MEET JODI-ANN CLOUGH
Age: 34 | Hometown: Kingston, Jamaica | Apprenticeship: Arvest Bank
MY BACK STORY
I grew up in Jamaica, lived there for most of my adult life. My family was in the gaming industry, and I worked there growing up. In fact, I’m still on the board. I like to start out by telling people that gambling is legal in Jamaica. We’re close to the police station, so we’re completely above-board. We’ve sold slots and numbers—lottery—horseracing, sports betting. It would be like what you consider a casino, but in a really, really, really small way.
Did I like working there? There are lots of things I’d prefer my father had chosen other than gaming. It’s a non-stop kind of life, if you think about it. We’re open really early in the morning till really late at night. We don’t take holidays.
MY EDUCATION (Part 1)
In 2005, I got my Bachelor of Science degree in Banking and Finance at the University of the West Indies.
MY WORK LIFE (Part 1)
But I didn’t get the opportunity to use my degree at the time. My father passed away the semester before I graduated from university, and I was the youngest and therefore the only free agent to take over the family business. So that’s what I did for years.
MY WORK LIFE (Part 2)
In March 2016, my husband and I moved to the United States—to Atlanta, where my sister lived. And after about a decade of working in something I hadn’t chosen for myself, I decided to do something for me, something that I wanted to do. I had this fool idea that I wanted to be a cake decorator.
I really like to make cakes, and so I was a cake decorator at Publix for the time that I was in Atlanta. And I realized, You know what? I really don’t like this much.
My goal going in was to learn as much as I could so that I could open my own business. And what I saw was, in order to turn a profit, you had to do it really fast and really cheap. Or go the complete opposite of the spectrum and do it really slow and really expensive. And I thought, Wow, this is not a good business model.
We were only in Atlanta for about three and a half months. My sister worked for a vendor to Walmart, and she moved to Bentonville. So we did too, in early July 2016.
But there’s another thing: When we moved to the U.S. in March, I didn’t know I was pregnant. So I had a baby, a son, born in October 2016. And that’s what I did for the rest of the year.
MY WORK LIFE (Part 3)
In February 2017, I started working as a Financial Sales Representative for Arvest Bank in Bentonville. It was a customer service role, and I’m comfortable with that—in fact, gaming is mostly customer service. Also, having my degree in finance really helped. So I started talking with people, helping them with their finances, and I was enjoying it.
MY EDUCATION (Part 2)
During that time I was also taking the first level of the CFA exam—that’s for Certified Financial Analyst. After the CFA exam, I was looking around for what’s next. And I actually had a colleague who was enrolled in the executive MBA program at the University of Arkansas. And I thought, Well, this is my season. I took so much time off from school that I’m just going to do as much of it as I can. I had a good support system in terms of family and being able to take care of my son, and I still had income from Jamaica and working at Arvest. So there was really nothing holding me back.
MY TURNAROUND MOMENT
I enrolled at the university and started on that program, and that’s when I discovered that there’s a focus area in the executive MBA track called Business Analytics. And I fell in love. I found it. I found the thing that I was looking for. I love data.
Just as soon as I started working with the data, I changed to a more data-driven role at the bank—as a Process Design and Support Specialist. I was literally learning it and doing it on the job at the same time.
I graduated from the MBA program in May of 2019 and decided to give myself a break for the rest of that year. Then, in 2020, I wanted to start something else. And actually, I won a spot in the QA Apprenticeship cohort at UA Global Campus. Only one person from my department was going to be accepted, and it turned out to be me.
The apprenticeship was mostly virtual. We met twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and our professor had office hours on a Friday. And I’m an overachiever—I didn’t want to just get by. I wanted to get something out of it, so I worked really hard and dedicated a lot of time to doing whatever homework assignments we had. I was really proud of the work that I did during the apprenticeship. Now I’m in the on-the-job phase of my apprenticeship.
MY WORK LIFE (Part 3)
Today, I’m a senior reporting analyst at Arvest Bank. That just means that I focus more on the data. My former job in Process Design was a mile wide and two inches deep, and now I work the other way around.
I’ve learned so much over these last six or so months. I’ve taught myself a bunch of things. I’ve had to interact with literally all levels of our organization. I research data problems to develop analytical solutions. Again, I love data. I love touching it and cleaning it and I know most people hate that. I love getting in there and seeing what there is to see. I love visualizations. The actionable insights we can uncover improves the customer’s experience and drives innovation.
As for my cake decorating, I’ve decided to only bake for family. I’ll bake all the cakes for my kid and my husband, and I’ll be okay.
Jodi-Ann Clough is an Apprentice as a part of the IT Apprenticeship Program of Arkansas Center for Data Sciences.
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