Sam Austin

Product Manager, Delta Dental of Virginia

From:   Roanoke, USA
Course:   Data Analytics
Before Springboard:   Musician and Data Analyst
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[My mentor] really gave me a lot of confidence. I would say we kind of became friends during the course.
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Meet Sam Austin, a graduate of Springboard’s former Business Analytics Skills Track

Throughout his career, Sam always found himself drifting into informal data analyst roles. After joining a company’s sales or marketing team, he would notice problems with the organization’s data and offer to clean it up. He didn’t realize he was doing the work of a data analyst until a few years later—when he decided to “make it official” by obtaining a certification from Springboard.

Today, Sam is a product manager at Delta Dental of Virginia, an affordable dental insurance provider. An avid musician with a B.A. in writing from Yale University, Sam spent several years playing show tunes at bars in Manhattan’s East Village. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sam could often be found playing atmospheric soundtracks at private parties.

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What initially interested you in Springboard’s Business Analytics Skills Track (a precursor to the Data Analytics Career Track)?

I always ended up backing into these data analyst jobs. I would take some other job and then I would see that the company had problems with their data. It’s so funny because nobody told me this was a career.

I’d taken some data science classes on Coursera but these classes were taught by instructors who had used data analytics in an academic setting. I really wanted something that was geared toward people in the business community. Springboard was the first one that I came across, and it would give you a marketable certification.

The Springboard certification not only gave me the confidence to even think about getting data science jobs, but it gave me a lot to talk about at interviews and it’s what got me hired.

What was your relationship with your mentor like?

It was very good, very freewheeling. We didn’t just talk about assignments, but about how I might market myself, what sort of things I could do. He really gave me a lot of confidence. The thing is, I had done a lot of this work before, I just didn’t have the certification. I would say we kind of became friends during the course.

Tell us about the job search process after your Springboard graduation. What did you find easy, and what did you find challenging?

One of the first challenges was explaining to people that business analytics has nothing to do with IT. I can’t tell you how many calls I got from recruiters that were looking for someone to do software implementation.

The second thing is, I don’t want to explain the importance of data to a business, they should know that already. And that’s the other problem: there are a lot of employers who are interested in it, but no one really buys into the value of data analytics and you don’t have a champion for it within the organization.

What was the most valuable part of your Springboard experience?

The Springboard case studies really helped me get my current job. To me, if you’ve done a case study as part of a certification, that’s the same as if you did it on a job. It’s work experience. So I was able to talk about those things, and sometimes I didn’t even say that I had done it with Springboard, because there’s no difference.

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The Springboard case studies really helped me get my current job.

Tell us more about your current job as a product manager at Delta Dental.

I am now a product manager but my focus is on data analytics. So I go to our website and I look at three goals: visits to the site; requests for a quote and conversions; and which measures how many people actually bought a policy. I am charged with extracting that information. I put it into a spreadsheet and I prepare slides and report it weekly.

A long-term project I’m working on is around calculating customer lifetime value. So I analyze customer data: where are they from, how old are they, how long have they been with us, what is the average term of their policy, where do they tend to drop off? What I’m really getting into is cohort analysis. So I’ve selected a cohort that gives me five years of data and I’m trying to analyze what happened in that period.

What’s your advice to students who might be interested in becoming data scientists or data analysts?

If you have a certification from Springboard but you’re not getting hired in the role you hoped to get, then take a step back, get your foot in the door where you think you’re going to have access to the data, and start doing data analysis for them. Start doing some reporting that makes good use of the data you have at your disposal, and then you’ll start building out a role—especially if you’re doing reports that people miss if they don’t get them.

Here at Springboard, not only do we pride ourselves on our students’ successes, but we genuinely believe that their dreams are what make up the foundation of our mission. Our alumni dream big—and they make big moves in stride. So we’re shining a light onto some of our favorite alumni stories: their journeys tell stories of accomplishment, grit, and determination against all kinds of odds.

Find more inspiring Springboard student success stories here.

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