Not a “Math Person?” Think Again

shutterstock_171299648.jpg

The value of math, numbers and problem solving in any career.

By Ann Skudlark (Director of Inventive Science, AT&T Labs)

As a mother of three, I find myself sharing a lot of advice. Lately, my youngest daughter has been on the receiving end of much of it. She loves reading and writing and would like to study journalism in college. I think that’s wonderful, but I’m working hard to help her understand the value of quantitative analysis as well. It’s important for me to teach her that having knowledge beyond her core area of study will prove invaluable. After all, subjects aren’t separated in silos in our increasingly integrated world.

Although I earned my undergraduate degree in business and my MBA in finance, I work in a very quantitative field. In fact, most of the folks on my staff are computer scientists and statisticians. They do the heavy lifting, but my education gives me a great leadership foundation. As a manager, I’m able to leverage my knowledge to bridge our business needs with the skillsets of the people in our organization.

Sometimes even the most brilliant researcher needs help refocusing and prioritizing to keep perspective. That’s where I come in. I’m there to see the big picture and help bring everything together.

I hope to help my daughter see the big picture and maybe help you, too. Here’s my advice to help you better appreciate the value of education, numbers and charting your own personal path to understanding.

Education is a Springboard

My two oldest children have master’s degrees in biology and forestry, respectively. I’m grateful they chose this course and continued their learning. No matter what the field, education is an important springboard to give you options for the future.

Without that, not as many doors will be opened as you go down a particular path. You still need to walk through them and deliver, but doors open with an education.

Don’t Neglect Your Basic Math Skills

I mean this with all of my heart. Math skills are fundamental building blocks for the future. I’m not saying everyone has to be a statistician, but we have to gain an appreciation. People are doing themselves a disservice when they give up by thinking, “It’s hard. I’m not going to work at that.”

There’s so much research that says you should try, because failing helps build the synapses in your brain that allow you to learn. You must believe that, “I can figure this out. I can do it.”

Find Your Own Learning Style

When someone is struggling, we must help them find their own personal way of understanding. There’s no perfect way to get to a solution. Some learn better from peers, while others are visual or oratory learners. We should appreciate and even encourage these differences.

So go out there and find your personal style, stay with it and be confident about it. There’s nothing you can’t do!


About the guest blogger: Ann Skudlark, Director of Inventive Science at AT&T Labs, is a 32-year veteran with AT&T. Today, Ann leads a group of researchers focused on data mining and analysis. She’s also been a member of the AT&T Running and Fitness team for more than 25 years and enjoys hiking the National Parks with her family.