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Alumna Mariah Walton helps LinkedIn users find their dream jobs.

October 6, 2015

Mariah Walton Home

Go Figure: Mariah Walton (CHE, CHEM) 2008, uncovered her love of data analysis while analyzing online shopping sales.

If you ask her, Mariah Walton will tell you she landed where she is today – in a corner office with a beautiful view at LinkedIn -- through “one part luck, one part failure, and some part success.”

The 2008 chemistry and chemical engineering graduate says her “failure” came when she found herself as an unemployed environmental consultant soon after finishing graduate school at the University of Colorado with a degree in atmospheric and oceanic sciences. The Great Recession was still lingering heavy in the air, and jobs in her field were scarce. She landed a job in the solar sector in California, analyzing meteorological data for solar arrays, only to see the company go bankrupt six months later. She moved to Denver to become an Air Quality engineer at a large firm, only to be disappointed by the paradoxical setting of the field, which sets environmentalists to work helping fossil fuel companies obtain permits to drill for oil.

“Luck” finally came her way a little later when she was hired by a start-up in California doing data analysis on online shopping data. She does not know where should would be today, but for the grace of that hiring manager willing to give her a shot, Walton says. It was through this work that she discovered a love for data analysis.

“It was the perfect job for me,” she says.

Her next – and current – stop was as a data scientist for LinkedIn, the world’s biggest professional networking website, where she crunches numbers to assist the company’s sales division.

“I like playing around with data,” she says, adding that, with about 380 million members, LinkedIn provides a remarkably rich data set.

As a kid, Walton’s first love was art. Her mother, an elementary school teacher, would often have art supplies lying around the house and Mariah put them to use. Her father, however, advised his daughter to pursue engineering and do her art on the side.

Art and a love for data analysis may not seem an obvious match, but, for Walton, they fit together perfectly. When she isn’t mining big data for LinkedIn, Walton continues to express her artistic flair working with oils, watercolors, and scratch board. Her images can be seen (or purchased) at her website, www.mariahewalton.com.

“I've always been a visual learner with strong spatial awareness,” she notes. “It's easy to see how this would lead to art, but I've actually found it just as useful in analytics work. I find I can easily visualize databases and datasets, to see how disparate sources can be connected -- akin to the instructions for a complex Lego kit, I have a mental image for each step that I'm taking, as well as a certain aesthetic flair.”