If you told high school me that one day I’d become someone who loves numbers and deals with them for a living... I can vividly see the frowning look on my face and an “ew” bursting out.

I started my journey in Waterloo in denial mode. I set my heart to phycology, since it sounds hip and cool, and that’s all I wanted to be as an 18-year-old. But my parents insisted I study math as it “grants you a promising career” (many of my fellow Asians can probably relate), so I did. I thought I’d probably switch majors after first semester, and was convinced I would not meet any like-minded people. And oh boy, was I wrong. I was amazed by the amount of different math majors and dedicated courses offered. And I met amazing people that I truly connected to and stay close friends with to this day. Waterloo got me CONVERTED. 

First year was refreshing and full of surprises, and quickly everyone’s first co-op term came. Unlike most of my friends, I was not in the co-op program. Unable to benefit from JobMine, plus getting excluded from all conversation surrounding it, certainly did not make the whole job-seeking experience any easier. Initially, I applied for major banks, insurance companies and big tech companies. The result was cruel: I either did not get any call back or never made it past second round. I started doubting myself, especially after seeing my friends getting offers from companies that I applied to. I wondered if the incapability of balancing sheets or coding with C++ made me less of a candidate. I nearly gave up, but thank god I’ve got a world-class support system — my family. They never stopped encouraging me, and one day after hearing an old Chinese saying, “every wood can be a buddha,” something clicked.

I realized that I didn’t have to hop on the same bandwagon just because everyone around me was doing it. We had different majors, and more importantly, different skill sets. I then started applying for jobs in industries outside math, and landed my first internship as a business analyst at a transportation company. The first home run encouraged me, and made me realize that my advantage might happen to be my difference. I then started venturing more outside my comfort zone, and ended up interning in three more drastically different industries before graduation: marketing, robotics and non-profits. During this adventure with myself, I started having a clearer vision of my future — what I like, what I want to be and, most importantly, what I need to do now to get me there. 

Brandy in front of carousel

Currently I am working as a data analyst for a software company dedicated to pricing strategy consulting for CPG manufacturers, where I get to explore both my analytical skills and creativity. My mathematical background allows me to interpret statistical concepts, thus work with data scientists to test and improve them. Marketing materials and client decks are where I let my creative juice flow. Almost sounds too good to be true, right?

So if there is one piece of advice I can give, it is to embrace and explore your difference. Believe it will make you stand out, and strive to achieve it.

Brandy Wang is a data analyst with creative flair. She earned her degree in mathematics and mathematical business.