By Jan K. Orr
Professional training in a high- demand field helped this certificate program graduate get back on his feet during the pandemic.
“I spent about two years thinking about investing the time and money. I wish I had spent two days…No doubt it was the right decision – I actually received a 10% pay raise with my first new role following completion of this course”
As was the case with many, Kevin Burr joined the ranks of the unemployed during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown. Unlike most, however, Kevin found a new job, complete with a 10% pay increase, shortly after being laid off. How did he pull off this seemingly miraculous feat? It started nearly a year earlier, in June 2019, when he enrolled in the Center for Professional Education’s Data Analytics Certificate Program.
Kevin recalls, “I checked out many other programs out there and felt the course was more practical than some that I looked at. I also liked the idea of fully online and chose the one-year program to allow me time to work and take care of my personal life while also brushing up on new skills. UT’s program afforded that opportunity to me at what I considered value pricing.”
The Mentorship Model: No Boring Lectures in this Course.
Not only was the price right, but the 100% project-based, learn-by-doing curriculum also boasts a unique mentorship model where the program is taught live, by mentors who coach students, rather than lecturing. In fact, the mentor experience was Kevin’s favorite aspect of the program.
“Logan Crawford (Kevin’s mentor) was outstanding. While we, of course, discussed coursework, I also found him really personable and approachable to discuss personal challenges and get valuable professional feedback,” Kevin says. “Honestly, in this time of COVID lockdown, losing my job, and struggling to find another, it was really helpful to hear about the opportunity this course would provide those who complete it. Logan kept me motivated, which was not something I expected out of an online learning course from UT Austin. This model…enables the mentor to do their job, which is to mentor and prepare students for the real world of data analytics.”
Focused Career Coaching Helps Students Distinguish Themselves from the Competition
Mentors also help prepare students for their new careers by conducting mock interviews, assisting with resume creation and providing feedback on portfolios that will ultimately be used to showcase their skills to prospective employers.
According to Ben Manning, Senior Mentor, “Data science interviews can be very difficult and often cover a wide range of topics and skill areas. All of the mentors have worked in different industries for years, so we’re able to throw a variety of interview situations at our students to prepare them for what they’ll encounter in a real job interview.”
Those job search tools obviously worked for Kevin who reports, “I recently accepted a new Director role with a company where I am now responsible for defining the entire enterprise data management platform strategy. While it builds on my previous experience in this field, there is no doubt when I interviewed with the CTO, I was able to differentiate myself by my ability to speak about data pipelines, the formal methodology we learned in this course, and the potential business use cases we can solve with machine learning. I secured my current role as a direct result of not only my past experience in data management but also my new, deeper understanding of exactly what machine learning can – and equally, if not more importantly, cannot – do for an organization.”
The One Thing He Would Have Done Differently
In hindsight, the only thing Kevin would have done differently is to have enrolled in the course sooner.
“I spent about two years thinking about investing the time and money. I wish I had spent two days,” Kevin admits. “I wasted a lot of time trying to understand the ROI on this educational opportunity. No doubt it was the right decision – I actually received a 10% pay raise with my first new role following completion of this course – so in some ways, my new company is reimbursing me the expense. Additionally, I am far better equipped to tackle the challenges associated with modern data management and analytics, which I am applying daily.”
Data analytics has been and continues to be one of the most in-demand skill sets that employers from all industries seek. Upgrading your current skills or gaining a whole new set of skills can launch you into a new career or position you for a better salary or higher rung on the career ladder in your current organization.
In Kevin’s words, “Don’t wait…just enroll and commit. You won’t regret it.”
Jan K. Orr is a Marketing Coordinator for TEXAS Extended Campus. She studied computer science at The University of Texas at Austin and holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University.
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