USER STORIES

From pre-med student to senior data analyst

By keeping an open mind, following her curiosity and seeking advice from mentors, Geeta turned an interest in technology into a successful career.

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TOP 3 LESSONS

  • Follow your passions and your interests as they evolve.
  • Take advantage of any resources you have available to get to the next step.   
  • Find mentors who can help guide you along the way.    

THE JOURNEY

Bachelor of science
in biological sciences with a minor in nutrition

Dual master’s degrees
Master of Public Health in epidemiology and a master's in biomedical sciences.

Research assistant
at Health Research & Educational Trust of New Jersey. Learned SPSS software, which sparked an interest in data exploration and analytics.

Fellowship
in ORISE epidemiology with the US Army Public Health Center (APHC) Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Directorate. 

Recruited
by the US Air Force for a data analyst position, then landed a senior data analyst job in New York.

Currently
enrolled in the big data certification program through the SAS Academy for Data Science.

SEE THE BENEFITS


ON LEARNING SAS®

During my time as a Master of Public Health student, I was introduced to SAS in a biocomputing class. I continued using it in other courses.


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#1
SAS is rated one of the top skills to have in today's job market.

75%
of professionals want mentors, but only 37% have one.

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ON FINDING A MENTOR

My career has developed into this incredible profession where I found my niche as a result of various mentors who recognized my interests and guided me in my journey.    

There are so many cool things to learn and not enough time. I need a clone! Geeta Kersellius

MY STORY

Q: When did you first start thinking about becoming a data analyst? Were there any skills or talents you had as a kid that led you in this direction?

A: I always had a desire to be involved in the medical profession and decided to pursue a pre-medical track while in college. I earned a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Cook College, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. After graduation, I was offered a position at an infectious disease laboratory as a clinical laboratory technician. I thoroughly enjoyed this work and decided to earn a master's in biomedical sciences – I felt it would solidify my scientific background and continue in the STEM field.

I [later] met with the school’s dean and was encouraged to pursue a Master of Public Health with a specialization in epidemiology. This dean later became a mentor to me.

Q: By this point, did you have a pretty solid idea of what you wanted to do careerwise, or were you still figuring it out?

A: In the final year of my program, I served as a research assistant at the Health Research & Educational Trust of New Jersey, where I helped design, plan and conduct epidemiological research. I learned new software for data exploration and analysis. This proved helpful in my next position.

Read more of Geeta's story

Q: What happened after grad school? Did you land a job right away?

A: After graduation, I went to my grad school’s career center to help me with my résumé, mock interviews and job search. I found a job with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education; I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to gain experience in the federal government sector. I applied for an ORISE Epidemiology Fellowship with the US Army Public Health Center’s Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Directorate. Since this position required public health knowledge and SPSS skills, it was a perfect fit for me.

Q: Clearly you had an interest in public health and technology. Which came first, and how did you merge the two?

A: While at the Army, I discovered my interest in the data management aspect of the epidemiological research process. This sparked my desire to pursue the next position with the Air Force – I was recruited for a data analyst position within the Public Health Research Department at the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. It gave me a chance to use my SAS skills that I learned in the MPH program, and I loved it!

Q: Tell us about your current job. What skills do you get to use, and what do you like about it?

A: I’m supporting the Department of Defense Global Respiratory Pathogen Surveillance Program at USAFSAM. This program monitors respiratory disease burden in the military on a global scale to ensure force health protection. I serve multiple functions on this team as a data analyst, epidemiologist and occasional backup to our application engineer.

Q: Looking back on your education and career path, is there anything you’d do differently?

A: I would have taken more computer science and technology-related courses in school. I think that would have helped me – but technology is constantly changing. To stay ahead of those waves, you need to be a continuous learner.

I think it is extremely important to identify those individuals who have been where you want to go and tap into their wisdom.

TOOLS FOR SUCCESS

Base SAS® Software

Flexible, extensible 4GL and web-based interface for data access, transformation and reporting.

SAS® Enterprise Guide®

Access the power of SAS from a point-and-click Windows interface.

SAS® Certification

Get certified in SAS to validate your skills and set yourself apart.

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Mentors Matter

First mentors: My parents. They have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and strive for excellence.

Second mentor: I went to a conference and attended a presentation by Kirk Lafler where he discussed the importance of SAS certifications and volunteering in your local SAS Users Group. I was moved by his enthusiasm for SAS and approached him after the training to ask if he would mentor me. He accepted and has mentored me ever since.   

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Useful Users Groups

Joined a SAS Users Group while in graduate school to increase SAS knowledge.

Moved to Maryland and joined the Washington, DC, SAS Users Group.

Now president of the Greater Cincinnati Area SAS Users Group.

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Value of Certifications

At one of my users group meetings, I won a base programming certification prep guide. This promoted me to learn more about this certification program and obtain the base programming certification credential. I went on to pursue the advanced level programming certification. Since learning the SAS macro language and how to apply SQL code in the SAS environment, I’m able to create more efficient programs.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO NEXT?

Share Your Story

Whether you sailed through college and got a job immediately – or you took a more meandering path – we'd love to hear how you landed an analytics career. Tell us your best moves, your worst roadblocks and your most insightful advice and we might feature you in a future user story.

Tell us about your analytics career journey.

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