International student Harmeet Kaur chose to complete a Master of Statistics and Operations Research at RMIT. She was attracted by its strong statistics program and reputation for academic excellence.
Master of Statistics and Operations Research
I have always enjoyed problem solving and mathematics and decided to move to Melbourne after finishing high school to study data analytics.
Tell me a little about yourself: interests, experience, background etc.
I am a third-year Analytics student at RMIT. I have spent my entire life here in Australia and grew up in a coastal town near Geelong. I have always enjoyed problem solving and mathematics and decided to move to Melbourne after finishing high school to study data analytics. When I am not studying or working I enjoy going out for food with my friends, reading fiction and learning new languages.
Why did you choose to study a Bachelor of Analytics?
I have always been good at mathematics and science. In high school, I did not have a clear career goal, but I knew that I wanted to study a STEM degree. I found the Analytics program at a careers expo and it stood out to me as being an interesting, specialised and up-and-coming area of study. I considered studying similar degrees at other universities, but RMIT stood out to me as being in touch with current trends and demands in industry and having strong industry connections.
What are some of the myths about this area of study? i.e. what has surprised you about this experience?
One myth about this area of study is that you need to be very intelligent to study it. People are usually quite shocked when I tell them what I study and often comment about how difficult my course must be. While more maths focused analytics degrees like mine are certainly challenging, a lot of analysts in the workforce have transitioned into data analytics positions from other degrees like business and do not have a mathematical background. Since most of the difficult aspects of data modelling are handled by libraries, data analytics is easier and more accessible than most people realise. Learning the theory definitely makes you a far better analyst however and it is useful to have an advanced knowledge of statistics for certain tasks.
Another myth is that only socially awkward guys study maths. My program is roughly gender-balanced and most of the people I have met have been friendly, welcoming and easy to talk to.
What have been some of your achievements during your studies?
One of my main achievements during my studies is being awarded and completing the AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship. The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) awarded me a scholarship last year to research the behaviour of Trust Regions and the BFGS method in Non-smooth Optimisation alongside Prof. Andrew Eberhard from RMIT. Together we made some new and interesting discoveries which I had the opportunity to present at the AMSI Connect conference this year. The other main achievement is, of course, my internship.
How did the ASIC internship come about?
The WIL co-ordinator for my course found this opportunity through the university’s industry connection with ASIC and emailed it to students in my program. I felt that the internship was the perfect opportunity for me as I wanted to discover whether I would enjoy working in finance and whether I would find it rewarding. I thought that I would not stand much of a chance against other third-year students who had completed placements as I was a less experienced second year without work experience, but I managed to present myself well and my application was successful in the end. The application process was the same as most jobs; I had to submit a resume and cover letter and attend one round of interviews.
What are some of the tasks/projects you have participated in during this internship?
Over the course of my internship, I have had the opportunity to work on some interesting tasks.
I have written reports for senior managers and have even had the opportunity of contributing to a report written for the Commission. I also helped another analyst with the administrative work for an interesting recent high volume matter which received a lot of media attention. More recently, I have started automating repetitive data processing tasks using Python to speed up reporting processes and will start an interesting data modelling project soon.
What has been the value - for you - since you started your internship?
The main value to me is to have the opportunity to apply the skills I have developed throughout high school and university to a meaningful purpose. The reports I have written have helped staff in senior positions to make better decisions which can sometimes positively impact staff or the general public more broadly. This position has helped me to understand the role of analytics in industry and see the impact it has on improving how organisations operate. It has helped me to understand the Australian financial system, decide whether I want to pursue a career in finance and has opened my eyes to a career in intelligence or regulation which I had not previously considered. Overall, I consider this internship to be a big step forward in the direction I want my career to head in.
Do you have any particular career plans? If so, what are they?
I don't have any definite career plans, but I want to work somewhere that will provide me with a strong sense of purpose. I have enjoyed working for ASIC and can see myself continuing to work there as I feel like the work I do is meaningful and the people there are very friendly and welcoming. Otherwise, I could see myself working somewhere else in either finance or intelligence. I definitely want to continue studying after I finish my degree as I enjoy learning and still have a long way to go to become an expert in my area of study. I am considering studying a masters degree in analytics or finance or a PhD in statistics.
Is there anything else related to your studies you'd like to share? Recommendations? Advice for your younger self?
My advice to my younger self or any students starting their undergraduate studies is to take up as many opportunities as you can while at university. Most of us do not have relevant work experience and there are many opportunities at university to start building experience and demonstrating a willingness to apply and involve yourself more than the average student. Everyone you compete against for a job will also have a degree, so success mostly comes down to a person's soft-skills. The job market is competitive and undergraduates should be thinking about what they can do now on top of their studies to give themselves an advantage.