An Unconventional Journey: From Retail to Data Visualization

March 7, 2024

In this episode of The Professionals Podcast, we're joined by John Keegan, a faculty member who teaches Data Visualization at the College of Professional Studies. John shares his unconventional journey from a job in retail to a career in data analytics and data visualization.

Navigating the IT Journey: Insights from an Experienced Instructor

I’ve taken a rather unconventional career path. Back when I was 18, I enrolled in college as an accounting major only to realize fairly quickly that I found the subject matter unfulfilling. I dropped out. So, I started working in retail, then a stint in a call center doing end user support for a government contract. But the itch for something more intellectually stimulating persisted. I delved into the realms of data and analytics, eventually landing a job on a data analytics team. However, without a college degree, my growth was stunted.

At 28, I made the decision to return to NOVA to finish my Associates. That's when I discovered a program perfectly tailored to my aspirations. Fast forward through the completion of my Bachelor's and Master's degrees, and now I find myself back where it all began, teaching data visualization at the bachelor's completion program at CPS. It's been a full circle journey—one marked by challenges, determination, and growth.

Reflecting on my experiences, I can't help but consider the evolving landscape of IT. From cybersecurity to data science to cloud computing, the field has expanded exponentially, offering myriad opportunities for those willing to explore. Yet, despite the rapid changes in the industry, one thing remains constant—the need for problem solvers.

In the classroom, I strive to instill in my students not just technical skills, but also a sense of curiosity and a passion for problem-solving. Whether it's troubleshooting a system glitch or analyzing complex data sets, the ability to think critically and adapt is paramount.

As technology continues to evolve, so too must our approach to education. We live in an age where AI and machine learning are reshaping industries and revolutionizing the way we work. But as I often remind my students, these tools are just that—tools. It's the human touch, the critical thinking, and the creativity that set us apart.

So, to those considering a career in IT, I offer this advice: Embrace the journey, stay curious, and never stop learning. The road may be winding, but with perseverance and a passion for problem-solving, the possibilities are endless. As for me, I'll continue to share my knowledge and experiences, guiding the next generation of IT professionals on their own path to success.