Scholar: Yewande Marquis
Undergraduate Course and Grade: Economics, Second Class Upper
Undergraduate University: Babcock University
Graduate degree: Dual Masters – MS Applied Economics and MS Technology, Illinois State
I studied Economics at Babcock and i knew i wanted a degree abroad eventually. I was interested in working in the Energy/Oil &Gas industry and started researching programs related to Energy Economics.
Research, research, research
It’s very important to define your goal for graduate study so you can come up with an action plan for success. Leverage the resources on the internet and in the form of people to get more information.
The program at the school I eventually attended struck me because it was unique. I conducted my due diligence by reviewing the curriculum to see what classes I would take, the potential job opportunities after graduation and the alumni profiles on the website. I knew that I wanted to work after school, so in my school research, I looked out for programs that offered professional practice/internship experience.
I learned that the program was aligned to its own research institute which received funding from agencies like the Department of Energy and hosted its own conference for industry professionals every semester which students were expected to attend. The cherry on the cake was learning that the program had partnered with several companies in the industry which students were matched to for paid summer internships. I was hooked and immediately reached out to the program director for more information and to see the available funding opportunities. I automatically qualified for a G.A. when I applied to the program. I was granted admission and awarded a part-time research assistant-ship which allowed me work 7.5 hours a week for my department, while receiving a stipend and tuition waiver. This allowed me attend graduate school tuition-free paying only a minimal amount each semester for general fees. I picked up other on-campus jobs to earn more money to supplement my stipend.
I lost my funding
I struggled with adjusting to the school system and curriculum and failed to meet the requirements to keep my assistant-ship. I lost my tuition waiver after one semester and it was very rough. I worked extra hard in my second semester and even took more than my recommended course load to beef up my GPA. Thankfully, I scaled through and had my GA re-instituted.
Why double masters? How did I fund both?
Admittedly, I didn’t set out to study for a dual Masters. I was always interested in Project Management and luckily for me, my school offered a graduate certificate in that. In my second semester, I decided to start taking classes with the goal to graduate with the PM certificate alongside my Masters degree. With each class I took, I realized I really enjoyed the learning and class activities. I talked to the program coordinator to find out what other courses within the department I could take as electives and learned that they offered a Masters program focused on Technology Quality Management and Analytics (QMA).
My Economics coursework involved some analytics but with a research focus and I was interested in learning more about it from a business perspective. I opted to take one class in the QMA sequence and was sold. At this point, I had taken 4 classes within that department and needed about 7 more classes to complete the degree requirements. It implied staying one more semester plus it’s a STEM-eligible program which authorized me to work in the States for two years longer than my Economics degree would have. I opted to enroll in the second program and completed both degrees simultaneously for two semesters till I completed my first masters. My tuition waiver had covered both programs until this point where my final semester was now left unaccounted for. I expressed my need for funding to this department, applied for and was awarded a graduate assistant-ship to complete my final semester.
The job search begins…
After my first year, I started channeling my efforts into finding a job. Thankfully, I had built a solid network during my summer internship and had a fair idea of the path I wanted to work in after school. I started applying for jobs at the beginning of my second year with the intention of targeting companies whose hiring cycles started after October. I didn’t get my first interview until March of the following year after applying consistently for almost 7 months. I started to realize that the field I was qualified to work in (Regulatory/Utility Economics) was very niche and in a space that had very few internationals so I found it very difficult to land an offer once companies realized I would require work visa sponsorship.
Give yourself multiple options (have a Plan B or C)
I went back to the drawing board and realized the value in my second degree. Project Management and Analytics are applicable to every industry and are excellent skills to have. My Economics degrees also provided a solid analytics foundation, so I didn’t have a steep learning curve. As much as I loved the idea of working in Energy, the opportunities weren’t forthcoming, and I was running out of time to find a job.
After graduation in the U.S., international students have 90 days to find a job or leave the country and I hoped to get a job before graduation. I continued looking for these Energy related jobs but also started looking Project Management and Business Analyst positions. At this point, I was nearing the end of my 4th semester with another summer in view.
Do not be afraid to re-brand and try something new when your chosen path isn’t going as planned
I landed a second internship as a Business Analyst intern for a food processing company where I realized I also enjoyed business analytics. When I started looking for full-time positions again after my internship, I re-branded myself as a Data Analyst/Business Analyst. About 3 months later, I landed my current job as a Tech Project Consultant and I haven’t looked back.
Challenges will come throughout your journey and your transition might be as hard or worse than mine but what’s important is learning from your mistakes and rising back up every time you fall.
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