As we celebrate Women’s Month, QuantifyYourFuture reached out to some women in Quants careers to share their advice on how to grow as a quant. In this profile, we asked Automation Architect, Jacqui Muller, to share her thoughts on balancing full-time work with postgraduate studies. Here’s what she had to say:
“My name is Jacqui Muller (occasionally referred to as JPanda). I’m an Automation Architect and I am currently working on my Masters in Computer Science, with specific focus on automation capabilities.
To put my experience of balancing work and studying in context: I pursued my BSc Honours in Computer Science and IT, with Information Systems, as a full-time student with a full-time job. Balancing work, your education and a social life can become very difficult – but it is not impossible. My top tips, that made it possible for me to adopt a life of balance, are routine and mentorship.
Forming a routine is crucial to balancing full-time work with studies
Work hard, play hard, right? Well… Maybe. If there was only “work” and only “play” then yes, sure… But what happens when we throw studies into the mix? Having to manage split focus is difficult on the best of days, let alone trying to maintain your focus in all spheres, consistently.
I found that a steady routine helped me time-box my focus. I could give 100% of my attention to one thing at a time. In that way, I could maintain a consistent balance between work, play and my studies. During my Honours, I had to attend face-to-face classes twice a week for the full year, while trying to find the ropes of my first full-time job. My social life took a bit of a back seat as I prioritised work and studies.
I’d focus on work on weekdays and attend classes on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Saturdays and Sunday mornings were put aside for assignments and studying, while Sunday afternoons were spent with family. Maintaining this routine got tough at times. If I’m honest, sometimes I’d only study for a test in the car, on my way to the university, but without the routine it would have been almost impossible to get it all done.
A great way to enforce routine would be to prioritise the spheres in your own life. Put together a schedule to make sure you spend a consistent amount of time and focus on each sphere. For a postgraduate degree, it helps to schedule regular, recurring meetings with your supervisor to ensure that you are on the right track. This helps to reduce some of the back-and-forth rework that can happen if you don’t check in often enough.
Find a mentor; be a mentor
It should be an unspoken rule that mentorship goes both ways; it is a give and take relationship! Find someone who can provide guidance and support based on their past experiences. A good way to show gratitude for this is to become a mentor yourself and use your own experiences to help guide, support, motivate and encourage others.
Finding the right mentor is vital. Look for someone who can not only guide you technically, but who understands and fuels your energy. Even with a solid routine, life happens, and the balance between work, play and studies can fall through the cracks sometimes. A good mentor can help pull you out of a spiral or a funk, and help you stay motivated. Likewise, becoming a mentor yourself and being cognisant of the work it takes to keep a balance will come in handy if your mentee ever experiences these challenges.
It is a really good feeling to be excited alongside someone who is excited about the same things as you, and the right mentor will be excited with you. Staying excited and encouraged is often what keeps us pushing through the turmoil of working and studying at the same time, so find a mentor who can be that light for you. Then – be that light for someone else and keep the cycle going!”
Jacqui Muller has worked in Data Engineering, BI Development and Automation Architecture over the course of her four-year career. You can find out more about her on LinkedIn or check out her website – thejpanda.com – for insights on Automation and BI.