Rebecca Mann


Rebecca Mann ‘17

Title: Data Associate

Employer: Synergy Enterprises, Inc. 

Major: Economics and History

Minor: Statistics 


What do you enjoy the most about your position?

My job has unusually flexible hours and I am always working on multiple projects. Meetings and deadlines permitting, I choose what to work on and when. It has also given me a broad range of qualitative and quantitative research-related skills that I hope to someday use in my own research, in graduate school and afterwards.

What is a typical day like in your position?

My job is mostly remote, so my small team meets every morning. We discuss current and upcoming projects, and anyone who ran into problems can discuss them. Then we go our separate ways to work on various projects, which usually include data analysis or qualitative analysis, but can also include sending surveys out or conducting literature reviews and finding resources on certain topics. Usually, I will work closely with one or two co-workers on a project, and we will check in frequently and check each other’s work.

Our work is within the fields of public health or education research.

How did you find your current position?

I found it on Indeed. My first professional job was at Synergy, as a Research Assistant.

I graduated in spring of 2017 and did not know what I wanted to do. While interviewing and applying for various jobs open to economics students, I quickly realized that I was interested in research-adjacent jobs, that I needed experience, and that there were a lot of education-related research assistant jobs in the area. My solution was to find a faculty member in UMD’s College of Education who was looking for unpaid undergraduate research assistants to help with a literature review and offer my services. I also found a summer internship in education advocacy, but I believe the research experience was more useful. Then I had better luck with my job search despite a lack of connections.

Which undergraduate experiences did you find most helpful in preparing you for your current position?

If you want to go into a research adjacent job, working as a research assistant is a good idea. If you’re looking at employers who do a broad range of social science research don’t limit yourself to the Economics Department! 

I also worked in food service from the summer after my freshman year until I got my job at Synergy. Don’t spend too long on things like this, but don’t try to hide them. It can be very useful when discussing how you can be an effective member of a team, are good at time management, or are good at multi-tasking.

How has your coursework helped you in your current position (i.e. quantitative skills, research techniques, communication skills)?

Classes like STAT430 or ECON422 are good for assuring employers that you understand the basics of statistical coding, as well as the math behind it. I would also say, embrace opportunities to do your own research projects; History was my second major, and I am able to use my undergraduate thesis as an example of how I can write and form coherent arguments. It would have been even better if I had done a research project within the Economics Department. 

What other advice do you have for students trying to find jobs or internships in your field?

Many people will say, get internships early. This is good advice, but sometimes life happens, so failing that, it is still possible to get very entry-level experience right after your graduate and turn it into the job that you want—at least in this industry.