How an AU grad found a second career in data analytics
Transforming Lives: Learners of AU is an ongoing series where real students and alumni share how AU’s flexible learning model made a difference in their lives and, in turn, the communities in which they live and work. Submit your story.
Two-time grad and current student Wes Sauder finds success in data analytics thanks to Athabasca University
To say Athabasca University (AU) had an impact on my professional life would be an understatement. I finished my undergrad in 1997 with a degree in physics but felt compelled to continue my education after I entered the workforce.
My lifelong learning journey with AU started 20 years ago when recruiters visited my employer in Ontario and told us about the benefits of their programs. I took them up on the opportunity and was accepted into their Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. At that time, I was travelling, working shifts, and involved in major vehicle launches and was not able to rely on a traditional brick-and-mortar university to pursue my academic goals.
Pivoting during recession
After graduating from the MBA program in 2007, I left the automotive industry during the recession with more than a decade of experience. I was able to progress through new positions in quality and process management consulting in a new organization.
A common thread emerged through many of my projects where front-line employees needed faster methods to process and ensure quality. I began to look at how automation and data analytics can support their work and operations. I integrated various methods over a few years and after multiple projects I realized I needed to incorporate more advanced IT and analytics development into my academic goals.
“The flexibility and candor from [AU] staff and professors provided me with the ability to achieve my goals while living far beyond the proximity of any other local school.”– Wes Sauder (Master of Business Administration ’07, Graduate Certificate in Data Analytics ’18)
Once again, I looked to AU for help and enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Data Analytics program, with the longer goal of joining the Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) if I was successful. I achieved success in the certificate program and was awarded with a scholarship prize upon graduation. This prompted me to go further and become a student in the master’s program.
Achieving goals from anywhere
The flexibility and candor from staff and professors provided me with the ability to achieve my goals while living far beyond the proximity of any other local school. The value I gained from the program at that time was immeasurable and really provided a springboard into strengthening my abilities in the IT and analytics field. I felt more confident, and although I faced a layoff and a growing family, I was still confident I could provide value to an employer even while going through a major career change in my mid-40s.
Today, I am a few months away from graduation and my third AU credential. I’m finishing my paper to defend my research I conducted in human facial analysis and face re-enactment using deep learning implementing conditional generative adversarial networks, a modern AI technique.
I have been given the opportunity by my supervisors and AU faculty to present my work in several conferences and workshops, and develop a solution to a potential patent my supervisors, Dr. Vive Kumar and Dr. Ali Dewan, hope to file.
I have found progression in my career, moving from a non-technical analyst role through analytics and data science lead positions at Cineplex to landing a recently new role as a data architect within a business analytics team at HydroOne.
I am proud to be part of the AU learning community for 20 years. Without the confidence AU gave me during my low times and the skills necessary to allow me to perform during the high times, I’m not sure I would be in the same position I see myself now.