We’re Never Done: Continuing My Education At Wayfair
November 25, 2019
Choosing between school and work can be an either-or proposition for many, whether for financial reasons or because there simply don’t seem to be enough hours in the day. When faced with this decision myself, I initially shared similar concerns. However, I soon found that at Wayfair this can be an “and” rather than an “or” situation. Wayfair encourages employees to continue their education and provides resources to help them do so. Though doing both is certainly a challenge, for me it has not only been doable, but also very rewarding. I am currently in my last semester of Georgia Tech’s Online Masters in Analytics program, during which I have taken classes in many areas such as statistics, operations research, and computer science. Over the course of my master’s program, I have found that my continued education has helped me greatly in my day-to-day work.
After graduating from college, I was in between two paths: continuing on to graduate school, or starting my career at Wayfair. Each option had its appeal: grad school would allow me to continue my educational journey, while Wayfair provided an opportunity to work in a dynamic, analytical environment. I decided to join Wayfair as a web analyst and quickly began to love the work that I was doing. One of the best things about working at Wayfair is the variety of projects that I can work on from day to day. From A/B testing to enhancing our world-class personalization algorithms, I use many analytical tools such as R and Python and I feel like I can learn and grow every day.
While developing my career at Wayfair, I also wanted to continue learning, gain more technical skills within analytics, and interact with other people with different skill sets. I soon learned that Wayfair offers many resources to help employees continue their education. My manager encouraged me to explore outside classes and told me about one of the resources available, the Wayfair tuition reimbursement program. After talking to my manager and other analysts following a similar path, I enrolled in a master’s program. With Wayfair’s help, I have been able to pursue my master’s degree for only $3K! Being able to do this has helped me further my job and career without breaking the bank, which is a definite plus.
The Benefits of Continuing My Education
My graduate coursework has been very helpful to me in my daily work as an analyst. In my master’s program I have taken classes such as analytical modeling, regression analysis, and data analytics in business, and these classes have helped me with many interesting and exciting projects here at Wayfair.
For example, one of the projects I’ve worked on at Wayfair is identifying which features are the most important in predicting conversion, using a feature importance model. The project entailed data munging to clean the data, sampling in order to get a balanced data set, conducting exploratory data analysis, and finally building the actual model. There were many layers of complexity throughout the project, and my coursework definitely helped me navigate the challenges that I faced. From my coursework, I gained experience utilizing some of the necessary skills (e.g. data munging), learning about various modeling techniques such as random forests, and working in Python in general. Projects like this have been some of the most interesting work I’ve done at Wayfair, and this program has been invaluable to me in navigating them successfully.
I have also deeply benefited from the networking opportunities graduate school provides. I love being able to interact with professors who have a variety of interesting backgrounds within analytics. It is incredibly interesting to hear about the work that these professors have done, whether it is in e-commerce, healthcare, or other industries. Hearing about these experiences has made me think about how I can use these analytical tools in my own job and career. Through my graduate program, I have not only been able to gain more analytical skills, but I also have developed an even greater interest in data and analytics because of the people I’ve met.
If you’re interested in going back to school, whether for a class or a full-length program, check out my tips for success below!
Tips for Success
1. Ask for advice while selecting a program
If you’re interested in doing a full-length program, one of the biggest choices is deciding which programs to apply to. Talking to colleagues is a great place to start, as they can provide perspective on programs they have completed and how these courses fit into their day-to-day work. Looking at different programs’ class offerings also helped me decide which programs would best fit my job and career. I would recommend going to information sessions and reaching out to current students for their opinions as well.
2. Look for the classes that will be the most useful
Selecting coursework can be a challenge—should you take the classes that seem easy, or should you challenge yourself with something more rigorous? It can be a difficult balance to strike, but I strive to take classes that are both interesting and useful in my day-to-day work and career. I would also recommend discussing your class selection with your manager, as he/she can point you towards the classes that are most relevant to your role. Choosing the right classes can help you make the most of your program.
3. Manage your time wisely
It can be difficult to manage time, especially when you have both school and work. Don’t overload your schedule, 1-2 classes per semester is plenty! Some other tips that I have found helpful: keep your schedule open during test weeks, and find a consistent time where you can get some studying done (e.g. early mornings). Setting a consistent schedule is important to avoid falling behind!
4. Connect with classmates
In my program, I have been able to connect with classmates through forums and video calls. While we all share a common interest for data and analytics, we come from all parts of the world (from Atlanta to Japan), with a diverse set of workplaces and interests (e-commerce, healthcare, sports, etc.) Through group projects and forums, I have learned just as much from my classmates and their experiences as I have from any formal class I’ve taken.