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How Cindy Pappas Revamped Her Career by Completing a Data Analytics Boot Camp—for Half the Cost

Written by 2U on Sep 16, 2019

Related content: Boot Camps, Learner Stories, Impact and Outcomes

Cindy Pappas has always been a self-proclaimed “word lover.” She’s passionate about reading and writing, and even pursued these subjects with a degree and career in paralegal studies. After spending 10 years as a paralegal, she changed course slightly with a project program management position in Sprint’s contracts department. In this role, Cindy was exposed to the world of data—and she loved it just as much as she loved words. 

Cindy’s newfound interest in data gathering and the details that it allowed her to uncover were exciting. She knew that data analysis was becoming an in-demand skill, so she began teaching herself as much as she possibly could. But she hit a plateau with more advanced concepts. 

Cindy started exploring programs that would help further her data analytics education. And to calm any hesitations she might have, she had the support of her employer through a tuition reimbursement program for continued education. This opportunity opened doors that Cindy previously would never have even considered—and it paid off. 

Filing the paperwork

After researching programs that fit her interests and complying with Sprint’s requirements for tuition reimbursement, Cindy decided on the KU Data Analytics Boot Camp powered by Trilogy Education.

Before the class started, Cindy submitted her request for tuition reimbursement and got everything approved. All she had to do was pay the tuition upfront. The best part? It didn’t matter how she paid. Cindy acquired a loan to finance the boot camp. Then, after the program’s completion, she provided her certificate along with the invoices showing the cost of the program—and she was reimbursed for half the tuition.

“Having alternative financing options was going to make or break whether I was going to be able to get this degree, and it was amazing how accessible it became,” Cindy said. “Sprint is really big on encouraging their employees to develop their professional and personal skills, and they were very understanding and supportive.”

Jumping right in

Cindy’s six month data analytics boot camp met on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. The workload was tough. Any free time she had left over from work or parenting was spent on boot camp assignments. “It was really hard,” Cindy said, “but it was doable, knowing that I was gaining such valuable skills.”

Cindy’s favorite group project in the course explored machine learning. The group created a movie database that would determine what made a movie successful by leveraging data. The project revealed some significant insights; the group found that the single greatest determinant of a movie’s success was its budget, even more so than its actors. 

Career ramifications

Many of the skills that Cindy acquired at the boot camp were immediately applicable to her work at Sprint. She even received a promotion right after completing boot camp that further justified her dedication and sacrifices. 

Cindy went from project manager to business data analyst overnight, and she immediately made use of her newfound skillset. “Sprint is currently adopting a lot of robotic processes,” said Cindy. “I was part of the first wave of employees who received automation training—it was really cool.”

In Cindy’s new position, she works with the 1Million Project, Sprint’s nonprofit organization supporting less fortunate students between ages 9 and 12. The organization provides teens with devices that connect them to the internet—a vital resource that five million U.S. families with school-aged kids don’t have access to. 

Cindy created dashboards that track much of the organization’s data—including how many devices the 1Million Project has, how many have been given out, and so on. The 1Million Project reaches about 7,000 kids in the Kansas City area alone, and about 220,000 across America.

“I have always loved to volunteer, so being able to work for a big company in a role that allows me to give back is the perfect job,” said Cindy. “I’m glad I did all of this. Even if I knew ahead of time how much work would be involved, there’s no doubt I’d do it again.”

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