Data Analysis and Visualization Student Starts New Role at Teachers Pay Teachers, NYC Edtech Company

September 29, 2020

Vianny Lugo shares her journey and advice for getting your job search off the ground (even in a pandemic).

Vianny Lugo
Vianny Lugo

Even before completing the M.S. Program in Data Analysis and VisualizationVianny Lugo was hired to join the analytics team at Teachers Pay Teachers, an edtech company named one of the 50 Most Innovative Companies in the world by Fast Company in 2019.

Lugo, who is in her third semester and expects to graduate next year, started her new job a few weeks ago after previously working in a data role at a nonprofit research organization. “The projects I’ve completed for the program were key for this transition,” she says. Teachers Pay Teachers asked her to do a 45-minute presentation on a project she was passionate about. She expanded her final project from the Data Visualization Fundamentals class, and drew on the Working with Data class to decide which techniques to highlight. Lugo recently spoke to The Graduate Center about this rapid start to her career:

The Graduate Center: How did you become interested in data visualization?

Lugo: In undergrad I changed my major four times and ended up being a psychology major with a concentration in neuroscience. I was involved in the data collection aspect of different research projects, and was always interested in the data analysis part as well. I took some statistics and data-related classes during my last two years of undergrad, and learned about data processing and analysis. 

After undergrad I worked as a data analyst at a research organization, where I learned how to apply the knowledge I had acquired and learned new skills. However, I quickly realized that I was still a psychology major, and it would be harder to demonstrate I have the necessary skills for future employers. What drew me to the M.S. in Data Analysis and Visualization was the focus on the more technical aspects of working with data (and visualizing it), and that the program offers classes similar to other programs at private and more expensive universities.

GC: How did the program and coursework help you get your new job at Teachers Pay Teachers?

Lugo: The classes not only helped in preparing a project that was worth presenting, but it’s also something I included on my resume, which helped show recruiters that I was passionate about working with data. In addition, the knowledge I acquired from the classes helped me use the language they were looking for when interviewing for the position. For example, I was able to take a Data Warehousing class this summer, and they loved that I understood how to work with databases and could successfully communicate with the data engineering team.

Taking [adjunct professor] Michelle McSweeney’s visualization class was also instrumental. I didn’t understand the value of reporting/creating dashboards until I started looking for jobs. There’s no point in processing and analyzing data if you can’t get insights from it and present it to the key stakeholders in a way they can understand. 

GC: What do you hope to do in your new position?

Lugo: I’ll be working in the analytics team, and will be supporting different teams across the organization (e.g., product, marketing, finance). I hope to learn the language the different teams use, as well how learn to apply technical concepts to areas I hadn’t been exposed to (for example, finance). 

GC:  Did the Office of Career Planning and Professional Development also help you with your job search?

Lugo: Yes, earlier this year I went to the career office for resume and cover letter help, and [career adviser] Don Goldstein gave me really good notes for my resume. He also advised me to network as much as possible, which helped to get referrals and more interviews. I didn’t end up applying to jobs right after meeting with Don (because the pandemic...), but incorporated his advice into current versions of my resume. 

GC: What advice do you have for students who are hoping to follow a similar career path?

Lugo: Definitely network. Even if you have the skills, referrals are crucial (at least in tech companies). Go on LinkedIn and search for people who have the job title you want, or who are in the industry you want to be at. Send them a cold message and introduce yourself, tell them you’re interested in XYZ for XYZ reasons. Say you’d love to connect and chat about their trajectory. A lot of times those requests get ignored, but sometimes people respond and want to genuinely help. Having informational interviews is a great way to practice how to pitch yourself, and to figure out whether the position, industry, or company would be a good fit. When I was beginning the job search, I had at least seven informational interviews scheduled every week.