Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

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lostinjersey
Posts: 159
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:29 pm

Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by lostinjersey » Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:02 am

Bogleheads,

I'm looking for advice as I make a career change that I have been considering for several years, but have never found the gumption to make happen. It's become clear to me that I have to do something different, so I'm hoping for suggestions on what to do and what not to do.

Background: I'm 47 and have always loved math and science. As a kid I wanted to be an actuary. That got derailed, but I got my undergrad in math/stats and became a retirement plan consultant. Did that for 15 years, it was OK, I enjoyed the math piece but not the customer service/account management side, so about 10 years ago I moved over to corporate HR as a benefits manager. Today I am in charge of my company's pension plan and other benefit programs; it's a lot of grunt work and administration and very little analytic or thinking work. I really hate my job, it is not using my capabilities, legal and compliance play an outsized role in what we are allowed to do, and mostly I feel like my brain is melting.

I got perfect scores on the ACT math and English back in the day, and a 760 GMAT about 10 years ago, so I know my intellect is still there. I also got an MBA in finance/management from an elite university in 2013 but have never really used it.

If I had it to do all over I'd be a geneticist, but I just am not up for more school at this stage in my life. I'm thinking a transition to something like Compensation or Finance would be easier and still scratch that math itch. I realize this will involve a pay cut and a step down (probably several steps) and that's OK. Mostly I want to spend the next 20 years doing something interesting and mildly fulfilling, something that turns on my brain instead of turning it to mush.

What advice would you give me? So far I have set up some consults with career counselors, and a few informational interviews, and I'm tapping into my MBA network. What else should I be doing? What roles or industries should I consider?

Any and all thoughts are welcome.

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BolderBoy
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Location: Colorado

Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by BolderBoy » Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:34 am

Something along the data science line might interest you. Big call for folks willing to help companies analyze the VAST amounts of data they are collecting.

Are you good with computers? Like programming?
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Hillview
Posts: 291
Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2018 7:27 am

Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by Hillview » Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:43 am

Jobs/roles
Data scientist/analyst
BI (Business Intelligence) analyst
data analytics/analyst

Industry (based on your limited background info -- don't know if you have a financial services play or a telco play etc)
Health care
Hospitals
Large benefit administrators
Start up

Skills you may need/not have: SQL, SAS, R, XLS (solver type), BI tools (Tableau, SAS, Microstrategy, etc).

ThriftyPhD
Posts: 607
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 10:43 am

Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by ThriftyPhD » Thu Mar 01, 2018 12:23 pm

I would look for ways to incorporate math or analytics into your current position or a similar position. Basically, you want to leverage your expertise in benefits/HR but then bring in and build up an analytics aspect.

Jumping into a whole new field, you're going to have a lot of competition from those just out of school who are a lot younger, willing to work more hours for less pay. Your experience is something they don't have, but if you jump to a completely different career this won't be applicable. As you get closer to tech/comp, your age is already a liability and will be even more so once you cross the 5-0 barrier. Expecting to do that for the next 20 years is quite optimistic.

Valuethinker
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Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by Valuethinker » Thu Mar 01, 2018 1:25 pm

lostinjersey wrote:
Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:02 am
Bogleheads,

I'm looking for advice as I make a career change that I have been considering for several years, but have never found the gumption to make happen. It's become clear to me that I have to do something different, so I'm hoping for suggestions on what to do and what not to do.

Background: I'm 47 and have always loved math and science. As a kid I wanted to be an actuary. That got derailed, but I got my undergrad in math/stats and became a retirement plan consultant. Did that for 15 years, it was OK, I enjoyed the math piece but not the customer service/account management side, so about 10 years ago I moved over to corporate HR as a benefits manager. Today I am in charge of my company's pension plan and other benefit programs; it's a lot of grunt work and administration and very little analytic or thinking work. I really hate my job, it is not using my capabilities, legal and compliance play an outsized role in what we are allowed to do, and mostly I feel like my brain is melting.

I got perfect scores on the ACT math and English back in the day, and a 760 GMAT about 10 years ago, so I know my intellect is still there. I also got an MBA in finance/management from an elite university in 2013 but have never really used it.

If I had it to do all over I'd be a geneticist, but I just am not up for more school at this stage in my life. I'm thinking a transition to something like Compensation or Finance would be easier and still scratch that math itch. I realize this will involve a pay cut and a step down (probably several steps) and that's OK. Mostly I want to spend the next 20 years doing something interesting and mildly fulfilling, something that turns on my brain instead of turning it to mush.

What advice would you give me? So far I have set up some consults with career counselors, and a few informational interviews, and I'm tapping into my MBA network. What else should I be doing? What roles or industries should I consider?

Any and all thoughts are welcome.
https://herminiaibarra.com/books/

Working Identity is the best book on career change I know about other than What Color is your Parachute

I'd read both.

You need to find what are the key skills, and the key skill deficiencies, of groups/ organizations working in the area of your interest. Then, when you approach those groups, you know how to connect with what they are after.

There are Coursera courses on Data Science. I would take one.

runner3081
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Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by runner3081 » Thu Mar 01, 2018 1:52 pm

There are a great deal of opportunities to stay in benefits/HR and still have an analytic role. There are actuaries for pension, analysts for life insurance, health insurance, etc.

Assuming you work with a benefits broker, might be worth reaching out to them. I would imagine they have some jobs you would be interested in. Also, look at insurance companies and TPA's.

h8(N)++
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Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by h8(N)++ » Thu Mar 01, 2018 1:55 pm

"If I had it to do all over I'd be a geneticist"

I'm a geneticist :)

Plant and animal breeders (aka applied geneticists) crunch a LOT of numbers nowadays - why not write to a few and see if your skills could be put to good use working with or for one of them?

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LiveSimple
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Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by LiveSimple » Thu Mar 01, 2018 2:35 pm

Retrain in Business reporting and analytic, there are lots of job.
May need to start a job at low paying and move up based on skills developed

Look at data visualization using Tableau
https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=tableau+developer&l=

Congnos
https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=cognos+developer&l=

Python / Data
https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=python+data&l=
https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=data+analyst&l=
https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=data+analytics&l=

stan1
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Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 4:35 pm

Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by stan1 » Thu Mar 01, 2018 2:47 pm

Since your company has a pension I'd guess it is large and established. Talk to your Vice President and Manager. Tell them what you'd like to do. Look for opportunities around you. There are lots of analysis opportunities in HR (just be careful what you ask for, one of the most important ones is pulling EEO metrics before a layoff and that might not be fun work). I've never had a boss in a professional environment flat out tell me "no" to pushing the envelope to learn something new. There may be some constraints but not no.

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Watty
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Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by Watty » Fri Mar 02, 2018 1:17 am

I know someone that was about your age when he studied to get certified in the SAS statistical software package. He did not seem to have any problem with finding a job but I am not sure what it pays.

mouth
Posts: 96
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:40 am

Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by mouth » Fri Mar 02, 2018 8:01 am

Everyone here has given great advice so there is no point in my piling on. What I can say is that there is a HUGE market out there right now for people who can think critically, enjoy problem solving, understand statistics, probability, modelling, simulation, and forecasting, and are technologically savvy enough to learn most any tool that is available to them (you don't have to know every programming language/tool, you have to know how to learn them). Double bonus if you can interact with people or at least fake it till you make it (not a capability every math nerd has). Triple bonus if you can explain those complex topics to senior leaders/customers and develop usable web front ends for users to self-serve. At that point you're considered a "full-stack analytics consultant" in my world and worth gold!!!.

I can see a path for someone like you, the little I can read here :), taking your industry experience, a passion for analytics, a certification/course or two for things like SAS/R, STATA, Python, SQL, C#, ASP.net, and Javascript and interviewing well at a consulting firm that has CFO, human capital, and benefits clients. I know I'm beating up my recruiters right now for those exact resumes.

Might be worth checking out this site https://www.datasciencecentral.com (no it isn't mine! mods please don't get salty)

I also see your username indicates jersey, and you don't sound british so I'm guessing you're from my old stomping grounds of New Jersey. You might check out this group if its close to you https://www.meetup.com/New-Jersey-Data-Science-Meetup/ (again not my group, I left NJ 25 years ago, I literally just googled "Meetup NJ Data Analytics")

JBTX
Posts: 3187
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Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by JBTX » Fri Mar 02, 2018 10:28 am

lostinjersey wrote:
Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:02 am
Bogleheads,

I'm looking for advice as I make a career change that I have been considering for several years, but have never found the gumption to make happen. It's become clear to me that I have to do something different, so I'm hoping for suggestions on what to do and what not to do.

Background: I'm 47 and have always loved math and science. As a kid I wanted to be an actuary. That got derailed, but I got my undergrad in math/stats and became a retirement plan consultant. Did that for 15 years, it was OK, I enjoyed the math piece but not the customer service/account management side, so about 10 years ago I moved over to corporate HR as a benefits manager. Today I am in charge of my company's pension plan and other benefit programs; it's a lot of grunt work and administration and very little analytic or thinking work. I really hate my job, it is not using my capabilities, legal and compliance play an outsized role in what we are allowed to do, and mostly I feel like my brain is melting.

I got perfect scores on the ACT math and English back in the day, and a 760 GMAT about 10 years ago, so I know my intellect is still there. I also got an MBA in finance/management from an elite university in 2013 but have never really used it.

If I had it to do all over I'd be a geneticist, but I just am not up for more school at this stage in my life. I'm thinking a transition to something like Compensation or Finance would be easier and still scratch that math itch. I realize this will involve a pay cut and a step down (probably several steps) and that's OK. Mostly I want to spend the next 20 years doing something interesting and mildly fulfilling, something that turns on my brain instead of turning it to mush.

What advice would you give me? So far I have set up some consults with career counselors, and a few informational interviews, and I'm tapping into my MBA network. What else should I be doing? What roles or industries should I consider?

Any and all thoughts are welcome.
I was going to say compensation. I knew a couple of finance types who jumped from finance to
Compensation. They were director level positions for Fortune 500 size company.

lostinjersey
Posts: 159
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:29 pm

Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by lostinjersey » Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:50 pm

OP here. Apologies for the delayed response, life has been happening. Thanks to everyone for the great thoughts and suggestions, I'm taking them all under advisement and will be working with a career counselor to see what makes the most sense. It's great to hear there is still hope for me!

Beehave
Posts: 229
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Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by Beehave » Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:30 pm

A suggestion:

Explore staying in HR. I have pretty extensive experience in IT and finance (operations, customer relations, crisis mgmt, research and dvlpm't). Most HR departments in large organizations are clueless about optimization of their human capital. By this I mean that they do not understand job positions even individually, let alone as to how these positions currently interact, and even less about how any and all of that might be optimized. See if you can find a role either where you are currently employed or somewhere else interesting that is involved in defining roles relationships and processes, staffing, promoting, and moving personnel as appropriate so as to optimize human capital into an efficient, well-functioning whole. This will be intellectually challenging, politically challenging, and have high effect. If this interests you, propose it where you are or find a placement expert who understands and see if they can find the right place for you (a company desiring to re-evaluate and optimize processes that would grab someone really smart to contribute and to help ensure proper staffing).

My thoughts, best wishes.

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ram
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Location: Midwest

Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by ram » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:56 pm

Health insurance companies need people who can crunch data. Software skills are needed. MBA will be beneficial.
Ram

DarkHelmetII
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Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by DarkHelmetII » Wed May 30, 2018 5:41 am

My thoughts (realize I am late to getting on this thread):

1) Overall agree to consider staying somewhere in the HR space to utilize your domain knowledge and internal contacts (assuming you stayed at current job).

2) Look for ways to bring data-driven decision-making to HR. Most HR people I've run into have no clue about 401ks or HSAs ... can you get creative about advising senior management on win-win (better for both employees and employer costs) structural changes to benefits packages?

3) If you have access to the data, see if you can build some kind of talent acquisition / retention model. Wrap-around the results with some nice visualizations (previous posts have referenced Tableau for example).

4) Consider looking externally including consulting firms with HR practices. I spent 10+ years in the Big 4 and saw HR analytics become more and more prevalent over the years.

Good luck. There are SO many HR people (in my experience working at three jobs) who are absolutely clueless when it comes to numbers and finance, would like to think there is an opportunity to distinguish yourself given your math / finance / business background.

10YearPlan
Posts: 240
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Re: Advice for Career Change from HR Benefits to Analytic/STEM Role

Post by 10YearPlan » Wed May 30, 2018 6:37 am

I think there is a HUGE demand for big data/analytics/business intelligence in HR right now. Is there any way to get involved in a project within your own company that can help get you some experience in this space while you ponder your options?

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