The Data Whisperer

My old classroom

My old classroom

About three and a half months ago, I applied for and was hired for my current position. My title is “Assessment Analyst” – but it functions far more like a Data Analyst. People around the college request data from me, and I access the various data systems that are in place and retrieve the information for them. Then I put it together into a functional format that allows them an easier time to look through the data presented and draw their own conclusions.  Sometimes, I am asked to draw a conclusion from the data points I present as well. Its a fun job. There’s the challenge of wrestling the information from the database – trying to find the right question to ask, and the right syntax to put that request into. In a manner of speaking, I am learning to be a linguist of data. A few days back, a fellow colleague of mine from the Instructional side of the house referred to me as a “Data Whisperer”.

As much as I love my new job, and thrive in the challenges that I am given – I actually miss being a professor. I miss being able to talk with students about various topics, and trying to find underlying correlations and relations to computer systems (I taught a class that was basically an introduction to computer systems and applications). Teaching the subject was one thing, interacting with students about the overall topic and allowing them to elongate the directions of the topic was intriguing. Some students never understood or caught the flow of what I was trying to bring to them, others not only grasped the concept – they took the tiger by the tail and carried conversations even further afield. Together, we spent time walking down the long, well-worn corridors of Computing History, and even find a few side-trails to take into the as yet realized future of computing. Honestly, as a professor, there was never anything more fun than watching the students take the current ability and application of a computing system and its related software programs – and dream up where it could be taken. And what made the conversations even more fun, was getting them to explain the “why” of their visions.

I truly do miss that.

Currently my position is not setup to allow me to teach. Going into the classroom would mean over-time for me – and as an employee at a state-funded institution, over-time is a huge no-no. My boss has promised me up and down that I can eventually return to the classroom – but I am a bit more realistic about things. My position is tied to the funding of another department – a federal Grant program – for the next three years. Until that time has elapsed, my position’s pay designation is not going to change. I can teach online for another college or university – but frankly, online is not the same as face-to-face. The interaction with the student is not quite there, in my opinion.

So why did I take this job?  Well, its a full-time position, as opposed to the part-time pay I was getting. And honestly, its hard making a living at the wages that an adjunct professor is paid. Plus, there was the challenge that the position offered. I do like a good challenge.  One day in the future…its a hope I will continue to have.  In the meantime, I will whisper to the data, and attempt to tickle the stories behind the ones and zeroes out into the open…

 

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