James Wallace ‘12 came to USI to pursue a degree in radio and television but graduated with a degree in geology. At USI, he took a broad range of courses from Drawing 101 to Calculus II. Taking diverse classes allowed him to develop a problem-solving skillset which he uses today. Dr. Paul Doss, Professor of Geology, taught him to think outside of the immediate lesson and create a broader framework and fuller context of whatever he was doing. Doss’ way of teaching—consistently giving a holistic view of the natural world—had an impact on James’ critical thinking skills. His favorite memory, however, comes from the times he was able to spend with friends on campus, whether it was studying or not.
Now, James works at Toyota Financial Services as a data scientist. His path after USI didn’t lead him straight to becoming a data scientist. He earned his master’s degree in geological science from Indiana University, where he studied structural geology in Ssouthwestern Montana. After graduation, he started working as a geologist at ConocoPhillips where he developed onshore oil and gas projects. “Learning how to adapt and grow my skill sets in a dynamic industry has been fundamental to my career success,” says James. “By understanding my strengths and developing in-demand skills, I was able to work as a geologist while training to become a data scientist. This continuous learning helped me make a smooth career pivot."
Radically changing career paths can be scary for some people. James believes there is no one way to a career for everyone. What is important is evolving your thinking and interests over time. If he didn't think this way, he might never have pursued data science. James advises students to follow their passions and focus on disciplines that interest them.