Where are they now?
A degree in mathematics from GVSU can lead to a variety of careers. In this section of the newsletter, we highlight career paths of our recent or past alumni to provide a window into the world of opportunities awaiting our graduates.
Career Path: During the summer before his senior year at GVSU, Ryan landed an internship with Auto Owners Insurance in Lansing where he learned COBOL programming and about the insurance industry. After graduating in 2011 with a degree in Mathematics and a minor in Statistics, Ryan returned to Auto Owners as a full-time employee and worked for 3 years. In 2014, he relocated from Lansing to Grand Haven to begin a new job at Holland, a regional trucking company, as an application developer where he continues to grow his skills in that field.
Job responsibilities: As an application developer, Ryan works with a small team to manage business applications in the company’s freight management system. He works with project managers and business analysts to translate business requirements into new code. His team is also responsible for creating reports and troubleshooting problems when they arise.
The best part of the job: “Although I’m not crunching integrals or proving theorems, I get to apply those problem solving skills every day,” Ryan said. “I get to devise algorithms and then write up documentation to show that it works under a specified set of circumstances – not unlike a proof.”
Advice to students: "Study what interests you and then meet with your professors and advisors. They have many connections to opportunities you may not have considered. Find a way to pair your math degree with something in demand, such as computer science, statistics, engineering, etc."
Career path: After graduating in 2012 with a B.S. in Mathematics and a minor in Statistics, Zach went on to obtain an M.S. in biostatistics from the University of Michigan. Zach now works at the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids as the primary biostatistician in the Bioinformatics and Biostatistics Core Team.
Job responsibilities: The Van Andel Research Institute is an agile biomedical research institute focused on making breakthroughs with various diseases, primarily cancer and Parkinson's. As the primary biostatistician, Zach is responsible for overseeing the statistical analysis on many different projects, editing manuscripts, assisting with grants, offering statistical advice, and putting together seminars to educate interested individuals on statistical data analysis.
The best part of the job: Zach loves working with a diverse group of investigators, learning more about their work, and using his expertise to help them solve problems in their research projects.
Advice to students: "Other than making sure I actually put effort into my homework, the most beneficial things I did in undergrad were giving talks outside of class and doing an independent study. The ability to stand up and speak confidently and coherently in front of a group of people is useful for any career path you follow and doing an independent research project looks good to all employers, especially good on graduate school applications."
Career path: After graduating in December 2015 with degrees in Mathematics and Economics, plus a minor in Statistics, Holly continued her work at Steelcase Inc. as a procurement analyst. Holly was hired in on the procurement team in July 2015 after interning in the finance organization for two years.
Job responsibilities: As a procurement analyst, Holly supports the supply chain organization with anything related to analytics. The procurement team has a big responsibility to purchase all the materials necessary for Steelcase to produce office furniture globally. Holly helps track important metrics that provide visibility to the procurement team about supplier quality and reliability, and serves as a liaison between IT and the business to meet the data needs of the procurement team. Another portion of Holly’s role is to develop the analytics culture. She works to empower the global team with data by hosting trainings on how to extract and manipulate data to increase efficiency and insight to the business as a whole and for individual employees.
The best part about the job: As the journey to establishing an analytics culture changes, so does Holly’s role. She imagines that her job six months from now could be very different. Today her team spends a lot of time working on the basic building blocks of establishing good data. As they develop a solid data structure, they will have more time to spend on descriptive analytics, which spark questions about how to better predict future outcomes, and can lead them to prescribe solutions for those anticipated outcomes.
Holly also enjoys being able to connect with people not only in procurement, but across the company and the globe. She is able to work with such a diverse set of people in different organizations across the company.
Advice to students: Holly encourages students to keep their perspective of school in check. "Students often say or think something to the effect of 'I will never use what I’m learning in this class in the real world.' Often it’s not the actual content you learn in class, it’s how you learn. Instead of approaching a subject as an obstacle to achieving a certain grade, or even a degree, work to really get something out of the class. Use the course as a way to improve communication skills, understand how to collaborate effectively on a team, improve time management, reconsider the methodology of how to solve a problem, or even reflect on what you would do the same or differently if you were leading a group of people. There is always an opportunity to learn something from a class."
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