Liberal Arts are a Head Start

Portrait of TheanCheat Lim
Photo by Phuong Tran, a CLAgency student

“When I think about statistics, on one side you have the mathematics, but sometimes it’s more of an art,” says recent graduate TheanCheat Lim. Lim grew up in Malaysia, but came to the University of Minnesota to pursue his undergraduate degree. He originally set out to study psychology, but became intrigued by the world of statistics after taking his first class, Introduction to Psychological Measurement and Data Analysis. 

Lim’s outstanding academic performance during his undergraduate education helped him secure two scholarships during his last semester: the Lynn Y.S. Lin Undergraduate Internship Fund Scholarship from the School of Statistics and the CLA Internship Scholarship from CLA. “The scholarships I received were a huge help because I didn’t have to spend the semester worrying about expenses, so I had the opportunity to participate in research in conjunction with the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management.” 

This research gave him important experience running experiments and supplied him with real-world data for his senior project. Despite graduating from the University with degrees in both statistics and psychology, Lim decided to pursue a career in statistics because “numbers are a universal language.” 

The Hurdles of an International Student

As an international student, Lim had to overcome many challenges. Applying for jobs was just one of those hurdles, as English is not his first language and he needed to obtain a work permit. When Lim first started applying for internships during his undergraduate degree, he “couldn’t be picky.” That’s where his statistics background saved the day. “Because of statistics, I was offered a business internship at Life Floor, but I knew nothing about business,” says Lim. Despite his hesitance, Lim accepted the job and learned about the many aspects of running a business including marketing, finance, and strategy. “I discovered how much I liked using Excel spreadsheets,” explained Lim. “Those are quite important, to be honest.”

When it came time for Lim to search for a career, he had many of the same problems. “I applied for over 300 jobs in the Twin Cities just [to get] the position I currently have,” recalls Lim. He accepted an analyst position at Validus Research this past October and has spent most of his time so far getting acclimated to the company and the insurance industry. 

“I was surprised when I was called in for an interview because I didn’t think I had the degrees they were looking for,” says Lim. Fortunately for him, Validus Research disagreed. “They explained to me that I had all of the skills they were looking for, even if my degree didn’t match.” His time in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) allowed him to double major and take a variety of classes that taught him more than just number crunching and analysis. “My CLA degree taught me how to learn quickly and think critically,” says Lim, and those were two important factors in getting hired. 

A Future of Combining Passions

Having just started his new job, Lim is excited about what the future holds. “I never thought I would end up in the insurance industry, but I am really enjoying my position.” Although he is still working towards his “dream job,” as a data scientist, Lim is thankful for the opportunity to work in a rapidly growing field. He went on to explain that the insurance industry has not done a great job attracting millennials, but offers new hires many possibilities for advancement in the industry. 

When asked about graduate school, Lin responded “having just started my new job, there is no time for that right now, but someday I hope to go.” Lim is eager about the possibility of graduate school because that is where he will really be able to combine both of his loves—psychology and statistics. As Lim explains, “in graduate school, all students have to learn how to use statistics to assess data and design experiments. I got a head start.” 

This story was written by an undergraduate student in CLA.

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