Catherine Cumpstone

'My scientific background is helping me apply rigour to problem solving using data and analytics...'

  • Catherine Cumpstone

Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and Statistics

Manager – Advisory, KPMG New Zealand, Auckland

When looking at her options for tertiary study, Catherine was unsure exactly which direction she wanted her career to take, and she explains that a Bachelor of Science suited her perfectly.

‘I was keen to continue studying after high school, but was not yet ready to commit to a more professional-style degree. I had always been interested in biological sciences, and I had a strong aptitude for mathematics and statistics at school. I decided that a BSc would be a good way to increase my skills and knowledge, and would leave my options wide open at completion.’

Catherine found that her two major subjects worked well in combination. ‘I pursued more of an ecological focus with my biology, and was especially interested in marine systems. I also studied a fair bit of applied statistics.’

In the January after completing her degree, Catherine began her career as a Statistical Analyst at Stats New Zealand. She enjoyed the work and the variety of opportunities at the organisation.

‘I started work in Statistical Methods, supporting the running and release of sub-annual business surveys and statistics, and providing analytical support. I went on a secondment where I built and tested some software to improve the way we processed and analysed our sub-annual statistics.’

Catherine feels her degree prepared her well for her work, and says she used her statistics skills most days in her job.

‘Definitely the stats side of my degree helps me a lot!’ she says. ‘Study in general has made sure that I am able to act independently to answer my own questions and challenges, and my research and reading skills are right up there for that.

‘I feel the real use of my degree is the critical thinking ability that I learned,’ she adds. ‘I had project management opportunities at Stats New Zealand, and was the recipient of the Emerging Project Manager of the Year award at the 2012 Project Management Institute New Zealand (PMINZ) conference.’

After spending some time travelling, Catherine worked in a Data Analytics team at EQC working on finding fraud in the Canterbury Rebuild, and then for a large insurer, IAG, running their fraud analytics programme. There, she set up the Data Guild – a community of practice for people within the business who love data and analytics, as a way to build analytical skills across the organisation.

This lead to her current role in the Advisory area of KPMG, where Catherine contributes to helping KPMG use more data and analytics in a variety of engagements.

‘I am finding my scientific background is helping me apply rigour to problem solving using data and analytics. Biology is one really interesting area of analysis, but increasingly I am finding these skills apply to a much greater realm than just scientific analysis – making my skills really useful on all sorts of projects,’ she says.

‘I have a massive variety of work and am finding myself working on difficult, conceptual and new problems on a day to day basis – something I think my scientific, in particular statistical, study has set me up well for.’

Outside of work, Catherine is also working on exploring her new city and making Auckland home. She likes to do a bit of running, play social netball, and plan her next big travel adventure, as well as doing further study on the side.

Following her own experience, Catherine’s advice to prospective students is to make their own decisions when choosing their degree.

‘I would recommend that people do what makes them happy, what they love, or what they are most interested in. As a young adult it is easy to be swayed by parents, friends and family, who tell you that they know best. However, you know yourself best. At the end of the day it is your life, your degree, and your student loan, so don’t just get into a degree because you will get an amazingly paid job at the end – if you hate the study you will probably hate the job!

‘Plan your degree to suit your interests, and take other people’s opinions as advice and not as instruction. It’s never too late to change or to try something new – so I say, give it a go, you never know where your UC skills might take you.’

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