Change the World with Your Data

ROI Solutions

You @ 25: A Journey from Creative Writing to Data Wrangling

ROI Solutions | You @ 25 Lucas Cunningham

About three lifetimes ago, when I turned 25, I was unemployed and living in a small apartment in downtown Salem, MA.  The retail store I worked at as an assistant manager had closed about 6 months prior.  After that, I took a temporary clerical job in the curations department of the MFA Boston.  They offered me a full-time position, but while I enjoyed the people and location, I didn’t enjoy the commute, and the work wasn’t what I wanted.

After some half-hearted job searches, I interviewed for a data entry position at a tech publishing/aggregation company called EBSCO Publishing in nearby Ipswich, MA.  The interviewer, my soon-to-be boss, asked what led me to apply there, to which I replied, “I want to work with computers.  Not just data entry, but if there were an opportunity to learn more, I’d love the chance.”

I hold a B.A. in English from Salem State College with a concentration in Creative Writing, and during my freshman year, I took a Computer Programming 101 course but quickly decided it wasn’t for me; it was much too rigid.  I was deeply interested in computers, but I enjoyed creative writing where syntax and grammar could be playful or bold or surprising, powerful even.  Computer programming didn’t have that same feel, and I remember the first exercise in class was a miserable experience trying to ensure every letter, space, word, line indentation, and symbol was precise.  The horror.

The interview went well, and to my delight, and the relief of my mother, I was once again gainfully employed.  After some time there, my new boss started throwing small programming jobs at me, letting me learn to write macros, which led to me exploring VBA and writing programs that helped us manage the data we received from around the world.  Eventually, they promoted me to oversee a department dedicated to data wrangling, which gave me more opportunity to learn programming skills, writing my own web crawlers and data transformations.  I could now see and understand the syntax and grammar of programming languages as something that could be playful and powerful.  I remember accidentally renaming the Windows directory on one desktop computer I used; poor Windows 98 never recovered.

This was the last job I held before joining ROI Solutions.  Cut to me today, 16+ years at ROI Solutions and still wrangling data, still learning new programming skills on the fly.  Before this prompt, I hadn’t thought about who I was, where I was, or what I was doing at 25, but it turns out I was just starting the single most pivotal journey in my professional development.

This is part of an ongoing series of You @ 25 blog posts where ROI Solutions staff, clients, and partners reflect on lessons they learned at 25 (or through 25 years of professional work) that still guide their path today. Do you have a story to tell?  Email [email protected].

Get the latest ROI Solutions 
News & Insights