This is an interview with Samantha King, who has worked for Manulife Financial in a variety of roles including analysis, data governance, and management, done by Naomi House of INALJ. This is part of INALJ’s 2020 series on non-library jobs for library workers. Samantha has provided us with further insights into her work as a Business Analyst and a Product/Data Owner.
On Electronic File Analyst Work :
an Interview with Samantha King
part 1 of 3
Q1: Thanks so much for taking the time to help us better understand what Electronic File Analyst work is and how LIS folk can get into this field. First could you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you got your MLIS (if you have one) and what you do?
My name is Samantha, and I live in Southwest Ontario with my husband and our pets. My husband actually works in a library in IT, though he doesn’t have his MLIS.
I got my MLIS (with specializations in Information Technology Management and Management of Information Organization) from Western University in 2012. Prior to that, I earned my Honours B.A. in English from the University of Waterloo.
My first job out of my MLIS was with Manulife as an Electronic File Analyst. The role exists within our Group Businesses (both Benefits and Retirement) and at the simplest level, troubleshoots the large business to business files, looking for data discrepancies and other issues that might be causing the files not to load or individual pieces of information not to update.
Q2: Now can you tell us how You personally got into doing this type of work?
After I graduated from my MLIS, I spent several months looking for work. I didn’t have a background in libraries, but instead went right from my undergraduate degree to my MLIS. I did a term of co-op as a database administrator, because I had some background with Access and a strong understanding of how data can interact within a database.
I interviewed for a number of more traditional roles, including as an E-Resources Librarian in a small library system and as the Manager of Integrated Services at the Library Services Centre. However, I knew that I wasn’t likely to end up in a truly traditional public librarian role, so I also looked at private sector corporate jobs. The EFA role at Manulife caught my eye because it used things I was already familiar with, namely advanced Excel functions and simple SQL, and required a strong understanding of data integrity as well as a sharp eye for small details.
Q3: What makes this a great field for LIS workers and likewise, what do you think makes LIS workers strong candidates for hiring managers in this field?
I think data roles are generally a great field for more technically minded LIS workers because they allow for a lot more freedom in terms of where you can take your career, especially if you start off in a large company like Manulife. I have never felt limited by where I started, and actually thinks it’s strengthened my career prospects.
On the flip side, I think that LIS people can be an excellent fit to these roles because they are very used to looking through large amounts of information, seeking the smallest clue to the next step. Having a background in research and the independence to follow logical steps of investigation is also really critical. Finally, LIS provides a fairly solid background in explaining complex concepts in ways that laypeople can understand, which was a critical part of my role and something that has really benefited me in my career.
And to put my money where my mouth is – I was managing the EFA team for about a year and a half and hired a fellow MLIS grad because I know just how awesome we can be.
Q4: What is the best way to get your foot in the door or your first job as a senior electronic file analyst?
Honestly, I would recommend just applying if you see the role open up. At Manulife, it’s what we consider an upper entry level role – if you have strong Excel skills and are interested, you may well get an interview. Obviously, as with most companies, knowing someone in the company who can refer you is always a bonus. And knowing any real details about the business it’s in is always helpful.
Q5: Finally what are some of the most important skills / certifications / etc that LIS folk can do to prepare them? Any last tips?
I think the key skills are really having an excellent understanding of Excel (pivot tables, vlookups, and complex if statements), a good understanding of technology in general (if you know the difference between ANSI and UTF-8, you’re ahead of the game), and being able to simplify complicated ideas to explain them to people.
The things I have consistently seen in successful people in the role have been curiosity, a desire to improve things, and an ability to learn quickly. Obviously, those can be difficult to put on a resume, but they can tell you if the role would be a good fit or not.
Samantha graduated from Western with an MLIS in 2012. Since 2013, she has worked for Manulife Financial in a variety of roles including analysis, data governance, and management. She is currently a Data Owner responsible for the personal information of millions of customers. In her free time, Samantha enjoys volunteering, going for hikes, and of course reading. Pronouns are she/her.
Views expressed are those of the interviewee and not INALJ or their employer. Photo provided by the interviewee and permission granted to use it for this interview.