Simplicity in Complexity
Elom Goka ’14 was passionate about tutoring at Beloit, in which he was forced to explain complex ideas in simple terms, which proved to be a valuable experience in his current role as a Data Scientist working in the corporate world.
To what extent do you think your high school education and experience have prepared you for college life?
In terms of education, I completed the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in high school. As you may know, IB is a rigorous educational program, which requires hard work and discipline in your studies to succeed. These qualities were instilled in me through the program, and I carried that into my college experience. As part of the IB program involved in my education experience, I volunteered as a tutor for elementary school students. The volunteer experience made me realize how much I enjoyed sharing my own knowledge to expand others’ understanding. Aside from enjoying tutoring, it has also prepared me with strong communication skills to continue being a tutor and a teacher (1-year teaching position) during my time at and after Beloit. High school also helped me learn how to manage my time between academics and my other hobbies (playing basketball and singing in the school choir).
What drew you to Beloit?
Honestly, as an international student, Beloit College was one of the few colleges that I had an opportunity to know about on a personal level. Some of my high school alumni, who had attended Beloit, encouraged me to choose Beloit for its rigorous education program regarding my intention to apply for a liberal art institution. That was why I attended Beloit - a place that would offer me an expansive intellectual grounding in all kinds of areas while at the same time preparing me for in-depth knowledge in the field of my chosen majors.
As you have mentioned that you wanted to have the freedom to explore different areas of study, do you think that your expectations were met?
Yes, for sure that Beloit College has incredibly exposed me to a wide range of subjects. In the first two years, I was required to take different classes to complete the required domain, ranging from arts to sciences, such as having a taste in sociology while learning about the human body in biology class. And I really appreciate that opportunity. Having a chance to explore and discover myself, I figured out my interest in economics, mathematical thinking, and the combination of both majors to apply to real-life problems. I quickly declared my major in Economics in my freshman year and Mathematics the following year. The liberal arts structure also taught me to think differently by preparing me with problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that are valuable experiences.
How did your education (the courses and departments) at Beloit College help guide you to the career journey you are currently pursuing?
The majority of the Economics and Mathematics classes I took were very helpful in training me to think logically. I really enjoyed Professor Bob Elder’s mathematical economics classes and Professor Ranjan Roy’s mathematics classes. They are both great teachers whose lessons were always easy to absorb knowledge. The Econometrics class with Professor Bob Elder gave me a taste of what data science was like and introduced me to my current career path I did not even previously know existed. In this class, I worked on a project to identify what factors significantly affected the likelihood of a National Basketball Association (NBA) team winning a game. After graduating from Beloit, when I decided to pursue data science as a profession, I used this project as a talking point in interviews for admission into graduate school.
Could you share with us about your volunteer experience as a tutor while at Beloit?
While attending Beloit College, I tutored as a volunteer for the Academic Pathways Ministry and the Upward Bound Program. Aside from the fact that I enjoyed tutoring, it also prepared me for the 1-year teaching position I had at a high school after graduating from Beloit College. It gave me experience in figuring out how to explain complex ideas in simple ways, which have also proved useful even in my current role as a Data Scientist in the corporate world.
What was the most important aspect of your experience at Beloit College that you remember and value in your professional and personal life?
Beloit College has always prepared me with an open-minded mindset and a well-rounded education that helped me thrive in various career pathways after graduation. In my senior year, I was not quite sure what career path I should follow given my Economics and Mathematics degree; I applied for several analyst positions in the financial field but did not get any jobs. I, therefore, decided to apply for Math Teaching positions since I have always enjoyed the concept of sharing my own knowledge to aid others’ successes. I accepted a position to teach AP Statistics at a high school for a year, and during that period, through research, I decided I wanted to pursue data science professionally. I applied to a Master’s degree program. The institution I applied to had not only a strong educational program but also a strong career services program and job placement rate. I accepted a master’s degree enrollment offer to attend the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University.
Do you have any advice for current seniors who are considering continuing their education at a graduate school?
For graduate school programs, the big-name schools may not necessarily have the best educational program for your field of interest, so it is very important to do thorough research and not just apply to a school based on its popularity.
What is your current job? Could you walk us through your typical day at work?
I am currently working as a Senior Data Analyst at an American health insurance company - Humana. My typical day at work revolves around building regression models to identify and refer at-risk customers for care management referral and performing the correlation analysis and the explanatory analysis.
What would be some advice you would give to someone who wants to enter your field?
For students majoring in Economics or Maths, I would strongly suggest learning one of the following programming languages: SQL, R, or Python. In general, knowing one of these languages will significantly increase your chances of getting a Data Analyst position.