Sociology researcher discovers tools for interpreting Big Data

“No matter what field you are in, it’s important to be able to understand data.”

As a former sociologist who specialized in quantitative analysis, Oana Fechete knows a thing or two about interpreting and analyzing data. She earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology in Romania, where she worked in qualitative and quantitative market research and socioeconomic research for six years before relocating to California with her family.

When she settled in Silicon Valley, she wanted to find a way to further develop her analytical skills and gain the necessary skills and experience to enter the American job market. The UCSC Silicon Valley Extension Database and Data Analytics and Marketing Management certificate programs were the perfect fit. She completed her certificates in 2015, and made plans to become a quantitative user experience researcher.

What attracted you to UCSC Extension?

Before I even knew about UCSC Extension’s international program, I wanted to take courses here. I needed to learn about the work culture in Silicon Valley and learn new skills. I wanted to learn the industry buzzwords and learn what I need to be successful in a new job. When I saw that Extension can provide F1 visas, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity for me.

Why Database and Data Analytics?

I already have a strong background in sociology and quantitative analysis in the social and economic fields, but I needed to learn some very technical programming skills to help me stand out. As data sources for research activities become more varied and complex it is necessary to learn tools that will enable you to make use of all this data available. R is a tool used in data analysis. I started the program without any programming experience, and after taking two courses, I learned R and SQL.

What made you interested in marketing?

I have some experience in market research in Romania. I wanted to understand the logic behind market research, and to better understand the marketing culture in the United States. I really enjoyed the Principles of Marketing class; the instructor was really professional and knows a lot about what’s happening in Silicon Valley. The Power of Market Research course was really good; it offered a lot of practice.

What were your courses like?

All of the projects I did were interesting. I learned a lot in our team projects by trying to find a way to interact with my colleagues, because for me it was the first time working on a multicultural team. We were from all different backgrounds, and I found the diversity in our classes to be really great because it reflects the work environment in Silicon Valley. I got really good practice when we presented in front of the class, because it was my first time presenting in English. I liked getting to see how other people presented, and how they chose to make their material interesting. Because some of my colleagues are working professionals, I got to see how they brought their company culture with them to the projects. I really enjoyed the experience and being surrounded by people who are so motivated and focused.

Describe your internship experience.

I found an internship through UCSC Extension’s Internship Advisor, who sent my resumé out to a few companies. I got to intern at a startup that was a perfect fit for me. I got a chance to do some data analysis using SQL, and I made a survey for them for marketing research. It was a good combination of analysis and market research. Because the startup where I interned was part of an incubator program at the Plug and Play Tech Center, I got immersed in the startup environment. It was a really good experience.

What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing a career in marketing or data analytics?

Know your strengths; build your story and learn to sell it. Try to improve your communication skills. If you have the chance to go to Meetups or presentations like Toastmasters, that can be a great networking experience. International students compete with people who already have the connections, background and experience, so you have to work hard to convince people that you are valuable.

No matter what field you are in, it’s important to be able to understand data. You might have the technology to gather the data, but even then you’ll need to get insight from it. It’s important to develop those analytical skills.

Alumna Update

Last we checked, Oana Fechete‘s dreams were right on track and she was working as a UX researcher at Google in Silicon Valley.

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