By Dearbhála Quinn, Statistician at Exploristics
I’ve always been told that I was a very inquisitive child, or maybe that was just my parents’ polite way of saying I didn’t give them a moments peace, because after watching some home videos and hearing my endless “What’s that?” and “Whys?” I’ll admit that I may have been a bit much. Nevertheless, this did serve me well in the long run and fuelled my somewhat slow start to the world of STEM.
My earliest memory of maths was in primary school, I used to love pretending to play shop and count the coins to give back as change, but as the years went on it became brutally apparent that my knowledge of times tables wasn’t quite up to scratch (I always got “shot” during the quick-fire times tables shoot out). For 8-year-old Dearbhála this was very troubling, I remember going home to my parents and begging for their help. My daddy was instrumental in helping me discover my love of mathematics, from playing darts with me to help with my times tables, to asking me random sums at dinner and his quirky play on words to remember the geometry of the rhombus, “Dearbhála the bus is a square, now Ram the Bus and you have a Rhombus”. It was all a bit weird and wonderful, but it worked! Once I had these basics and fundamentals in place, the rest came naturally, and I gained a place in Sacred Heart Grammar School in Newry. From the open night I was introduced to their laboratories, exciting science experiments and the prospect of making new discoveries.
I gravitated towards numerate subjects throughout my entire secondary school life, studying Maths, Further Maths, all three sciences and Economics at GCSE. My school was great for encouraging STEM related subjects, pushing us girls to develop these skills and granting us opportunities to gain insight into the industry. A personal highlight for me was our A-Level physics trip to CERN in Geneva, which is a research organisation that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world and home to the Hadron Collider consisting of a 27km ring of magnets. This was incredible but despite the impressive facilities, it did make me to realise that I wanted to work more alongside people instead of particles.
I was always sure my subjects were Maths and Physics, but I was never certain about what I wanted to do with them career wise. The age-old response from people when I told them I loved Maths was, “That’s a great subject, it keeps your options open and there’s so many jobs” to which I’d nod and smile, while thinking to myself “Yes but could you elaborate please?”. In short, they rarely did elaborate and so I decided to just do what I loved and began studying Applied Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University, Belfast (QUB). Here, I really believe I found my feet, I got exposure to some great modules, the use of state-of-the-art labs and got to work with knowledgeable lecturers.
In my final year at Queen’s, I decided I wanted to give something back and I got involved in the PAMSoc (Physics and Maths Society) and met some great, like-minded people. We represented our peers, organised conferences, social events and most notably built connections within rising companies in Belfast. I count myself very lucky for the education I received and the teachers I’ve had who always encouraged STEM and dispelled any prejudices that may be present in the industry.
As I started my final year at QUB, I began to give more consideration to my future career and the “so many jobs” that everyone talked about. During this time, I was working in Primark, where I had the opportunity to work as the cash officer (clearly all those years of playing shop keeper had paid off!) Dealing with figures made me so happy and I loved to the idea of an office job because it genuinely didn’t feel like work.
These experiences helped shape me and when I came across Exploristics through my university careers website (please use these!) I was drawn in by the company ethos, the ability to problem-solve and in doing so ultimately help people. I saw this as my opportunity to combine my favourite things, Mathematics and People! In my short time working in this industry and paving a career for myself, I can honestly say it has been so amazing to work in a company where men and women of all ages are treated equally, and their expertise valued. Having been through the Analytics Academy training, I have learned so much about the industry and gained invaluable experience.
Now, years later I can honestly agree with those that talked to me about STEM because there really are so many jobs, I will just make sure that if asked, I will elaborate and give examples of such jobs. Personally, I believe it’s all about daring to take that first step and find the right fit, I always refer to the quote from my favourite movie ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ which is…
“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys (and girls!). Make your lives extraordinary.”
Some advice from a young, budding statistician would be to Seize the day, Stay true to yourself and Study STEM! ?