Madelin Ward Furman University Alumni

Madelin Ward '15

— Senior Analyst

My top recommendation is to reach out to multiple alumni and learn about their experiences. Two alumni could have found the same career path through completely different experiences. It is worthwhile to get as many of those perspectives as you can.


Personal/Professional Journey

How did you find your way to where you are today? Share a little about your professional journey.

I never had a clear image of what I wanted to be in life. To be honest, I majored in economics because I enjoyed taking the classes instead of any possible career implications post-Furman. I knew it could lead to a variety of career paths, but not sure which of those paths would be a good fit. I did a research fellowship through the economics department, followed by the required econometrics class, and was immediately drawn to analyzing data. I knew I wanted to do something that involves analytics after college after that course experience, but did not know what options were available outside of research jobs.

Most research jobs are writing intensive, but writing is not one of my academic strengths or something I even enjoy. I applied to numerous research jobs despite knowing I probably would not enjoy it because I thought it was my only option. In the spring prior to graduation, a Furman alumnus spoke to our department about Mather Economics, a consulting firm that specializes in using data analytics to determine optimal prices for subscription based services. I was immediately intrigued because it was finally a job that included analytics, but without writing papers as my main objective. After talking to a few professors, I decided to apply with a recommendation from the department. As I went through the interview process and learned more about the company, I realized it was exactly what I wanted.
What motivations fueled your career path?

The economics department inviting Mather Economics to campus was the catalyzing event for my career path. Without it, I probably would not have known economic consulting was an option. Because of my experience, I encourage students to talk to their professors about their general interests. Your professor will have insight on the classes and opportunities available to explore those interests. Down the road, when companies reach out to the department for prospective new hires, they will have the students who already expressed interest in their mind.

Within the field

When providing advice for professional development, what are some tools or resources one should consider?

When I was in college, I used an agenda to keep track of assignments and had designated folders on my computer for each class. Continuing my college study habits in my professional life allows me to manage and organize all my clients with more ease. I keep track of current and upcoming project timelines, meetings, and use a weekly checklist for my daily tasks. To improve myself within my career, I continually do self-assessments of my performance. If there is an area in which I can improve, I want to actively work to do so. It is always a good habit to play on your strengths, but it is also a good idea to work on your weaknesses when you can as well.
How would you recommend someone interested in the same career/vocation pursue a similar path?

Networking with alumni is the best way to gain a better understanding of various career paths. My top recommendation is to reach out to multiple alumni and learn about their experiences. Two alumni could have found the same career path through completely different experiences. It is worthwhile to get as many of those perspectives as you can.

How have mentors impacted your professional development? How did you develop those relationships?

Throughout college, I went to my professor’s office hours and took every opportunity to speak with them when I saw them around campus. By my senior year, I developed solid relationships with a handful of professors. It was those relationships that turned into recommendations for the jobs I applied to, and subsequently helped me enter the professional world. Within my career, I have relied on my managers as mentors. By taking the time to ask questions, they helped me build confidence with my work, communicate with clients, and develop the necessary skills needed to succeed within the company.

For someone just getting started

What do you wish you would have known getting started in your field?

Furman does an excellent job preparing students for whatever career path they choose. Students have so many opportunities to build strong and versatile skill sets without really even noticing. I had great anxiety about starting a job with just an undergraduate degree because I knew I would be working alongside people who had additional education. I immediately assumed they would stand out more than me or do a better job. I quickly learned every job has a learning curve for everyone. In our office, all employees go through the same training period. It is how you utilize the training period that sets you apart from your peers--not the degree you have.
How could Furman help with getting someone started?

Furman helps build meaningful connections between alumni and students. It is important to keep these initiatives and alumni engagement active because they can sometimes serve as catalysts for job and internship opportunities in specific fields. Sometimes a student might not know what field they are interested in, but they do know what their interests are. Intentional conversations can help them find the field that fits their interests and alumni who might be useful connections.

Furman University

How has your liberal arts background shaped your career path or supported your success?

A liberal arts background introduced me to classes and topics I would never choose to take. By taking a variety of classes, I gained knowledge on a variety of unfamiliar topics, but also developed relationships with students and professors I would not have made otherwise. Because of these relationships, I can relate to my clients as a well-rounded person.
What extracurricular activities helped you develop professionally?

I majored in economics and Spanish. I use economics every day of my professional career by applying what I learned in my econometrics and microeconomics classes to the consulting world. The basis for our firm is economics, but as our company grows internationally, there will be opportunities to use my Spanish degree as well.

What are other courses you took or you wish you would have taken that would also add value in your career?

The primary analytical tool we use is STATA, but there are many others used as well. I wish I had taken a couple of computer science classes to better understand coding within these tools, like Visual Basics, Python and Tableau. The economics department now has a list of recommended classes based on various career path choices. It would be useful to students to take some of the classes listed outside of the department.


Were there particular courses within the economics department that were especially useful in helping you identify your career or that ended up helping you to be successful in your career (maybe unexpectedly)?

Empirical methods has been the most impactful because it helped me discover my interest in data analytics and take what I learned in the class and apply it daily. I did not think I would use STATA once the class was over, but now I use it for much of my work. Empirical methods gave me a strong background to help me get started.
Were there particular projects or activities from any of your economics courses that were especially useful?

Empirical methods includes a semester-long research project every student must complete. Every step of the project is done independently– from developing the question to analyzing the results. Because I needed to research the data for the project on my own, I am more equipped now. I always start with the sources used for my project and go from there. The ability to work independently is important in the professional world.

Were there particular “engaged learning” experiences (e.g. internships, study away, research opportunities) that were especially useful?

I did the Hollingsworth Summer Research Fellowship through the economics department with another student and Dr. Jones. The fellowship gave me experience with creating professional presentations and verbally communicating our results. We presented our findings to the department, the visiting scholar who comes every year, and at an economic conference in Boston, MA. I also completed an internship with a consulting firm that helped me realize I would prefer a job that allowed me to have frequent contact with other people. By choosing to work at Mather Economics, I was able to combine the analytical portion of research with the consulting aspect I enjoyed.
Any other “highlights” from your experience in economics?

The department truly cares about the students and their experiences. They set students up for success intellectually and mentally through their challenging curriculum, encouraging attitudes, and constant communication about opportunities available. Without the professors and the class I took, I would not be as successful as I have been at my career. I always make a point to keep in touch and visit because I am appreciative of the relationships developed with the department.

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