Multiple Sclerosis

One Year at IBM

August 1st marked my one year at IBM.

When I was younger, it was hard for me to fathom the next 5 years let alone a year. After 26 years of life, even a year becomes unpredictable. I came to IBM doing one thing and have pivoted into a field I’d never anticipated would be for me.

Out of college, I started and failed at entrepreneurial life with two RPI classmates in Troy, NY. I was then thrust into fashion and beauty advertising at a boutique agency in NYC. I learned a lot about not only my ability to take on various skills on the fly but my preference for stability, which a small company could not afford me.

So I landed at IBM in August 2016 for building and maintaining a sense of community within the Analytics & Data practice. I was in charge of the internal site, newsletters, editorial calendars, and enabling over 5,000 marketers worldwide with analytics education. That lasted until the end of December 2016.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on January 3, 2017. The left side of my body was numb and immobile. Three months of medical leave left me sick with worry about if I’d even be relevant in Analytics & Data at IBM by the time I got back. Those months tried me physically and mentally. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and endless support from coworkers, friends, and family got me back on my feet in time for a new chapter in my career at IBM.

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I pivoted from community work into actual analytics work in March. My transition into content analytics was nerve-wracking. I’d never done anything like it but learned to query from various databases in SQL, ask the right questions to analyze pivot tables, and help advise marketers with their campaigns. Helping my coworker implement a 3rd party content analytics dashboard revealed a fundamental flaw in our content tagging standards and taxonomy. So I learned about that as well.

In June, I was graciously offered the opportunity to be the A/B testing and optimization lead after the departure of another incredibly talented coworker. With big shoes to fill, I was thrust yet again into a game of catch-up and keep-up. So far in the last month I’ve learned about setting up experiments and personalization campaigns, tackling synchronous vs asynchronous snippet loading issues, identifying certain digital data objects, creating calculations and dashboards in Tableau, and managing various work streams to create a center of excellence for testing globally at IBM. And by no means am I accomplishing this alone. It’s thanks to my supportive and (very) intelligent team and manager.

My new responsibilities are daunting and fulfilling and humbling. I am learning from the best and if you’d have asked me a year ago what I’d be doing at IBM, I’d have probably guessed just the same community initiatives. I’d have anticipated a healthy, consistent year. Now the future holds fun new topics to learn in data science. The future also holds regular MRIs to check that the lesions in my brain and spine haven’t grown.

So much can happen in a year. I’m grateful for my coworkers, my friends, my family, my Aetna case worker who calls me monthly to check up, and everyone else who does their part in my life.

What does the next year hold? No clue. I’ll keep going with the flow, soaking in as much as I can.

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