Meet Matthew Walker: Student Attendee to Volunteer Analyst

One of the best parts of attending the Women in Analytics Conference, especially for a student, is connecting with others in your industry and field. Matthew Walker attended last year’s conference as a student and this year volunteers as an Analyst on the WIA team. 

“I’m excited to be one small part of this empowering community and learn from everyone who makes the WIA conference such a memorable experience,” he says about his experience of volunteering on the WIA organizing team.

Matthew is Junior studying Data Analytics in the Honors Program at The Ohio State University, with a minor in Critical & Cultural Theory. His experience in analytics ranges from the non-profit to startup spaces, with a passion for approaching problems with empathy and a humanistic mindset regardless of scale.

In his free time, he enjoys rock climbing, reading, and volunteering for LGBTQIA+ advocacy. Matthew is proud to be on the Executive Board of OSU’s Big Data & Analytics Association and a research associate at OSU’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

matthew walker
Matthew Walker

Matthew learned about the WIA Conference from connections he formed in the OSU community.

“A few friends from the Big Data & Analytics Association at OSU were involved as volunteer organizers, and through their passion for the conference and the community surrounding it, I was inspired to volunteer as well,” he says, referencing 2019 Logistics Coordinator, Elizabeth Gilbert, and 2019 Volunteer Coordinator, Cole Smith.

His friends’ passion for WIA inspired Matthew to join in as a day-of volunteer for the 2019 event. He remembers knowing that volunteering at WIA 2019 would be “an easy way to contribute to the wonderful community of organizers and attendees.”

Matthew elected to help out with set-up and event facilitation. This allowed him to “work alongside leaders in the analytics community affecting real social change, locally and globally.” Part of his volunteer role involved checking in and directing attendees as they arrived, providing a multitude of opportunities to connect with organizers, speakers, industry leaders, and analytics professionals.

In exchange for working two or more shifts, each day-of volunteer receives a complimentary pass to the conference. Matthew says of the experience, “it was a joy to meet first-hand many of the women (and allies) united by the mission of WIA, while also getting the chance to explore the many activities offered during the conference.”

Students of every skill level and age are encouraged to attend the conference with the confidence that they will feel welcome and right at home in the community. WIA focuses on providing each student with ample opportunities to learn from leaders in the analytics space and develop new technical skills while making connections with role models, mentors, hiring companies, and their peers.

When asked how he felt attending the conference benefited him as a student, Matthew says “As a student, it’s often difficult to envision what life might look like after college. The WIA conference is one of those unique times when you can really start to connect with the broader Columbus analytics community, and mature your perspective; working alongside and networking with professionals in the field allowed me to make personal connections with future employers who are also passionate about the WIA mission.”

While dubbed the “Women in Analytics” conference, students of all genders are encouraged to participate in the event and apply for scholarships. Outside of the speaker line-up, which is reserved exclusively for women, all aspects of the conference are open to everyone.

Matthew describes this inclusive environment as one of the most interesting parts of the event, saying “I think what has been really interesting for me is seeing what an inclusive space like WIA can do to serve everyone. Men, LGBTQIA+ folk, and PoC are all a part of the conversation, and the team is devoted to maximizing learning potential every year.”

Speaking of learning potential, Matthew recalls the following as his biggest takeaway from the conference.

“An awareness of the complex relationship between data and equity; in the age of big data, it is important that we hold companies and individuals accountable for the models they create,” he says, noting this view was strengthened “especially after reading Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction”. Each conference attendee received a complimentary copy of O’Neil’s bestselling book to complement the 2019 event’s theme of “Ethics in Algorithms”.

Cathy O'Neil

Of the entire experience, one of the parts Matthew most enjoyed was volunteering and getting to know the WIA community. “One of my favorite experiences volunteering at the conference was getting to know some of the organizers over the course of a few hours. We all came from different backgrounds and had many stories to share.”

What’s next for Matthew?

“I’m currently an analyst for the 2020 WIA conference, which means I get to work with the team on improving logistics, outreach, and more through our own data collection. It’s an exciting step up from being a volunteer, and I can’t wait to see this community grow in the coming years. Outside of WIA, I’m in my third year at Ohio State studying data analytics. In the future, I’m hoping to apply my computational skills to the social sciences in a way that benefits the social good.”