Career Change from Paralegal to Data Analyst with MSIS-Bridge
Kaleigh Sieczkowski, a student of the MS in Information Systems-Bridge (MSIS-Bridge) program, made a career pivot when she realized her passion for solving problems using technology. She studied international relations at Michigan State University, subsequently working as a paralegal in Chicago at Sidley Austin LLP, a major corporate law firm.
“I got a small taste of document coding at the firm, so I looked into the education options that were available for someone like me,” she says. “I knew I wanted to attend a university that would support me inside and outside of the classroom in the program, one that would see my non-technical background as an advantage rather than a hindrance. Northeastern didn’t see me as starting from behind, but rather using my preexisting business skills to partner with the tech aspect from the classroom.”
Co-op drew Sieczkowski to the program. “Since I worked for four years before I transitioned to the MSIS-Bridge program, I knew I wanted a university that would provide job opportunities and help me be marketable to companies after earning the degree. I think Northeastern should be proud that it is number one in co-op,” says Sieczkowski. She is confident that she will get the experience in and outside the classroom to successfully transition into the tech industry. “I knew that the field rapidly changes, and I wanted a program that would keep up with those changes,” says Sieczkowski. “Northeastern does a good job of addressing that in the classroom with faculty being up to date with research and industry trends.”
Flexible and personalized program
Professional goals for Sieczkowski meet at the intersection of her business experience and newfound coding skills. She says, “I’m interested in becoming a business intelligence analyst which involves technical skills and creative thinking from my non-technical background.” Her coursework is flexible to her goal. “I’ve taken database and budgetary system classes this semester. They are providing me with the skills necessary to succeed in business intelligence.” While learning key concepts such as data analysis, database design, and visualization, she is also gaining experience with hands-on projects in classes to help with problem solving and communication skills.
“Analysts empower organizations to make data-driven decisions to innovate and stay competitive while delivering value to their customers. Northeastern lets you pick and choose courses to fit your needs and goals,” explains Sieczkowski. Next semester, she will take business process engineering and advanced database management systems.
Mentoring and support
Sieczkowski’s experience in the MSIS-Bridge program has provided her with a community of support and the tools to be successful despite her lack of previous coding knowledge. “I was fearful to learn how to code. But during my first semester, the professors quickly put my mind at ease and helped me transition my soft skills to technical skills,” she says. With a step-by-step approach to coding, by her second semester she was able to code her own Java-based application from scratch. “I felt so proud and amazed at what I had accomplished, feeling that I could tackle future challenges.”
Mentoring is important. “One thing that’s unique about the MSIS-Bridge program is the face-to-face time with our director and instructors. They made me feel like I could take on the challenge of programming,” says Sieczkowski. She calls out Teaching Professor Kal Bugrara, who is the instructor for application modeling and design. “He makes you feel comfortable in that environment. He taught the intro course of application modeling before the advanced course. When I felt doubtful, he encouraged me to keep going. He helped me be confident that I could achieve success in this field.”
She also mentions Maricla Pirozzi, program director of MSIS-Bridge, as a great influence on the program. “Between the two of them, they really care about their students and make time to get us what we need. I’ve connected with so many students who have ideas for projects inside and outside the classroom, they make time to meet with them. I feel so welcomed and encouraged.”
Sieczkowski is part of that welcome as she works with Pirozzi to increase outreach and diversity in the program and to support the MSIS-Bridge students. “I took her class on managerial communication for engineers. I felt that I wanted to learn how to communicate better with engineers specifically. She offered me the opportunity to work in this together after the class,” says Sieczkowski. This semester, Pirozzi started the MSIS-Bridge Buddy Program where students are paired with advanced students to provide advice and help with academic and professional goals. “It’s one of the many reasons I recommend people join the program. The staff and faculty are always looking for new ways to support students,” she explains.
Sieczkowski has also enjoyed the location and the Boston environment. “Coming from a huge Midwestern land-grant university is different, but I feel like Northeastern has a great campus. It’s an oasis in the city,” she says. Off-campus, she mentions the free and discounted tickets to the Museum of Fine Arts and baseball games at Fenway Park as highlights. “There are always activities happening on or off campus to enjoy during your breaks between studying.”
Sieczkowski advises, “If you’re interested in entering the information systems career space, no matter what your professional or academic background is, it’s never too late to pursue your passion.”