Taking Charge: How This Working Mom Took Control of Her Future and Pursued a Career in Data Analytics

Nikki Mingo Statum is many things. A longtime sales representative. A St. Louis native. A mother. But she’s certainly not one thing.

“I’m not a boring person,” said Nikki. “I’m not looking to do the same thing everyone else is—I’m searching for opportunities to learn and grow, especially as a professional.”

So when she began to feel stagnant in her sales career, she took matters into her own hands. Thanks to the Washington University Data Analytics Boot Camp, she expanded her skill set—and learned to approach challenges from a whole new angle.

Having doubts, finding answers

When Nikki graduated from college in 2000, she looked for a career that fit her marketing degree. At the time, sales made sense—but after 16 years, she began to feel uncertain about her choice.

“It dawned on me that I don’t want to spend my whole career in sales,” said Nikki. “I don’t want to reach retirement age and think That’s all? I haven’t accomplished anything else? I felt hungry to do more.”

Data analytics was an ideal path. With more data skills, Nikki could easily pivot to work as an analyst, a job that combines two skills she excels in: problem-solving with research. Plus, she would have the opportunity to join the thriving tech scene in her hometown of St. Louis.

“Data is the future. It’s where things are happening,” said Nikki. “I want to be part of that momentum.”

Nikki also focused on securing greater financial opportunities for her family. As a mother to a young son, expenses (especially future college considerations) can loom large. A data analyst position could offer Nikki a higher salary. “If I switch careers, there’s pressure to make sure I’m doing even more for my family, to help us reach our goals,” said Nikki.

Luckily, she wasn’t alone in this quest. One of her closest friends was also looking for a change. “We’d ask each other What are we doing with our lives? Where do we want to be five, ten years down the line?” Nikki said.

When Nikki’s friend suggested they both sign up for boot camps, she realized it was the perfect solution. She could continue working full-time and take classes at night. “I just thought It’s now or never,” said Nikki. “I wanted to do something different. This was my chance.”

Welcome to class

Nikki’s determination persisted as she began her classes—but of course, there were some challenges along the way.

The biggest setback was the coursework. Unlike some of the other students, Nikki didn’t grow up using computers or playing around with code. She was a beginner, and sometimes that felt overwhelming. “When we got into Python, I thought My goodness! This is hard,” said Nikki.

But she wouldn’t let Python—or any other language—shake her. She had come to the course wanting to try something new and challenging, and that’s exactly what she had found. It was up to her to overcome her doubts.

“I thought I’ve committed, I’m married to this course, and I planned to see it through until the end,” said Nikki.

She was able to do this thanks to the camaraderie of her classmates. Her new classmates-turned-friends—plus her boot camp friend in Chicago—gave her the support and the confidence to keep pressing on.

Finding her passion

On the plus side, Nikki found she had a serious passion for the class projects. The final project, in particular, became her magnum opus. While the rest of her classmates analyzed crime data, she chose to take a deep dive into something a little more fun: craft beer.

“After class, my friends and I always want to grab a beer, so I thought Let’s analyze the demographics of the craft beer market!” said Nikki.

She and her partner looked at cities across the country, comparing data on beer sales, liquor laws, grocery store traffic—the list goes on. In the end, they were able to determine the ideal spot to open a new craft brewery: Houston, Texas.

“It felt so good to have all these new skills and to use them to come to new conclusions,” said Nikki.

Nikki had the chance to show off her hard work at Demo Day, a course-culminating event open to employers and professionals from the community. There, Nikki presented her craft brewery findings to an eager audience, including representatives from Anheuser Busch.

“They were definitely impressed,” said Nikki. “On my end, it felt so good to present something worthwhile.”

Moving toward the future

In the end, Nikki made it through the course with flying colors. Even Python couldn’t stand in her way. So what’s next? More challenges met with more of her confidence—and a better future for her family.

Nikki went through a few rounds of interviews for data analyst positions with big-name companies (including Anheuser Busch). While she is still waiting to accept the right job offer, she has never felt more excited for her future.

“I dared to make this change and jumpstart my learning,” said Nikki. “Now I’ll be ready for whatever comes next.”

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