May 24, 2023Print | PDF
By Katherine Plante
On Thursday, May 11, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Career Center welcomed alumni faculty, staff, and graduate students to the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics for an evening of networking. The event focused on working within data analytics in the age of AI and highlighted the careers of three Lazaridis School alumni.
Evan Lyons (MA Political Science ‘14), head of analytics and data solutions at Ontario Securities Commission started the event with his keynote presentation on analytics in AI.
He discussed the importance of thinking from the perspective of domains - adopting, and honing-in on skills that are transferable across multiple domains. This idea is fundamental as the analytical industry is reshaped by technological advancements.
With many fearing the uncertainty that new technology can bring, Lyons urged the audience to not fear layoffs in the industry. Rather, he encouraged being aware of new trends and embracing the new tools available to them. “If you understand where the field is shifting, you can ensure that your skills remain relevant”, said Lyons.
Lyons referenced a John F. Kennedy quote: “Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or the present will surely miss the future”.
As technical skill barriers are increasingly reduced, more emphasis is put on developing soft and interpretive skills. Lifelong learning and continuous improvement of these skills is more important than ever. Lyons stated that these skills allow you to focus on the “why” while still searching for the “how” in data analytics.
Lyons' keynote presentation was followed by a panel discussion that featured three Laurier alumni who discussed their unique career paths and provided valuable advice to those considering pursuing a career in analytics:
Each panelist shared their unique experiences when it came to how they got to where they are today.
Chu’s pivotal moment in her career happened during her undergraduate capstone project. She used AI in this project which intrigued her and led to enrol in the the Lazaridis Master of Science in Management Analytics program. During her MMA degree, she undertook a consulting project with TransX which led her to her current position with the company.
Fernandez shared that he has had a variety of pivotal points in his career. He came from a math and statistics background and has also been a high school teacher. He has had a number of major shifts in his roles within RBC. For each change, he focused on what aspects he was good at and brought those aspects along with him to his next role.
Moeni knew how to tell stories with data and wanted an edge in supply chain management. He has moved away from the business side of things and has been focusing more on the technology side where he attempts to make sense of data in the supply chain. He told the audience, “the pivotal point came when I began being honest with myself about what I excelled at.
All panelists emphasized the importance of networking with anyone who is willing to extend a helping hand.
Moeni has found benefit in connecting with those who are similarly skilled within his company. Chu said networking can be unexpected and that connections can be made at the gym, on vacation, and more. Fernandez said that you need mentors within your company, connections outside of the industry and connections within the industry but outside of your company.
The panelists were asked what technical skills are needed and how important coding is in their current roles.
All three panelists agreed that they do not code as much as some may think. Fernandez undertook coding a lot earlier on in his career but now has a team that specializes in this, giving him more time to focus on high-level tasks. Moeini had to learn a new coding language and said that this is common when starting a new role. Chu added, “Every data job is different and will require different tools.”
The panelists provided their opinions on how they see technology changing in the future.
Moeini has already seen a shift in the integration of multiple tools and believes this will continue. Whereas Fernandez acknowledged that technology is important, but the fundamental piece is knowing how to use it. “Surgeons use tools, but they have to know how to use them,” said Fernandez.
The panelists also provided advice for those who are interested in a career in data analytics.
Chu emphasized, “It is normal to have imposter syndrome as I have experienced it myself. It is also okay to not know everything, and it is important to realize that you can never actually know everything. This is why it is key to always ask questions and to continuously learn.”
Fernandez said that pursuing a career will always be competitive, so it is important to have grit and resilience. “However, it is also key to not burden yourself with ambitions to further your career. This is integral for sustained long term career growth and avoiding burn out.”
Moeini acknowledged that technical skills are important in this field but emphasized that soft skills are equally as important. He added that graduates should keep up the momentum but to keep in mind that advancing in their career is not a race.
The Lazaridis School thanks Evan Lyons, Whitney Chu, Randolph Fernandez, Keivan Moeini, and the Laurier Career Centre for sharing their insights and career journeys. Learn more about the graduate programs offered at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics.