The rapidly growing field of big data is upending everything from commerce to industry and applied science. One University of Melbourne graduate is right in the thick of it, helping online giant eBay manage its data in Shanghai.
“Big data is a very hot area at the moment in China,” says Xiao Su, a graduate of the Bachelor and Master of Science. “The market is booming.”
Majoring in Stochastic Process and Statistics at university, she now works as an accounts manager at eBay in Shanghai, after stints at analytics firm Opera Solutions and Citibank. Her work at eBay involves figuring out which kinds of data the client needs, extracting it from eBay’s data warehouse, examining data variables, identifying which models work best with the data selected, and then running evaluations.
It’s a complex job, but Xiao says it’s a rewarding one.
“I think that it’s very important to choose a job that broadens your skills and knowledge, not one that restricts your abilities.”
When she embarked on her Bachelor’s degree she had never set foot in Melbourne. But Xiao found a welcoming and diverse community that supported her through her studies.
“It’s a great city with great culture, people and food of course,” she says. “I was there to study, but I also wanted to have a personal life. It’s a city where you can have a lot of fun around studying.” Xiao mentions the art galleries, museum, beaches and parks as particular highlights of her time in the city. And she believes these experiences helped her land her first job.
“Employers want you to define yourself as an overall human being,” she says. “How to meet people, how to communicate with people … these are important skills to develop.”
Before moving to China, Xiao made use of the university’s career service on campus, which is free for students and recent graduates and can offer help with tailoring resumes. She also did her research. “Choosing an entry-level job is not easy, and for those who don’t have any specific interests, I suggest getting an internship first. You can spend three or six months trying different workplaces out.”
Asked why she went straight from undergraduate to postgraduate study at the University of Melbourne, she says that “in China, there are lots of Bachelor graduates. If you want to stand out when applying for jobs, you have to make yourself stand out. That’s one of the reasons, and secondly, I wanted to enhance my mathematical knowledge and get exposure to modern/front tier technology.”
Not only did she find the coursework interesting, but she made connections with fellow students, some of whom she is still in touch with today. Those relationships don’t just benefit the individual graduates, but also the companies for which they work.
“I got to know one of my fellow students because we took the same subjects many, many times, and he is now a PhD graduate from the University of Melbourne. He wanted to find a job in the industry and came to me for a discussion on whether going to industry or further into academia was right for him, and I wanted to know more about the high-level statistics he researched. We exchanged our knowledge and industry experiences, and I think this benefits both of our companies."
While on campus, Xiao was also fortunate enough to be selected for a student ambassador program, where team members co-operated with a soccer team to educate young people about bike safety. The project gave her real-world experience working with an industry partner and also taught her about leadership, a skill that Xiao says is increasingly important.
“Leadership really matters. That’s a key thing that employers are looking for.”