As Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month continues, Carlos Grajales shares his journey into the world of statistics. Carlos is a Mexican Statistician and Business Analytics Consultant. He runs his own consulting and polling company, where he has followed Mexican elections since 2010. He is also currently an Analytics consultant for PepsiCo Latin America and member of the Significance Magazine Editorial Board.
Ten years after graduating with a degree in Statistics, it’s fun to remember how it all started: how I made it into the Stats world. At the outset, I had almost no idea about what statistics was, yet I enjoyed math and was looking for some fun way to use numbers in my career. With that premise in mind, I began researching the different careers available to me. Engineering seemed appealing but I wanted something more diverse and broad. Economics also looked cool, but not “mathy” enough. In the midst of this research, I heard of one of the only two Statistics degrees offered in Mexico and after some digging into the University, I realized that statistics was just what I dreamed of: a chance to apply deep numeric analysis to almost any field you could think of. Statistics are everywhere, which is what I love most about what I do. It is inspiring to learn about new research, methods, and models where statistics are used in exciting and somewhat surprising new ways. After just a few months in college, I realized I could use my knowledge in Statistics to work on Industry related topics, psychological research or political science. I could work in the agroindustry or fora pharmaceutical company. Moreover, back when I was in college, using models to improve AI programs or image recognition software was something that seemed out of reach, yet currently these are areas of development where a statistician can employ his/her skills today. Almost any question a firm, a political party or a researcher has can be solved with stats and only a statistician can answer them.
You never get bored as a statistician. If modeling starts to become burdensome for you, you can simply change fields. For instance, I love politics, which is why most of my work is related to polling, political studies and social science research. But in non-election seasons, I get to collaborate with private companies to develop financial models, marketing research studies and Visualizations. This allows me a change of pace for a while and ensures I’m not stuck doing the same thing over and over. Few careers offer that much flexibility.
Another thing I love about my job, which is something not many statisticians talk about, is that in this career, you get to give your personal touch to everything you do. Consider that statistics is a career with no absolutes. By this I mean that there are not necessarily “right” or “wrong” solutions. It is fairly common to have two different approaches to the same problem, two different models and two different outputs. Many more, actually! Once you become experienced, the software you use, the decisions you make and the methodologies you employ will allow you to produce some very original analyses: something truly yours. The joy of feeling you created something unique when your job is complete can’t be overstated. We get that feeling often.
All this is why I have some important advice for anyone considering a career path in Statistics: Do It. I can’t stress enough how fun and diverse it is to work in this field. But beware, it’snot easy. You really need a solid math background to be a good statistician and these days it is becoming more and more important to have good programming skills. Be humble and always be ready to learn from someone else. It is great to collaborate with other statisticians who bring their own vision and ideas. Being a statistician is truly a collaborative endeavor and you will learn about many different topics and fields. A few years back I was lucky enough to learn about the process of producing coffee, the effects of family on addiction prevention and what factors drive voters toward a political option. And these are the just the topics I worked on while in college!
I could talk about the many job opportunities statisticians have (Polling is an area where we are in high demand-a great opportunity for anyone interested) or how it is considered among the fastest-growing and most profitable careers. But your career choice should be based on what you love, on what you dream about and what you aspire to. What you must really know is that, by joining our profession, you’ll be entering one of the most rewarding and exciting fields there is. I’ll be more than happy to welcome you.
Carlos is a Mexican Statistician and Business Analytics Consultant. He runs his own consulting and polling company, where he has followed Mexican elections since 2010. He is also currently an Analytics consultant for PepsiCo Latin America and member of the Significance Magazine Editorial Board.
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