“There’s a lot of buzz about data science, and it’s well-deserved. We live in the era of big data where information is inexpensive to collect. Organizations and businesses rely on data scientists to transform raw data into solutions and communicate their findings in a way that positively affects decisions,” said physics Prof. and Data Science Chair James Puckett. “Across all disciplines and industries, employers value the skills needed to collect, understand, analyze and communicate solutions about data.”
Puckett added that, since its inception at the start of the year, the data science program has grown to include students across seven different majors who are developing interdisciplinary skill sets as they discover connections between data science techniques and their major.
So what exactly can these students expect to do with a liberal arts education and data science training? Just ask our alumni, who apply data analytics skills in their work across multiple industries, each and every day.
Patrice Brusko ’87
US Head of the Office of the Chief Data Officer & US Chief Privacy Officer, TD Bank
Political science major
“I credit Gettysburg College with developing my critical thinking and communication skills. In the data space, we can be bogged down with too much information or analytics for the sake of analytics. Because of my education, I have always been able to see the ‘Why?’ and to articulate complex data concepts in words anyone can understand. This is essential to design better customer and employee experiences and to improve internal processes of the business.”
Andre Hinds ’16
Senior Consultant, Deloitte Cyber
“What I enjoy most about my work with Deloitte and our clients is that I can have a tangible impact on our national security every day, due to the nature of the clients I work with and the work they do. I help clients understand how cyber threats are affecting their networks and connected technologies by thinking through their cyber risks. My research background at Gettysburg College focused on computational mathematics in an astrophysics context and I worked a lot with cluster modeling and predictive analysis. It is overly relevant to the work I do now, because I constantly work with large sets of data, analyzing patterns, spinning up models, and using those models to make predictive insights so we can start to automatically identify and inform our clients about potential threats.”
Greyson Norcross ’14
“The bulk of our campus climate survey work generates both qualitative and quantitative data. It can sometimes be challenging to work with both sets of data to create an overarching narrative and identify themes that go across both quantitative and qualitative data. My personal preference for data is qualitative, but I also recognize the benefits that come from gathering quantitative data. I find that I can be most impactful when I have quantitative numbers that back up or support my findings from the qualitative side. Together, I can help to share the stories of people whose voices may not always be heard and provide suggestions on how to improve.”
Matthew Pucci ’18
“Every successful company leverages all the data they can to tailor their product or service to their consumers. In my role, I work with algorithms to optimize bid pricing strategies for the company and our partners. Everyday is something new and presents a new set of puzzles to be solved.”
Raina Rusnak ’99
“Political Science Research Methods was my first foray into data. Our professor (and my advisor), Prof. Roy Dawes, repeatedly told us it would be the single most important class we took in college. Now, 20+ years into my career, I agree with his assessment. We spent time slicing data by various demographics to explore consumer sentiment on policy issues. We learned how to read data, detect potential problems, identify where we needed to dig further, and understand the strength and significance of how data points relate to each other. The foundation laid during this class helped me land my first job in research. Now, I geek out over data! I love the a-ha moment when we answer a business question, particularly when I'm surprised by a finding. I have fun with exploratory research, when we set out having no idea if something will test well.”
Allison Sadal ’10
“At Recruitics, we provide talent attraction solutions. I use data insights in tandem with a programmatic algorithm to ensure the performance of our client’s recruitment marketing efforts. The biggest challenges working with data is distilling the complex information to key stakeholders to influence decision making and obtain buy-in. Active listening and visual storytelling are key to engaging and educating audiences. Mapping the solution directly to the problem you are solving is critical.”
Kateryna Savchyn ’12
“My Gettysburg education has equipped me with a diverse set of interests and skills that make me good at asking questions and thinking outside the box. Specifically, Prof. Bela Bajnok’s Abstract Mathematics courses taught me a very key skill that I use every day: knowing how to set up a problem and prove my findings. Today, I use machine learning, visualization, and computational stats to bring clients the critical insights and recommendations they need to make confident decisions. I have had the privilege to make an impact in emergency management, financial, homeland security, and other fields that make me proud of my work. I am currently working on a COVID-19 relief project where I can directly see the positive effect my analyses will have on vulnerable populations.”
Scott Siler ’03
“Technical skills are important but technology, programs, and software evolve in perpetuity and like many industries you need to continually learn to stay relevant. That said, it’s never too soon to start gaining subject matter expertise in a particular area. Gettysburg’s liberal arts approach cultivates and advocates for multi-disciplinary and integrative thinking. Therefore, complimenting your programming, mathematical, and statistical skills with other disciplines such as finance, marketing, healthcare, or international relations will help you stand out among your peers.”
Stephan Vaz ’16
“The most significant impacts I’ve had in my professional career stem from data-driven decision making. I have worked at and with companies of all sizes, and one theme across all has been the importance of effectively analyzing data and deriving actionable insights. I have found that incorporating data into presentations, whether they are going to C-Suite executives or newly-graduated analysts, removes the bias from decision making and creates opportunities for corporations to strategically evolve.”
Learn more about our students and alumni who study and work with data, and see more outcomes from the Gettysburg network.
By Kasey Varner ’14
Photos courtesy of alumni