Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Explaining what I "do"

Being from central Kansas, it's always a challenge to explain to relatives what I do for a living.  There aren't a lot of businesses in rural KS, certainly not many using high-level analytics.  Generally the conversation goes like this:

(please read bolded sections with strong central KS accent)

What do you do for a living?

I write programs and code that analyzes data and makes decisions like who we should market to, and who we should make loans to.  

So you're a computer programmer?

Kind of.. but that's just a window into the analysis side of....

(eyes roll back into head)

Yeah, sure, I'm a computer programmer.

This used to be worse because I worked at  (doing similar work to what I do now) .. and would receive questions about whether I help load boxes onto trucks (of course, I didn't).  In fact, relatives acted more positively about idea of me loading boxes, because it's physical labor (which they respect more), and something they can easily understand.

The interesting thing is my relatives interact with a number of companies quite often that use data science.  They all use google, facebook, and a variety of other modern businesses.  But it seems that the lack of those businesses (and professionals) in their communities makes it difficult to understand the types of jobs that allow those businesses to function.

Explaining what I do doesn't bother me a lot anymore, but I find it funny, and possibly why there aren't a ton of small town kids going into data science or STEM in general.  When you don't have exposure to large businesses, and their demands for weird combinations of math, statistics, software engineering and programming skills it's hard to imagine why you would ever try to develop those skills.