Kelsey Warsinske: Why Statistics is the ‘Sexy Major’
April 4, 2019
Statisticians are passionate about what they do, and for Kelsey Warsinske, a data scientist at a Silicon Valley tech company, she’s always been encouraged to learn about statistics. Very early on, Kelsey was encouraged to of its applicability to many fields and companies, high pay and interesting day-to-day projects.
We sat down with Kelsey to talk with her more about what she loves about statistics and why statistics is essential to any career path you choose.
When did you first become interested in statistics?
My mom really inspired me, because she encouraged me to look into this field and said it was a great way to get a job.
I think as a high school girl, I just had this dream of wanting to move to the big city and work for a cool company, and obviously, at that age, I wanted to make a lot of money. So she really pushed it as “hey, you can work in this field and you can work for a TV ratings company, you could work in biology, you could work in entertainment, you can work in advertising.”
There were a ton of things that I could do with this. I initially looked into actuarial work. Stats just had so much application and [my mom] exposed me to that pretty early.
Why did you decide to study statistics?
I was a little bit biased by my mom, who was an AP Statistics teacher, and she really pushed that I study [statistics], and I look into it in college. So it started with high school, and [my mom] just said ‘that’s the sexy major and there’s a lot of cool things you can do with it’ – so that’s where it started!
What do you love most about being a statistician?
The thing I really love about being a statistician is that I never do the same thing twice.
Sometimes you’ll run the same methodology twice but it’s never to answer the exact same question more than once and you can use your skills to do anything. I’ve worked with clients in all different types of industries and though their questions may be similar, it’s a different set of data every time so it’s something new and I’m always learning.
What would you say to people who say a career in statistics sounds boring?
To anyone who would say a career in statistics sounds boring, I would say – “Do you watch TV? Do you use apps on your phone? Do you have a bank account? Do you invest?” All of these things use statistics in some way.
There’s always a statistician in these industries who is going to be running a model to predict the stock market, to predict what people will buy, to do interest targeting – all of these areas involve statistics. It’s something we all use every day for entertainment, for life, to manage our money.
So I think it touches everything and there’s really no way around it. I don’t see how something that touches every industry could be boring.
What non-statistical skills are important to be a statistician?
To be a statistician, non-statistical skills always come into play – particularly communication.
A lot of the people I work with aren’t statisticians and they’re maybe not that mathematically savvy, so for me to explain something to them that they wouldn’t have been able to understand otherwise is a super valuable asset as a statistician and as any person in business. You’re really seen as a key stakeholder when you can explain numbers to other teams that don’t have that background.
What is the benefit of learning about statistics early on in high school or college?
I think there’s a benefit to learning about statistics early because it applies to anything you do. When I was in college, I had a lot of classmates who were trying to get into medical school and they had never heard of statistics, but a lot of other degrees require a statistics class.
At least having that exposure and familiarity earlier and younger can help guide you in your career whether you want to be a statistician or not, just knowing that its breadth and expansion across industries is pretty wide.
Why is statistical literacy important?
I think statistical literacy is so important, regardless of your career but just in life in general. Anything you read, any study, there’s always going to be fine print with the margin of error of the study at the bottom.
If you understand just basic statistics it’ll go a long way, not only in your career if you work with statisticians or with data but just knowing how to interpret what you read in the media will be super important.
For Mike Baiocchi, an assistant professor at Stanford Prevention Research Center at Stanford University, statistics is an important part of improving health care. Mike studies casual inference and uses statistics to determine if certain humanitarian intervention efforts, like reducing rates of sexual abuse, are effective in communities. Much of his work is focused on improving the…
In the 2019 Statsketball contest, students competed to predict the outcomes of both the 2019 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments using the power of statistics – the science of learning from data. This is the first year Statsketball has expanded to the women’s tournament, and in total, 367 student teams entered—our largest Statsketball to…