Where Are They Now? Profile: Eric Cai

Where Are They Now? Profile: Eric Cai

By: Eric Cai
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In this collection, we profile SFU alumni on their insights and reflections of the journey to work after graduation. We ask: what challenges did you face? What keeps you connected to your goals? What do you wish you had known?

1. How would you describe the feeling of graduating from university?

I had no chance to reflect upon finishing my Bachelor's degree, as I flew from Vancouver to Toronto 2 days after my last undergraduate task to pursue my Master's degree at the University of Toronto. 

Graduating from my Master's degree brought a mixture of excitement and relief.  I received a job offer 6 hours after finishing my last final exam, and I began my new job 6 days later.  I first established contact with my boss for that job 4 months earlier (during a Christmas break), and it took an information interview, 5 meetings with the company's staff, and many emails to finalize that job offer, so it was incredibly rewarding to get that job after all of that work.  It was also a relief; despite my love of academic learning, my Master's degree was incredibly intense - it was an 8-month program with 8 courses, and I was busy with 8 job interviews during my second semester - and I greatly welcomed the chance to relax and maintain a healthier work-life balance during evenings and weekends.

2. What were some of the challenges that you encountered after you graduated and how did you tackle them?

Although I liked my first job after my academic education, I had other intellectual interests that needed further enrichment.  As I was (and still am) a junior statistician, I needed to continually learn new skills to remain competitive in the job market, and one job could not possibly teach me everything that I needed to know.  Thus, I began writing a blog, called The Chemical Statistician, to document what I learned.  Not only is it a useful resource for me, but it is also a great way to share my passions about statistics and chemistry with other people throughout the world.  I also have a Youtube channel of instructional videos, and I use Twitter to communicate with others who share my intellectual and professional interests.  These social media tools have helped me a lot to advance my career and strengthen my skill set.

3. What keeps you connected in applying yourself to what you are currently doing?

I am motivated to keep learning - both in my current job in operational risk analytics and in my own blogging - by my continued interest in statistics, by the many opportunities for growth in my industry, and by my aspiration of making a bigger impact to the wider community of statisticians, chemists, scientists and the general public.  I love statistics and chemistry, and I enjoy learning these subjects even now, 4 years after graduating from my Master's degree - I'm fortunate to have found 2 subjects that I really like.  Statistics has a wide variety of jobs and professional opportunities available, but they don't come easily - I have to work hard to learn the necessary skills to earn those opportunities, and such learning is a life-long process.  Finally, I strongly believe that I have much intellect, passion, and wisdom to offer to the world - not only in statistics and chemistry, but in conveying difficult concepts into easily understable and exciting ways.  I have seen the overwhelmingly positive feedback for my blog, videos, and public speaking, and I am determined to use these tools to contribute more to the world through my devotion to clear and passionate communication about statistics, chemistry and science.

4. Looking back to your first year in university to you current position what word or phrase would you use to describe your journey?

"Unpredictable".  I began my university education intending to become a medical doctor, and I am now a statistician. Along the way, I majored in chemistry, worked in over 10 jobs before finishing my Bachelor's degree, and began a very successful blog - I never would have imagined that my path would diverge from that initial goal so much.  Throughout all of this change, however, there is a constant theme of relentlessly and diligently exploring my interests - both in and out of the classroom - even though my interest changed multiple times through my university education.  I encourage first-year students to take advantage of all of the resources that are available to them and take the initiative to immerse themselves deeply in their intended pursuits - it is only through such hard work and in-depth learning that they can determine what they like or dislike.

Eric Cai works as a Manager of Operational Risk Analytics and Modelling at the Bank of Montreal.  He is known as The Chemical Statistician on the Internet, where he writes a popular blog averaging over 500 views per day, produces videos on a Youtube channel, updates a Twitter feed (@chemstateric), and shares his career advice on the official career blog of Simon Fraser University and his own blog.  Eric graduated with a Master of Science degree in statistics from the University of Toronto in 2012, and a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in chemistry and a minor in mathematics from Simon Fraser University in 2011. 

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Posted on June 24, 2016