Day of STEM recently interviewed Sandra Hogan, a Data Analytics Specialist with SAS Australia/New Zealand to learn more about her career and background in STEM. Sandra is featured on the Day of STEM platform as an industry mentor in the Collingwood STEM Cup program, which is available to students now. Read her story below and check out her profile on the platform.
Can you provide us some of your personal background?
Sandra Hogan: I’m the daughter of first-generation immigrants to Australia. My parents were born in Hungary and we came to Australia in the late 1960s. They came from humble beginnings in search of a better life for their family. In Australia they worked in low-skill jobs with little formal education, and always encouraged me to focus on my studies. I spoke only English at school as my parents and the community I lived in mostly spoke Hungarian. My love for mathematics came at an early age as I could relate to numbers easily at school as there was no language barrier.
When did you realize you wanted to study STEM?
Sandra Hogan: I’ve always been pre-disposed to inquiry and the sciences. During school I had a natural curiosity, asking the tough questions on how things happen and how things work. I can remember in primary being fascinated about human evolution and the natural sciences, particularly the formation of the earth and continents.
Did you have any teachers who helped you identify your passion?
Sandra Hogan: I had some excellent teachers who were very passionate about the STEM subjects and actively encouraged students to be inquisitive. I attended Bayswater High School in the Melbourne area, which at the time had difficulty getting students to stay on and complete upper secondary courses, as many people opted to move into trade pathways.
My secondary physics and mathematics teacher, Mr. Phillips, had a profound influence on encouraging me to pursue STEM. Mr. Phillips had career in the private sector and moved into a teaching career as he was passionate about young people. He excelled at using real-world examples and connecting them to the theory we learned in the classroom. Mr. Phillips was very excited and full of energy, almost quirky, which was appealing to many students including myself. He had a fun and engaging way of teaching and was the stereotypical “mad scientist.”
How did you decide what to major in at university?
Sandra Hogan: Initially, it was difficult to narrow down exactly what I wanted to study at university as I was interested in nearly all of the sciences. I started off at Monash University doing a double-degree in mechanical engineering and general science. I honestly didn’t enjoy the engineering side of the degree, and found it difficult to relate to the faculty and coursework. At the time, the faculty and student body were dominated by men and I found the environment quite uncomfortable. I lasted six months and then dropped the engineering degree and focused completely on science, which I found to be much more comfortable. I bounced around studying the different scientific disciplines and eventually concentrated my efforts on mathematics.
How did you find a career path that related to your passion for maths?
Sandra Hogan: The careers department at Monash helped connect me with a professor who provided me with some good advice. He helped me understand practical applications of where mathematics and statistics are used in business. During my honors year at Monash I did a project on operations research, which monitored manufacturing production and the statistics behind improving outcomes. My first real job was on campus at Monash University at the Accident Research Centre working as a statistician. We analyzed, modeled and were able to predict different rates of injury for people involved in motor vehicle accidents. Using our research, we worked with local government agencies in the local communities to improve safety and reduce rates of injuries in vehicle accidents. Afterwards, I joined the Transport Accident Commission and did statistical modeling around analyzing injury profiles.
How did you make a name for yourself in the industry?
Sandra Hogan: I found out early on that statistics was applicable to a wide-range of industries and realized I needed to develop a focus-area. I came to realize that when doing any statistical analysis, the important part was developing outputs that are valuable in making business decisions. My specialty within the organizations that I worked for – or my “claim to fame” – was the ability to combine statistical modeling and market segmentation. That became a turning point in my career as it was something I enjoyed doing, and also something that the market valued at the time, as it does today. My second major job came in the telecommunications industry running different analyses and modeling for consumer credit risk and later marketing insights. I was elevated to a leadership role and began managing data and analytics teams across these organisations. At the management level I was able to step outside just doing analytics, and begin working with internal customers to actually sell the results and value of the analytics the team developed.
Any advice for young people thinking about their future?
Sandra Hogan: It’s important to talk to as many people as you can. Particularly outside of your regular network of contacts or community. Get different ideas and perspectives from a range of different industries and experiences. Find out what you are passionate about early on. You’ll be working for the majority of your life and it’s important to work in a field that you’re personally excited about.
About Sandra Hogan:
Sandra is the Director of Business Analytics Advisory at SAS with over 25 years of industry experience in Business Analytics and Marketing Sciences. She leverages her degree in Statistics and Mathematics to help companies improve their business processes and customer experience. Sandra is very passionate about using data in ways to help people in their everyday lives. Outside of work, she loves her Bikram yoga practice and getting outdoors with her family.
About SAS Australia-New Zealand:
SAS is the leader in analytics. Through innovative analytics, business intelligence and data management software and services, SAS helps customers at more than 80,000 sites make better decisions faster. Since 1976, SAS has been giving customers around the world THE POWER TO KNOW®.
To succeed, organisations must find new ways to put analytics into action and unlock the most value from their data. This is where SAS comes in. With the world leading capabilities of SAS, companies and government agencies in Australia and around the world are making sense of their data faster than ever before and with greater depth of insight.