Skip to main content
Science › Chemistry
British Columbia Cancer Agency - Genome Sciences Centre
Statistician
SFU Alumni

Seagull on a beach
Our intellect will always grow to acquire new interests and seek greater challenges – fulfilling these desires makes our careers rewarding beyond the paycheque.

I recently took a vacation from my former role as a statistician at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. I did not plan a trip out of town - the spring weather was beautiful in Vancouver, and I wanted to spend time on the things that I like to do in this city. Many obvious things came to mind - walking along beaches, practicing Python programming and catching up with friends - just to name a few.

Yes, Python programming was one of the obvious things on my vacation to-do list, and I understand how ridiculous this may seem to some people. Why tax my brain during a time that is meant for mental relaxation, especially when the weather is great? 

As I mentioned in a previous blog post on a career in statistics, one of the best and most important features of my profession is the necessity of constant learning. The job market for statisticians and data scientists demands a very wide range of technical skills and concepts, and learning all of them during my academic education was outright impossible. In order to stay competitive in the job market, I have to constantly learn new skills and concepts as I progress in my career, and that requires anticipation of the things that my industry will demand from me.

Python is a powerful computer programming language that is used a lot in data science and statistics, and I notice that many good jobs in my field require it as a core language. Unfortunately, during my education, I only learned R, SAS and MATLAB, so Python seemed like a natural next step. 

Learning a programming language requires focus and patience, and my vacation was the perfect time to add Python to my skillset. In addition to the benefits of learning Python for career development, I really enjoy programming - especially learning new skills that allow me to solve statistics or math problems in new ways. Over the period of a week, I spent 2-3 hours each day completing a free online course at Code Academy, and I loved every minute of it. Not only did I feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each session, but it also got my day started on a good rhythm, and my brain felt energized for the rest of the day.

Of course, learning Python was not the only thing I did during my vacation – remember that my list included more relaxing pursuits like walking along beaches and catching up with friends. I loved that balance and diversity, and at the end of my vacation, I felt nourished – physically, emotionally and intellectually.

The need to stay competitive in the job market is essential for all of us. Our industries will grow and change with new innovations, and we may move to different cities with varying supply-and-demand dynamics for our particular skillsets, so no job – however permanent on paper – is ever 100% secure. Our intellect will always grow to acquire new interests and seek greater challenges – fulfilling these desires makes our careers rewarding beyond the paycheque. To respond to all of these forces – internal and external – we need to constantly learn new skills, and a vacation is a great time to do that. If you have found your passion, then learning new skills will be a valuable complement to all of the other fun things that vacations traditionally offer.

British Columbia Cancer Agency - Genome Sciences Centre
Statistician
SFU Alumni
Connect with Eric on social media: WordPress, Twitter, YouTube Eric Cai is a former Career Peer Educator at SFU Career Services who graduated in 2011.  He now works as a statistician at the British Columbia Cancer Agency. In his spare time, he shares his passion about statistics and chemistry via his blog, The Chemical Statistician, his Youtube channel, and Twitter @chemstateric. He previously blogged for the Career Services Informer under “Eric’s Corner” when he was a student.  You can read all of Eric's newer posts here.
visibility  39
Jul 22, 2014

You Might Like These... Prospective, Professional Development, Career Exploration

Co-op students jumping in the air
The Co-op Connection Helps Retention

In this blog post, Heather shares with us why co-op is an important experience for all students, whether it be to further career aspirations or to gain future employment opportunities. 

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

Working on campus
The 10 Minute Commute – Resources and Useful Information for Working on Campus

Have you ever thought about working in a place that you are familiar with?  Perhaps a Tim Horton’s close by? For many students the idea of working at SFU might be a great option, if you prefer a 10 minute jaunt to work after class or an opportunity to learn more about how a university operates.

You Might Like These... Career Exploration

glass and plate shattering from being dropped
Make Excellent Mistakes

What is your fear? Is it fear of… Heights? Taking risks? Making mistakes? Something else? Answers will vary but one of Yat's biggest fears is making mistakes. However, despite this fear of mistakes, throughout several Co-op work terms over the last couple of years, he has had his share of experiences making them. Read more to learn about Yat's mistakes, and how to learn from yours. 

christina wu laughing
Life After Co-op Series: Connecting Local and Global Experience

Christina Wu finished a joint major in Business and Communication at SFU and is now working as a Communications Coordinator for the BC Council for International Education. She sat down with us to share her rich Co-op experiences and how they played a significant part in developing the skills and connections she has today.

tax papers with a coffee mug next to it
Reflections

Leo Ng is a fifth-year BBA candidate in the SFU Beedie co-op program who worked at for Canada Revenue Agency for 8 months. He shares what training is like, learning on the job, and in this article, he shares his overall reflections on what it was like to work as a Taxpayer Services Agent.