In honor of the International Year of Statistics, I interviewed Rob Kelly, a senior statistician here at Minitab Inc. in State College, Pa.
Rob designs features you see in Minitab Statistical Software, and the focus of much of his work is on Design of Experiments. Check out what Rob had to say about how he became interested in pursuing a career in statistics.
1. What kind of reaction do you get when you tell people you are a statistician?
I find that a lot of people have some experience with statistics, but I usually get a couple of different reactions. There are the people who immediately tell me, “Statistics was my least favorite subject in school,” or “That sounds hard.” There are also the people who are really interested and ask me to help them with their statistical projects! Even though people don’t seem to like statistics, it’s so widely used and taught that most people have had exposure and seem to know the basics.
2. Who inspired you to be a statistician?
I was always interested in math, but I never knew much about statistics until my undergraduate years at Northern Illinois University. I tried out different things, but I kept coming back to math.
I had a great statistics professor named Stan Trail who taught my first introductory statistics course at Northern Illinois and encouraged me to keep going in statistics. I found that I really enjoyed more advanced statistics courses and I got a lot of encouragement, so I kept pursuing statistics as a career path.
3. What is the best thing about being a statistician?
The best thing about my job is also one of the most challenging things. What we do here at Minitab is to make statistics more accessible, and while this can be very hard to accomplish—it’s also really great to help people understand and apply it to solve their problems.
4. What is the best career advice you were ever given?
It’s important to find something you care about enough to work hard at. If you are passionate about what you do, you’ll be more willing to go the distance to get things done. This is all pretty standard advice, but in my experience it's absolutely true.