From Teacher to Analyst: Tigh Bakker
Published by Spinutech on August 3, 2022
For nine years, Tigh Bakker was a math teacher at Gilbert High School in Iowa, teaching courses on geometry and statistics while also helping coach football, basketball, and golf.
When he sat down for an interview with Spinutech for an open Data & Analytics Strategist position, he did so with a resume absent any digital marketing experience.
Yet as of this writing, that is a position Tigh has held for more than a year now at Spinutech.
We know what you’re probably thinking: How?
For Tigh, it all started with getting his foot in the door.
A Family of Teachers
You could say that Tigh inherited a teaching career. Not only was his mother a health teacher, but his sister is an elementary school teacher and his brother a high school math teacher.
Originally, he started as a Computer Science major at Wartburg College, intending to become an IT technician for a school. But eventually he pivoted to his comfort zone: Math. Tigh ended up transferring to the University of Northern Iowa, where he graduated with a degree in Mathematics Teacher Education and began his teaching career.
He went on to earn a master’s degree in Mathematics, knowing in the back of his mind that if he ever left teaching he wanted to have math in his background. But it was a Computer Science Teaching Endorsement program, with classes that had him learning R and Python programming languages, that made him give serious thought to pursuing a career change.
“It wasn’t an, ‘I hate teaching and want to get out’ kind of thing,” Tigh explains. “I was in a great school district. I had the autonomy to teach my class the way I wanted. I had great kids. But it was just this nagging internal thing that I had to try or I’d never stop thinking about it.”
Selling What You Have to Offer
Over the next two years, Tigh applied for 20 different positions outside of teaching.
Only one granted him an interview: Spinutech.
He was not at all surprised by the lack of responses, assuming most had looked at his resume and promptly disposed of it after seeing all of the boxes he didn’t check. But Tigh believed if he could get his foot in the door, he could sell anyone on what he had to offer.
It turned out the person he needed to sell was Dustin O’Leary, then Group Director of Digital Performance at Spinutech. He was the first to interview Tigh, who at least had the benefit of being referred by two Spinutech team members. That may have helped get his foot in the door, but it was up to Tigh to convince Dustin to take a chance on him.
“I'm a firm believer that you can easily teach hard skills, but you can't as easily teach personal qualities like work ethic, drive, and a desire to learn,” Dustin says. “When we hired Tigh we knew he had the foundation of hard skills required for the job, but more importantly we saw a wide range of soft skills that we knew would make him successful at Spinutech.”
Dustin cites his classroom experience as one example, believing that would translate well to delivering client presentations and conversations in board rooms.
“More importantly, Tigh really wanted the opportunity and was laser-focused on finding a company where he could turn his textbook knowledge into real-world data strategies for businesses,” Dustin says. “He's a perfect example of hiring the person vs hiring the skills."
Getting Paid to Learn New Things
One year since making the leap from teaching to marketing, Tigh is especially grateful for how Spinutech has shepherded his growth, from the GB8 hours that are dedicated to professional development to the opportunity to collaborate with teammates on how to solve client problems and evolve Spinutech’s data and analytics offerings.
“It’s like getting paid to learn new stuff. It’s exactly what I was going for when I started looking for a new job,” Tigh says. “I wouldn’t trade this for anything. It’s been awesome.”
He has nothing but praise for his team and their willingness to talk through any challenges, frequently mentioning Anna Pritchard, Spinutech’s Data Science Team Lead, and the sheer number of ideas and solutions that have come out of their conversations.
Tigh is especially appreciative of Spinutech’s commitment to empowering team members to own their own desk and take the lead on developing new solutions for clients.
“Not only [am I] learning new things, but when our team is given a project, they don’t tell us what we have to do. They just say, ‘Hey, here is what they’re asking. Run with it.’ We can come up with whatever we want,” he says. “And that’s awesome because [in] a lot of corporate data and analytics-type settings, you don’t get that kind of autonomy. You get told what to use and how to use it. They just need someone with the skills.”
Fortunately for Tigh, that autonomy at Spinutech won’t change any time soon.