Blue wires
INPUT by Alteryx Blog

Sharing SparkED with My Alma Mater

Alteryx associate Mike Baum shares the SparkED program with his alma mater.

Blue wires
Editor's Note: This blog is from Mike Baum, Sr. Manager, Support Strategy & Innovation, at Alteryx. He shares his story of sharing SparkED with his alma mater, Cal State San Marcos.

Mike Baum

Data Analytics is Not Easy

When I was starting out in college, data analytics was just this ominous thing you heard about. I wasn’t exposed to it much at first, but for me, it started when I went from a finance major to management information systems. I got into MIS classes and worked with data in a way I never thought of before. Before, it was just stuff on a web page that was in a database. But this was more interesting, planted the seed of my interest in data analytics, and I kept at it.

A Better Opportunity

I had an old buddy from college who had been working for Alteryx for a long time. Checking on his LinkedIn page, I couldn’t tell exactly what he did there, but I could see that it was improving people’s lives. When I started my own job search, I thought of him and decided to see if they were hiring. At that time, my wife was expecting, and for my first interview with Alteryx, I was in my car in the hospital parking lot! When I got home, I had an Alteryx trial license and a newborn baby. I expected it to be tough starting a new job at this particular time, but the Alteryx Designer software platform made it easy.

Giving Back

After working at Alteryx for a while, I began to think about one of my old college professors from Cal State San Marcos who always seemed to be on the cutting edge. I realized there were plenty of other professors that I fondly remembered. I wanted them to know about the free education program from Alteryx, so they could bring data analytics to their students – it would be relevant in many fields of study today. So, I reached out to them to see if we could catch up and share a quick intro to this teaching option. I invited Annie Mais on the Alteryx For Good (now SparkED) education program and set up a meeting for all of us. Annie shared a quick set of slides and showed them how easy it is to integrate learning Designer for their students. SparkED learning is now available at over 550 universities in 43 countries, continuing to grow.

It Felt Good to Reach Out

When you're young and in college, you don't always have the same appreciation for people that you do later in life. We all have had mentors, people who helped us, taught us, and gave us opportunities. It turns out that for me, these people have been absolutely pivotal to where I am today. I could be on a completely different career path without them, so it seemed like I should try to find a way to give back. It also felt good to know that I was remembered! It was nice to see how much they appreciated my outreach. I realized it must feel good for educators to see the results of their effort with students.
Another reason I wanted to reach out was to offer today’s students the opportunity I wish I had had: to leverage Alteryx Designer for a better understanding of analytics and achieve more efficient and accurate insights from data. Now, I had the ability to check in with my faculty and be able to offer them something useful.

It Can Be a Life Changing Opportunity

Alteryx SparkED learning content is free, online, and self-paced. To be perfectly honest, there’s nothing a college student loves more than something free. But this material is full of how-to videos, concept articles, real-world use cases, and fun weekly challenges. Everything is optional. Certification exams are free and open-book. So, I say to all learners, even if you just explore it, get certified, put it on your resume, and mention it in job interviews, you will definitely have a leg up over your peers who didn’t.
I want to make sure the next generation has all the information and tools they need to spend just two months finding a job, instead of the two years it took for me. Sharing the SparkED program is easy and a great way to get Designer into the hands of students in a wide range of academic departments. It’s not just for hard-core data scientists at accounting firms anymore. Today everyone needs to know the value of data analytics because this affects almost every business, like sports, healthcare, entertainment, and even nonprofit and social welfare organizations.

It’s No Big Deal

I am an introvert, so reaching out has not always been easy. Despite this, I found that my college contacts reacted with excitement and appreciation when invited to a call. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people by phone or email; just say hi, and ask if anybody is interested. I bet everyone can think of one educator, career counselor, teaching assistant, or someone who positively impacted them. They’d probably like to hear about what you're doing now. These are the people that helped shape our lives, so you know that you can talk to them again. Honestly, I found that everybody was happy to reconnect, and enjoyed hearing about my career and what I'm doing at Alteryx.

Why Is Alteryx Investing in Education?

Alteryx knows that the world is suddenly being inundated with a tsunami of data: volume, types, and sources. Organizations globally are struggling to find and retain top talent with analytics capability. Through SparkED, Alteryx is leading the way in addressing this global skills gap, for our customers and us. And for the entire ecosystem that needs more professionals who know how to use a platform that enables everyone to gather keen insights. And Designer does not require coding skills either, which makes it possible for anyone to use it. This means more and higher quality insight, which leads to progress in every field. It helps make the world a better place.
Check out the SparkED-in-a-Box outreach toolkit, which has a ready-to-use email you can sign and send, a few simple slides, and even a Designer demo video if you want to show it. This is for associates and supporters outside of Alteryx. Anyone can use it, and earn some Alteryx SparkED swag (even sending out an email earns a SparkED t-shirt).
When you know the mission behind what we’re doing with SparkED, it’s easy to want to be part of the effort. We are all in this together.

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