A Grad Student’s Take on Viget’s Apprenticeship
Liz Roknich, Former Digital Analyst
It might seem overwhelming to take on an apprenticeship at Viget while you’re still in school. Here’s why I think you should.
While the rest of my friends packed up and scattered around the states to begin jobs after we graduated in 2017, I settled back into the familiar routine of school. I’d decided to plow ahead with my education and work towards a Master’s in Information Science at UNC, a discipline I fell in love with after taking a few classes as an undergraduate. My interest in Information Science began with classes in data analysis, but I was drawn to the creative outlet I found in classes on data visualization, user interface design, and front end web development. I was younger than most in my graduate program, but came with pencils sharpened, ready to learn.
I carried over graduate class credits from undergrad, and I continued with what I had always seen as a normal load of four to five classes per semester, against the widely circulated advice to focus on three classes at a time. I barrelled through grad school and found myself staring down a final semester with two requirements remaining: one online class to complete, and one thesis to write. Around the same time that I started to think of the possibilities for this seemingly flexible schedule, I heard of Viget’s apprenticeship program. I was sold immediately; I’d noticed that a lot of my cohort at school had more professional experience than I did, and I was itching to get out of the classroom.
A part of me was very nervous at the thought of balancing ten weeks of full-time work and school, and I had fantasies of writing my thesis remotely from a beach in Mexico or galavanting around Europe instead of committing to a new job. Reality got the best of me, though, and I proudly joined this Winter’s cohort of apprentices at Viget. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and here’s why:
I gained confidence as a professional
While I learned so much in all of my classes, watching my friends grow in the first few years of their careers made me more aware of my own gap in experience. As an apprentice at Viget, I got to keep learning in a way that also served as professional development. In week four of the apprenticeship, I presented analytics findings to a client, and continued to work on client projects from there. I was able to fine tune the way I speak to clients about their data, which requires a different approach than speaking in an academic setting; less technical and more action-oriented. Through this, I felt empowered as a Digital Analyst whose insights were valuable, and loved the feeling of turning numbers into cohesive stories that could drive decisions.
I learned what I want to be when I grow up
Ask anyone who knows me, and they will confirm that I’m a dreamer. As such, I typically have a constant stream of new ideas and aspirations buzzing through my head at all times. I had so many ideas for what a data analytics career could look like that it was hard to find my niche without experiencing my options firsthand. My time at Viget not only helped me narrow my focus, but provided me with a community where curiosity and multiple interests are celebrated, and where learning and shadowing outside of your discipline is encouraged. Viget has a highly collaborative workflow, and I got exposure to all of the different labs and the work they do. I experienced the unpredictable nature of agency work, and grew to love the fact that each day is inherently different than the next. I can confidently say that I want to work in a creative digital agency, and I’ve got the exposure to back it up.
I gained the technical chops I need to succeed
Coming into this apprenticeship, most of my data analysis background had been in the environmental finance sector. My information science classes map pretty closely to the work that Viget does, but I lacked the hard skills of Google Analytics and Tag Manager, to name a few. In my time at Viget, I earned my Google Analytics Individual Qualification, implemented a Google Tag Manager setup on a site, and administered a client training on analysis and tracking implementation. I worked with a dedicated mentor on internal and client projects, and had the wiggle room to try, fail, and learn from my mistakes.
My ten weeks at Viget have flown by, and there have been days and weeks where it was a balancing act between my academic and professional lives. I traded my bike ride to campus for a 30 minute commute to Durham, and my cohort at school for new faces at Viget. I set aside time every other week to meet remotely with my thesis advisor, and had to miss a day to take my Master’s Comprehensive Exam. But every step of the way, I had a team rooting for my success; inspiring colleagues and mentors, and some pretty awesome co-apprentices. The people at Viget and the clients I’ve worked with are really what made the apprenticeship a one-of-a-kind experience.
It wasn’t easy, but then again, the most rewarding things in life typically aren’t. If you’re a student with a light load coming up and you’re considering the apprenticeship, go for it. You’ll thank me later!