Look and Dabble: Video Transcript

Kirk Mueller (MS Statistics, Miami, 1992) [Statistician, United States Bureau of Labor Statistics]: My undergraduate work had a concentration in mathematics, and I actually had a minor in philosophy, and working through that, I wasn't very certain where I was going to go with the pure math, in terms of a career, and getting to work more hands-on with something like statistics was a big driver in my choice in terms of how I transitioned from that undergraduate direction to my master's level work.

Going through the graduate degree and learning to have to juggle more things, really gave me a perspective on how to juggle as many things as possible. I know talking to [Dept. of Statistics chair] John Bailer, talking to him about life philosophies and how to keep as many balls in the air as you could, I got a lot of good advice from him on how to measure what the hottest burning fire is, and how do you bounce from thing to thing.

Moving into a master's program was much more of a mentor-mentee relationship with the faculty versus a clear teacher-student that you had at the undergraduate level. For lack of a better term, maturing into that sort of relationship was probably the coolest bit about my experience, and going through the program.

There are a lot of career paths in statistics and directions that you can take. Certainly, in the same realm that I'm in in terms of government statistics, it's a constantly expanding field. We are much more in an information age, where people are looking for quick data, quick ways to research items, and try to figure things out. And there is going to be a continuous push to get more data, get better data.

I think the liberal arts education exposes you to as many things as you can possibly be exposed to, and in understanding how the world as a whole works and figuring out how that then relates to whatever your career path is, is very valuable.

Look and dabble in as many different potential fields as you can, or as many different concentrations as you can, until you can find something that really connects with you. In doing that, make certain that you are picking up the basic skills that you are going to be able to work through to be the frontline researcher or developer, things like programming skills, working with data sets, and doing that very hands-on stuff, so that if you have aspirations to move up and be directing more things, you understand the nitty-gritty details that are always the bits that take up 95 percent of your time. As long as you are doing the things you want to do, you can find a way to manage it all, as long as you can kind of manage to identify where things are critical at that point in time.

[April 2016]