Recently, BSIS graduate Alex Chambers met up with associate professor Vanessa Kitzie over lunch in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, near where Alex now works as a product consultant for Deloitte. They talked about Alex’s decision to pursue an information science degree, his time at the University of South Carolina, and what he’s up to now in his new career.
So you started college at Auburn, then you transferred to the University of South
Carolina. What made you choose USC?
I had applied to South Carolina in high school, and I was waitlisted because I didn't do the early application. So I went to Auburn, but eventually decided I wanted more of a city school. Being from Atlanta, I wanted more to do around the school than just the college itself, which is how it felt at Auburn. And one of my best friends was going to South Carolina, so I applied again, got in, and obviously accepted. The rest is history.
Why did you end up choosing the information science program?
My mom had sent me this article, I think it was in the Economist, or one of those types of magazines. The main article was about big data and why you need to know about it. I remember reading that article, and just understanding that obviously information is important, but the way that we get information is through data.
It got me thinking about technology and about applications and software that we can use to harness that data. That's where the real power is. The real power is being able to use that data to show others what the information really is. It intrigued me, and I’ve been interested in how that works. So it worked out perfectly to choose BSIS.
What do you do now? Can you tell us about your current role and where you work?
I’m a product consultant at Deloitte. Essentially, it's a hybrid between a product manager and a product owner. I'm working with a couple different development teams, and working with the design team to make sure that we're writing up user stories and tickets, and then driving those through to help create the applications that we're going to be selling to clients.
What do you like the most about your job?
I like the ability to use my business understanding, as well as gather the requirements of the stakeholders. I enjoy figuring out what they need, then taking those requirements — and using what I learned in college — to be able to understand and communicate: here's the data, let's turn this into information.
From those stakeholder requirements, I get to drive solutions, based on what their business needs are, and their pain points and all that. That's my favorite, because it gives me a bit of creativity. At the end of the day, you still need to hit your deliverable, but being able to put my own touch on things based on what I know is awesome.
What skills did you learn in the BSIS program that you currently apply in your job?
Everything and anything that deals with qualitative and quantitative data. In my role now, it’s about being able to see all sides of a project. Sometimes, we'll have interviews with subject matter experts, where we're looking for the quantitative. Then, we're also talking with the UX and UI and designers to figure out what’s possible to build.
It's fun being able to use those different methods of interviews and focus groups with the stakeholders to figure out what everyone is looking for. We can almost do a Venn diagram to find out that this person wants A, and this other person wants B, so, where's the middle ground where we can actually deliver?
Do you have any study strategies or advice that you could share with current or future
I would say the biggest thing — and for some reason this took longer than it should have to realize — is that your professors are there to help you. It’s good to utilize them and ask questions. For the longest time, and even into my professional career, I’d almost be afraid to ask questions because I feared it might make me look dumb.
And I know it's cliché, because everyone says that the only dumb question is the one you don't ask, but really, I’d just advise others to be curious and ask those questions and find out what you want to know.
What would you say to high school students or people who are just starting their college
career who might want to follow a path like yours?
I couldn't have picked a better school to go into to prepare me for what I'm doing now. I think it's a great opportunity, because even if you want to switch and do something else in your career, you can use the skills you’ll learn here.
Information science is something you can use with anything you want to do. My minor was in retail, so if I wanted to go into retail, I could, because all you're really doing is understanding the science of information. So how do you gather this data? What does that data mean? Who am I gathering this from? Why is this data important? When you understand that, you can translate this degree to any field possible.
What's your favorite memory from your time at USC?
I don't know if I have just one particular memory. This probably sounds corny, but some of my favorite days were in class when we didn't really have a lesson plan, maybe like after an exam or something.
We’d maybe play question games together, where you’d go around asking questions of everyone, and then we’d all kind of pick apart answers. That was always really fun.
I'd say I enjoyed the times when we were building the camaraderie of everyone in the information science school. In so many other schools on campus, classes can have hundreds of people in there. Our school was really fun because you actually become friends with each other, and you ran into each other in Five Points.
I enjoyed that close knit feeling, and I still keep in contact with some of them. So while I don't think there's one particular memory, for me, I just always had a good time with everyone.