Department of Statistics

Meet our graduates

Learn more about why our graduates from the Department of Statistics chose to study with us, what careers they have chosen and how Statistics is helping them in their careers.

Postgraduate careers in Statistics

Meet our Department of Statistics alumni by watching our "Postgraduate careers in Statistics" video.  See how they are successfully carving out their careers using their postgraduate study in Statistics from the University of Auckland. 

Meet our graduates

  1. » Jonathan Briggs, Lead Data Scientist, Inland Revenue Department
  2. » Carmen Lim, Biostatistician, Queensland Brain Institute and Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research
  3. » Robert Harrison, Senior Manager of Data Science and Strategy, Westpac
  4. » Katrina Poppe, Research Fellow, Department of Medicine, University of Auckland.
  5. » Brian Byun, Business Analyst, Auckland Council
  6. » Samuel Huang, MBA student, Duke University, USA
  7. » Suzy Haden, Senior Analyst (Consulting), PwC (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers)
  8. » Jessie Lin, Manager, Bain & Company, Singapore
  9. » Alice Sung, Senior Associate, PwC
  10. » Eun Hee, Analyst, Fonterra
  11. » June Kuan, Commercial Portfolio Analyst, IAG
  12. » Philip Vlaskovsky, Research Associate in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Western Australia
  13. » Carina Zhao: Manager – Secured Retail Analytics, ASB Bank
  14. » Kim Frew: Statistician, Harmonic Aotearoa
  15. » Jason Pushon: Actuarial analyst, risk services team at Lumley General Insurance (N.Z.) Limited
  16. » Nick Gray: Long-term interest rate trader at Deutsche Bank
  17. » Kristy Su (Ji Zi Zu): Senior Statistician at Harmonic Aotearoa
  18. » Sammie Yilin Jia, Modelling Analyst, AA Insurance
  19. » Chit Hock Choo: Senior Modelling Analyst at ASB Bank
  20. » Edna Lu, MSc candidate in Applied Statistics at University of Oxford
  21. » Shan-I Lee: Mathematics and Statistics Teacher in Malaysia
  22. » Lovina McMurchy: General Manager, New Monetization, Skype Division of Microsoft
  23. » Deborah Donnell: Principal Investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, United States
  24. » Heti Halahuni Afimeimo’unga, Professional Teaching Fellow, Department of Statistics
  25. » Bobby Willcox, Performance Analyst for the Silver Ferns
  26. » Michael C. J. Kao, Statistician with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO)
  27. » Ekaterina Vinkovskaya, Phd student in Statistics, Columbia University, New York
  28. » Marcella Lau: Analyst at Melville Jessup Weaver, actuaries
  29. » Sarah Bulkeley, Brand Marketing Manager, LEGO
  30. » JieFu Yu, Manager, Big Data Analytics, Vodafone
  31. » Melissa Dunn, Customer Modelling Manager, Westpac
  32. » Asad Ali, Assistant Professor, Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan
  33. » Richard Hopkins, Pricing Analyst, IAG
  34. » Maryann Pirie, Statistician, AgResearch
  35. » Pieta Brown, Insight Manager, LAB360


Jonathan Briggs

Jonathan Briggs, Lead Data Scientist, Inland Revenue Department

Bachelor of Science (First Class Honours) in Statistics; PhD in Statistics

We need a fair and efficient tax system to support Government provision of things we all need, like roads, hospitals and schools.  Compliance modelling helps ensure the integrity of the tax system; my job involves identifying problems that can be solved or informed by predictions generated from statistical models, building these models, putting them into production and managing the projects that use model outputs.

For example, I build models that predict which firms might be practising tax evasion and predict how much money is involved.  These models are used to target activities to recover the lost revenue.

I enjoy technical challenges, and I’m proud that my work makes a genuine difference at IRD.  I know I am making a positive difference to something that I care about – New Zealand, and ensuring everyone does their bit to help the country run as well as possible. 

In my career I have also worked on sample design and the analysis of survey data for Statistics New Zealand. I also worked for marketing agencies; they provide busy and stressful jobs, but teach fantastic client management skills and a customer focus.

carmen lim

Carmen Lim, Biostatistician, Queensland Brain Institute and Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research

Master of Science with First Class Honours in Medical Statistics.  

I use my statistical knowledge to help mental health researchers  study important, potentially modifiable risk factors to reduce the burden of serious mental illness (SMI), such as schizophrenia and bipolar spectrum disorder.  

I am involved in a large psychiatric epidemiology programme that explores collaborative methods to facilitate early intervention for the prevention of SMIs. Part of this involves performing large-scale systematic reviews and analysing community-based surveys from the WHO World Mental Health Survey Initiative.

I am also a project statistician on the CADENCE clinical trials, a series of trials to find better treatments for people with psychosis. I also provide statistical support and advice to researchers in my department on intricate study designs, complex data analysis, and interpretation of results.

There are three areas where the Department of Statistics’ lecturers prepared me particularly well for my career. I learned to be resourceful – to approach difficult tasks in a multifaceted manner, because answers are often not in the textbooks; the ability to work independently or within a team; and time management – the assignments you do are just a teaser of what is to come in the real world. Finally, and most importantly, I learned to feel comfortable with ambiguities and grey areas in research.

Robert Harrison

Robert Harrison, Senior Manager of Data Science and Strategy, Westpac

Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours in Statistics, Master of Science with First Class Honours in Statistics

At Westpac bank, the role of my team is to solve complex problems for the business through the use of data and advanced analytics.

I really enjoy being able to tell a story from the data and putting context around the trends and patterns in data. I also really enjoy problem-solving. Each of the challenges we are asked to help solve is unique, and often a specialised approach is needed, not something out of a textbook. 

To do well in this sort of work, it helps to be interested in mathematics and statistics. But communication skills are also really important – an analysis is only valuable if it is communicated clearly to the client.

Dr Katrina Poppe

Katrina Poppe, Research Fellow, Department of Medicine, University of Auckland.

Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Physiology (AUT); Master of Science with Honours in Medical Statistics (Auckland); PhD in Medicine (Auckland).

I work on my own and other people’s clinical cardiac research. That involves planning, reading, meeting, discussing, performing and/or interpreting analyses, and writing.

My main project for the last few years, working with Auckland and overseas collaborators, has been developing normative reference ranges for common measurements of the heart, as measured by echocardiography, that are specific to age, sex and ethnicity.  Reference ranges exist, but they were based on, mainly, North Americans recruited in the 1970s and 1980s. Heart size is related to body size, and differences in body size among different ethnicities may influence what a “normal” value is for someone.   

I’m also interested in the estimation of cardiovascular risk, and how it can be improved for different groups of people. And I’m interested in missing data – the influence it has on analysis and interpretation of results, and how to accurately use the methods that are available to start to accommodate it.

What I most enjoy about this role is working with people. I work as an individual within a research group, but the great thing about the academic environment is being able to discuss ideas, approaches, results and their interpretation with colleagues. 

The attributes that help people do well in this field include attention to detail, logic and communication.  I don’t mean having to be an outgoing, dynamic kind of communicator, but it is important to keep others in the loop and say when there is a problem or when something doesn’t make sense.


Brian Byun, Business Analyst, Auckland Council

Bachelor of Science in Pharmacology, Postgraduate Diploma in Science in Statistics, Master of Science in Statistics.

Being a statistician is amazing. I like to create things that people appreciate, and statisticians do that every day! I work in the business and finance team at Auckland Council, looking after the parks, sports and recreation department; much of my work is providing information and analysis to support decision-making. At the moment, I am analysing customer satisfaction surveys; looking at the standardisation of fees and charges for council pools; and producing and maintaining monthly performance reports, using both financial and non-financial data from council facilities.

Looking back at my time in the Department of Statistics, the aspects that best prepared me for my career were lecturers and professors who gave good advice to students about career paths; relevant courses that applied directly to the many statistics roles out there, and, of course, its good reputation.

Among the statistics papers I took were STATS 108, STATS 208, STATS 210, STATS 301, STATS 330, STATS 341, STATS 727, STATS 732, STATS 740, STATS 750, STATS 761, STATS 770, STATS 779, STATS 780, STATS 782.


Samuel Huang, MBA student, Duke University, USA

Former analyst with Warner Brothers and Activision Blizzard.

MSc in Statistics, BSc in Operations Management and Statistics

What I love about my work is that I get to apply statistical tools in areas that I am passionate about – video games, movies, and basketball. Since graduating from the University of Auckland, I have worked for American film company Warner Brothers as a sales and analysis analyst, and for international games company Activision Blizzard as a business intelligence analyst.

As a student, playing video games and watching NBA games were my favourite pastimes when not studying for exams. Being able to work in these industries was a dream come true. One of my career highlights so far has been producing forecasting models for some of the biggest video games ever released – the Call of Duty and Guitar Hero series.

I think there is something about my personality that suits me to statistics – I am curious, enjoy problem solving, and I’m not afraid of math and equations.

Statistics qualifications give you an edge in the job market. They show you have the ability to work with large data sets and extract useful information that increases business profitability. I think that the sort of person who does well in this field is results-driven, has a good mathematics foundation and also enjoys some programming.

I decided to do a Master of Business Administration because I was at a point in my career where I needed to develop additional skills in order to take on different and larger roles; since starting my MBA in mid-2011, I have had a four-month internship with the Phoenix Suns basketball team. An MBA will help me develop my business knowledge and improve my managerial skills. Once I graduate, I‘d like a corporate strategy role in the media/entertainment/sport sector.


Suzy Haden, Senior Analyst (Consulting), PwC (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers)

Bachelor of Commerce in Commercial Law and Marketing, Bachelor of Science in Statistics

I use a variety of statistical tools and techniques in my work, particularly around data analysis and financial modelling. One of my recent projects involved travelling around New Zealand teaching a large public sector client how to use statistical tests and analysis in its reporting. I really enjoy the challenges and variety of the work, the opportunity to apply what I have learnt at university and to work with large clients to help improve their performance.

At University, I took practical, applied statistics papers rather than theory, as I enjoy analysing real-world data and trying to understand what it means. The applied statistics papers also helped deepen my understanding of my marketing papers.

Many employers seek graduates with analytical and problem-solving skills, which a Statistics major from the University of Auckland provides. Getting a graduate position at PwC has been the highlight of my career: it’s a company with an outstanding reputation and my position allows me to apply a diverse range of skills. Among the benefits of working for global corporates like PwC are opportunities for transfer or secondment overseas, learning from colleagues with valuable experience and knowledge, and the training available to further develop my skills.

The statistics papers I took were STATS108, STAST125, STATS208, STATS210, STATS 302, STATS331, STATS340, and STATS380.

Jessie Lin, Department of Statistics graduate (image, 2019)

Jessie Lin, Manager, Bain & Company, Singapore

Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Commerce

I’m a Manager at Bain & Company, one of the top management consulting firms in the world. I started working in the Sydney office in 2012, after completing my degree at the University of Auckland. Since then, I have worked around the world including New York, Santiago, Jakarta and now Singapore. I couldn’t have possibly asked for a better company or a better industry to start my career in.

I enjoyed quantitative subjects at school and was offered a scholarship to study mathematics and statistics at the University of Auckland, so I decided to major in both. I did this alongside a Bachelor of Commerce with economics and finance majors. At university, I joined the University of Auckland Management Consulting Club, where I met some of my best friends and really expanded my perspective. I represented the university in four international business competitions – a huge learning curve which allowed me to apply theory in a practical way.

At Bain, we firmly believe in using data to help our clients make pragmatic decisions. We help the top companies in the world with their most critical problems, ranging from strategy to operations to marketing, and we use data to derive insights and support our recommendations.

Statistics is everywhere. We’re in the era of big data, where there is an abundance of information. But all this data is useless unless we can interpret it meaningfully first. A major in statistics teaches you to ask the right questions, dissect the data that’s around us, and turn it into a form that’s useful and easy to understand. 

The statistics lecturers at the University of Auckland put a lot of emphasis on thinking for yourself, and being able to apply theory to any data. It stimulated me to be curious beyond the requirements of the course, to ask more questions, to figure out what is right, and to take the opportunities to act when they arise. 


Alice Sung, Senior Associate, PwC

Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Statistics.

I’ve always enjoyed telling a story with numbers and liked the idea of analysing data to make it useful for business. With a good international reputation, and the option to broaden my studies with multiple subjects, choosing the University of Auckland was easy.

I’m now an associate with PwC, in a team which helps businesses manage and understand data. Our analysis helps our clients make strategic decisions, so they can be more efficient.

After meeting PwC at a University careers fair I was fortunate to gain a summer internship. This gave me a taste of working in the real world, before graduating.

At University you’re often in a class of over 100 students with a diverse range of cultures, ages and personalities. I was part of an international student organisation called AIESEC, where I met other students from around New Zealand as well as overseas – I was born in Taiwan, but grew up here. The Statistics courses had a good balance of theory and how it could be applied. I gained a good practical understanding through assignments.

With increased use of technology and computers, it’s getting easier to collect data. So it’s becoming more important to know how to make sense of it all, and this is what statistics is all about! But it doesn’t mean you’ll always get the result you’re looking for with your first attempt! By being curious, you start to explore the endless possibilities of how data can be used. There are no limits to what you can do with statistics; it can be applied to any field.


Eun Hee, Analyst, Fonterra

Bachelor of Science (Honours) and Master of Science in Statistics.

“Part of my job as Insights Analyst at Fonterra is to use statistics to identify ways we can be more innovative with our products. I work in Global Ingredients and Foodservices. I also look at opportunities and threats, and create a lot of presentations that offer other staff insight into the whole picture about the market, customers and competitors.
I’m constantly in touch with my colleagues to find out what’s important to them and the business so I can add value. I’m proud that one of my presentations will be viewed by Coca Cola, USA, one of the biggest companies in the world.

Fonterra puts huge effort in hiring the right people with the right background. Everyone in an analytical role in my team has a statistics background – that says it all. Statistical work isn’t something everyone can do, it requires taught skills. What I love about this field is that once you acquire those skills, you become an expert.
I’m a fairly logical and intuitive person. I moved here from Seoul in 1996 with huge ambition, and I chose the University of Auckland because I believed it was the best in New Zealand. Its world ranking was important, too. My first statistics class turned out to be great fun – it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.
I had great support from lecturers and tutors, from my first class through to my master’s. They put time into mentoring students, which helped me prepare to get into the workforce. It was fun, and they make you feel like part of ‘the family’. At University, I had a great social life and made lots of friends, some for life.”


June Kuan, Commercial Portfolio Analyst, IAG

Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Statistics.

When I arrived from Malaysia to study at The University of Auckland, one of the first things I saw was advertising that it was ‘number one’ in New Zealand. That made me feel really good. I also chose here because, being a big city, it was easy to get flights home.

I decided to study operations research as it’s about making the best use of resources to achieve a result. This sort of resonates with me as I always think about the best way to achieve something with the least time and effort. I developed huge interest in statistics during my first semester, and being taught by the largest statistics department in Australasia was a big plus.

I’m now a Commercial Portfolio Analyst with IAG – a statistics programming paper I took in summer school landed me this job as a casual student analyst in 2009.

At University you can choose papers based on your interests. The coursework helps you understand the material and you learn how to apply your skills in the real world. Being in the statistics postgrad lab also allowed me to meet people with the same interests. We still meet up regularly for mahjong and karaoke sessions. And I was also involved with the Malaysian student club – it helped expand my network and made life as a student in a foreign country without family much more fun and enjoyable.

Statistics will always be around when numbers are involved. Being able to interpret numbers and charts in the right context is helpful, and avoids misleading conclusions. I get satisfaction from being able to summarise and present large amounts of data which could help people make smart decisions. It’s that ‘aha’ moment when we make a discovery from our data that I enjoy the most.



Philip Vlaskovsky, Research Associate in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Western Australia

Bachelor of Science (Applied Mathematics and Chemistry); Postgraduate Diploma in Science (Applied Mathematics); Postgraduate Diploma in Science (Statistics, with distinction); Master of Science (Statistics, First Class Honours)

I am part of a small team of statisticians that supports the clinicians and researchers at the Medical Research Foundation of Royal Perth Hospital with the statistical analysis component of their research. This also includes contributing to scientific publications in medical journals.

One of the more interesting projects I contributed towards was about assessing the amount of corrosion on various parts of modular replacement knees which were excised from patients. It was of interest to ascertain whether the design of the modular knee was connected to the extent of corrosion. The medical physicist provided the data that was collected, and after a couple of consultations with her to smooth out some details, I was able to zero in on an adequate statistical model to answer the research question.

To do well in statistics, you need to be academically focused, with a good work ethic and numerical competence. You also need to be approachable, have an outgoing personality and be able to communicate technical ideas to a range of people, from nerds like me to your friend who dropped maths straight after fifth form. Statistics is a multi-purpose tool that will open many doors for you.

The statistics courses I took in the Department of Statistics were:
Data Analysis for Commerce, Statistical Theory, Special Topic in Applied Probability,   Statistical Inference, Bayesian Inference, Topic in Statistical Inference, Sample Surveys, Special Topic in Sampling, Statistical Methods in Marketing, Experimental Design, Statistical Modelling, Professional Computing Skills for Statisticians, Statistical Consulting, Statistical Computing, Simulation and Monte Carlo Methods, Statistical Data Mining and Topics in Statistical Data Management.




Carina Zhao: Manager – Secured Retail Analytics, ASB Bank

Bachelor of Information Science majoring in Quantitative Methods and Finance, Master of Science in Statistics (First Class Honours)

I lead a team of analysts who manage credit risk for ASB’s secured retail portfolios – that’s home loans and lending to small and medium-sized businesses. We provide in-depth analysis to help the Bank make the right lending decisions, balancing risk and reward.

The bank relies on my team to control and forecast the level of credit losses, which are a critical component of high-level planning. Data is king in this field – and having the statistical skills to make the data meaningful is critical. We use a multitude of data mining techniques such as ANOVA, time series analysis and logistic regression modelling.

To do well in this sort of career, you need to be outgoing, love challenges and be results-driven.

The Department of Statistics not only helped us to explore statistics more widely and deeply, it also provided us with good opportunities to develop research skills, which are the key to problem-solving.

The statistics papers I took were STATS724, STATS747, STATS762, STATS785, STATS723, STATS732, STATS784, STATS722, STATS726, STATS780, STATS790A, STATS702, STATS727, STATS779, STATS790B.



Kim Frew: Statistician, Harmonic Aotearoa

BSc(Hons) in Statistics (First Class); BSc (major Pure Mathematics, specialisation in Operations Research); Master of Operations Research (First Class Honours).

I work with a team of statisticians who assess, design and implement analytical frameworks to help solve business problems. I might be advising clients on data collection methods; data mining to uncover patterns and relationships in datasets; building and monitoring predictive models for clients using techniques such as regression; or doing operations research by investigating innovative ways of achieving efficiency gains and cost savings.

One of the reasons I enjoy statistical work is that there are many potential applications for your skill set. There’s a possibility that you may uncover a pattern, relationship or information that was previously unknown. This insight can help to set a strategy for significant gains in efficiency and cost reduction.

I think there are things about my personality that suit me to statistics. I love problem-solving and knowledge discovery. And there’s an element of creativity in how you apply statistical techniques. It’s fun!

Among the statistics papers I took were STATS125, STATS101, STATS210, STATS255, STATS310, STATS320, STATS325, STATS370 , STATS710, STATS723, STATS731.



Jason Pushon: Actuarial analyst, risk services team at Lumley General Insurance (N.Z.) Limited

Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Statistics and Bachelor of Commerce (Economics)

I started off in a graduate role within the Risk Management at Westpac. Currently, I work as an Actuarial Analyst for Lumley General Insurance in their Risk Services team. The purpose of the Risk Services team is to ensure that Lumley retains the right level of underwriting risk for the right price. The Risk Services team achieves this objective through the provision of analysis and advice on pricing and underwriting strategy, and through the management of reinsurance arrangements and relationships. We use statistical models built from insurance experience and other external information to provide the business with advice on pricing, performance and risk exposure.

The thing I enjoy the most about statistics is having the tools to solve almost any problem, and being able to communicate those answers to a wider audience; I think being a problem-solver and having a tendency to take on challenges are the personality traits that synergise well with statistics.

To do well in this sort of study and this sort of job, you need to be well-rounded; I think ideally you should have a balance of mathematical and English skills. You need to be comfortable with numbers, report writing and coding. An interest in macroeconomics probably wouldn't go astray either.

The statistics papers I took were:



Nick Gray: Long-term interest rate trader at Deutsche Bank

Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Finance, Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics and Statistics

My primary responsibility is calculating and setting interest rates for the AUD and NZD. This is achieved by looking at things like pricing models, the economics that drive financial markets and risk management. I then analyse all the data and predict how movements in interest rates will affect our profits.

I would recommend studying statistics in conjunction with other courses as it can be applied to nearly any industry that is of interest to you. When combined with other areas of expertise statistics is a very powerful tool which will open up a wide range of job opportunities.

The statistics papers I took were:
STATS108, STATS208, STATS210, STATS255*, STATS300*, STATS310, STATS320, STATS325, STATS370, STATS702, STATS723, STATS783
*I received transfer credits for these papers which I studied at an overseas university.



Kristy Su (Ji Zi Zu): Senior Statistician at Harmonic Aotearoa

PhD in Statistics

As a senior statistician at research and development company Harmonic, my key responsibilities are to develop and maintain the lifecycle-management solutions which we have designed for Telecommunications Networks. This involves analysing data, linear programming, modelling, advanced computer programming and project design.
My degree gave me a solid background in the understanding of statistics, improved my research and problem solving skills and taught me to work independently.

I found the lecturers in the Department of Statistics to be professional and very knowledgeable. The facilities are world class and overall the support I got from the department was superb. I would mention to anyone thinking about studying statistics that there is an increasing demand for statisticians worldwide. For me it has been a good career choice.



Sammie Yilin Jia, Modelling Analyst, AA Insurance

BSc (First-class Honours) in Statistics, MSc in Statistics (both the University of Auckland)

At AA Insurance, I provide suggestions for customer pools that we should target; work on customer acquisition campaigns with business partners New Zealand Automobile Association and AA Life; and collaborate with NZAA on various analytics projects.

I have also worked for marketing agency Affinity ID as a customer insights analyst and applied statistician. Prior to that, I was a data analyst for the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research.

The top things I learned from the Department of Statistics that prepared me well for a varied career were technical skills such as R and SAS, and the applied courses that taught me how to explain statistical terms to clients with little statistical knowledge. 

Some of the papers I took while in the Department of Statistics were STATS201, STATS210, STATS255, STATS302, STATS310, STATS320, ENGSCI391, STATS301, STATS340, STATS730, STATS731, STATS782, STATS726, STATS747, STATS785.



Chit Hock Choo: Senior Modelling Analyst at ASB Bank

Bachelor of Science with majors in Statistics and Operations Research, masters in Statistics

I am currently a Senior Modelling Analyst in the Modelling Team within the Credit Risk Management department of ASB Bank. My role is very heavily involved in statistics, mainly building advanced statistical models for the bank. Formerly, I was a Segmentation and Modelling Analyst at Yellow™ Pages where my role was to identify key opportunities for Yellow™ Pages by developing statistical models that support their marketing plans, as well as providing customer profiles and product and market analysis.

My postgraduate degree from the University of Auckland has given me an advantage over my competition in the employment market. Equipped with the cutting edge statistical modelling skills and data mining techniques that employers are desperately in need of, I found I was highly sought after in the job market. There are plenty of job opportunities out there for postgraduate Statistics graduates, as these days every industry needs a statistician.

Some of the statistics papers I took were STATS201, STATS 210, STATS255, STATS302, STATS 310, STATS 320, STATS 301, STATS 330, STATS 340, STATS740, STATS 750, STATS782, STATS 731, STATS 747, STATS 766, STATS 761, STATS 784, STATS 722, STATS 726.

Edna Lu

Edna Lu, MSc candidate in Applied Statistics at University of Oxford

Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Statistics

I love how statistics can be applied to many fields of study from finance, education to medical research. It offers me a variety of choices in terms of career path.

After finishing my honours degree, I worked as a Statistical Analyst in the Work, Knowledge & Skills Unit at Statistics NZ. This was very interesting because the data I looked at everyday directly related to half of New Zealand’s population, including me. The information we produced, for instance about work conditions and work-life balance of employed people, informs the government and hopefully helps them in their policy making. It will also help researchers and the general public get a better understanding of New Zealanders in the work force.

In September 2013, I started an MSc in Applied Statistics at Oxford University. This programme emphasises practical sessions and computer intensive methods. It appealed to me because I want to apply my skills to solve real-world problems.

I chose the University of Auckland because of its 360° Student Exchange Programme. In this programme, I spent one year at UCLA during my 2nd and 3rd year. This was an eye-opening experience and also set my path towards majoring in Statistics. My favourite paper at Auckland was also the most challenging paper that I took: Stats 730 - Statistical Inference.



Shan-I Lee: Mathematics and Statistics Teacher in Malaysia

Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education

I work as a mathematics and statistics teacher at the International School of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Before that I taught for two years at Lincoln Community School, an American international school in Ghana, West Africa, and before that I taught at Auckland Girls Grammar School.

I tell all my students that statistics is an important part of many jobs, and that in both our personal and professional lives, it's really important to be able to critically examine the statistics behind the 'facts' we hear.

What I really enjoy about statistics is its relevance and usefulness to us all, whether that's determining the efficiency of new drugs or identifying new social trends.

I always encourage my students that whatever their chosen area of study, they should continue to further their studies of statistics at tertiary level. Statistics is an excellent second major or minor to help keep their career options open, and it provides them with an advantage in today’s competitive job market.

I found the lecturers in the Department of Statistics approachable, open to discussion and always encouraging. Their manner of teaching was cutting-edge, and they were always looking at better ways of engaging students.

Some of the statistics papers I took were STATS101, STATS201, STATS210, STATS391, STATS325.





Lovina McMurchy: General Manager, New Monetization, Skype Division of Microsoft

Diploma in Statistics, BA in Psychology, MA in Mathematics (Auckland), MBA (Harvard)

I am currently the General Manager, New monetization, Skype Division of Microsoft. 

One of my previous roles was General Manager (Consumer & Online) at Microsoft Latin America. In this role, I was responsible for PC, phone and online services and advertising in countries like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

I think there are things about my personality that suit me to statistics. I like accuracy and having the right answer. And I like having the skills to know when someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. What I really enjoy about statistical work is diving into financial models and using them to understand how to improve profit. Our most senior managers are, at heart, math geeks – the kind of people who can do calculations in their heads and understand the implications of different strategies. Statistics, with its real-world focus, is particularly good training for that.
The academic and personal attributes that I think lead to success in this sort of career are strong quantitative skills as well as strong communication skills. They’re a killer combination.



Deborah Donnell: Principal Investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, United States

MA (Auckland), PhD (Washington)

I am a biostatistician engaged in the design and analysis of clinical trials – statistical thinking and analysis are the front and centre in my daily work. I work with clinicians, laboratory experts and epidemiologists, and help them use good applied analysis to inform their opinions and guide their decision-making. Many people are intimidated by statistics. Helping them make sense of estimates, understand how their data can be used to answer questions and helping with interpretation of results is very satisfying.
I tell students that to do well in a field like this, they need to truly master the mathematical foundations. But statistics is first and foremost an applied field: if you are a good communicator, enjoy working with people, are credited with uncommon good sense and have a talent for mathematics, you can look forward to many exciting career opportunities.


Heti Halahuni Afimeimo’unga, Professional Teaching Fellow, Department of Statistics

PhD in Operations Research

I graduated with my PhD, through the Department of Statistics, in May 2012. Operations research is about developing solutions to complex decision-making problems. Take commuting to work, for example: It affects thousands of Kiwis daily and everyone has the same goal – to get to their destination the quickest way possible. So what’s best – choosing a route that’s quickest for the individual, or choosing a route that minimises the overall delay for everyone?

After finishing my PhD, I got a post as a Professional Teaching Fellow in the Department of Statistics. I tutor stage one and two statistics students. I enjoy helping them understand more about statistics and how to understand and analyse data.

I also work as a Tuākana – the word means older sibling or cousin in te reo Māori – which is a programme to help Māori and Pacific students achieve the best possible grades through mentoring, tutorials, workshops and study groups. I tutor the students – in this photo I am standing behind students Ngaian Ah-You (left) and Simon Waigth as they work in the statistics Tuākana room – and also provide data analysis of the Tuākana science students’ pass rates for the Faculty of Science Tuakāna coordinator.

Statistics is part of mathematics, and right from primary school I really liked mathematics. If secondary school students asked me what personal and academic attributes it takes to succeed in a role like mine, I’d say that they have to like helping others. They would need a postgraduate degree at least to be able to teach at university level.


Bobby Willcox, Performance Analyst for the Silver Ferns

PhD in Statistics

I monitor the performance of both individuals and teams – the Silver Ferns and their opponents. I tend to focus on tactics and strategy. I track performance using statistics and video evidence, and carry out or supervise research projects into specific areas of the game.

What I track during Silver Fern games is top secret! But we are probably capturing anything you could think of measuring during a netball game. A lot of statistical information is taken during and immediately following games, and we also use video to work with coaches and players in between tests.

Usually, the data reinforces what we can see happening on court, but it gives us an objective evidence-based approach to aid in strategy and decision-making. There are times when the data will highlight areas of concern for us, and areas of strength and weakness for the opposition. We also get an idea of our overall team performance in each area of a game, and can break that down to get an idea of each individual player's contribution.

I get to work in a sport I love at the highest possible level, with a fantastic bunch of people. I loved playing netball all through school and university, but never dreamed I could make a future in it using stats! Performance analysis is a relatively new discipline, especially in netball, so I have a wonderful level of freedom to establish my own processes and come up with my own initiatives.


Michael C. J. Kao, Statistician with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO)

Bachelor of Arts in Statistics (First Class Honours) and Bachelor of Commerce in Economics and Finance; Master of Science in Statistics.

I am based at the FAO’s Rome headquarters and part of a team responsible for producing the FAO Statistical Yearbook.

In particular, I lead the architectural design and the underlying methodology for generating statistical indicators in food and agriculture, using the statistical software R.

I also provide technical support for the deployment of R for statistical analysis in two other UN agencies: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

The Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland equipped me with the necessary skills and knowledge – both in theory and application – to tackle all problems related to data. The power of statistics is to reveal, inform and act upon insight gained. When it comes to choosing a career, statistics opens doors to a plethora of environments.

The statistics papers that I took were: STATS108, STATS208, STAS210, STATS301, STATS310, STATS330, STATS370, STAS390, STATS 702, STATS723, STATS725, STAS726, STATS727, STATS731, STATS 747, STATS767, STATS 779, STATS780, STATS782, STATS783, STATS784.


Ekaterina Vinkovskaya, Phd student in Statistics, Columbia University, New York

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematics, BSc(Hons) in Statistics.

After I graduated, I worked at Westpac as a Risk Analyst. I enjoyed this job a lot!

It involved helping the bank to accurately predict future behaviour and estimate the current behaviour of borrowers to optimise how much money the bank should hold aside to protect itself against defaults.

I applied for a Phd at Columbia for both personal and professional reasons; my parents now live there, and if you want to work in finance, New York is one of the best places to be. Getting into Columbia was challenging every step of the way. I had to spend a week on a practical take-home project and sit three exams of about four hours each. It was a very intense experience.

My research focuses on modelling high-frequency trading in the financial markets. My knowledge of software languages such as SQL, SAS, R, C++ and LATEX serves me well in my doctoral work. I will be graduating in May 2013, and after that I would like to work in finance in New York.

What I treasured about my experience at the University of Auckland was the quality of the collaboration with staff and students in my honours year. The environment was collegial rather than competitive.


Marcella Lau: Analyst at Melville Jessup Weaver, actuaries

Conjoint BA (Economics) and BSc(Hons) in Statistics

I'm doing mostly investment-related work at the moment; there’s a lot of data analysis and reporting involved. I am also a part-time actuarial student – I am studying towards the exams run by the Institute of Actuaries in the United Kingdom. In five years’ time, I’d like to have finished my exams and be a qualified actuary.

I found the courses on offer in the Department of Statistics to be of a very high standard. The excellent resources provided and the way the courses were organised and assessed suited my style of learning. I enjoyed the personal approach the lecturers took; receiving regular one-on-one contact and personal feedback on my progress was of great benefit.

Among the statistics papers I took were STATS101, STATS201, STATS210, STATS 301, STATS310, STATS 326, STATS 330, STATS705, STATS741, STATS747, STATS767, STATS779 and STATS780.


Sarah Bulkeley, Brand Marketing Manager, LEGO

Bachelor of Science (Statistics) and Bachelor of Arts (Psychology); Postgraduate Diploma in Business

I manage LEGO’s preschool business (such as LEGO DUPLO) for Australia and New Zealand. My role involves brand planning – that is, setting objectives and developing marketing strategies for preschool themes; campaign development and execution, which is working with external agencies to develop campaigns for the preschool business; and forecasting and reporting, which is forecasting future demand and reporting on current performance.

I love that my role is a mix of products, customers and numbers! Every day is different. One day I will be crunching numbers and forecasting the whole of next year's DUPLO sales, the next day I could building a DUPLO rainbow for an event or be at an agency developing a campaign.

The Department of Statistics prepared me well for my career at LEGO with strong Excel, forecasting and analytical skills, and also taught me the value of good time management and organisational skills.


University of Auckland statistics graduate Jeff (JieFu) Yu

JieFu Yu, Manager, Big Data Analytics, Vodafone

BSc (Hons, First Class) in Statistics; Graduate Diploma in Science (Statistics)

My responsibilities include running a high-performance data-science team, driving the company’s big data strategy, leveraging data to deliver our business goals and developing and implementing advanced analytical models.

On a typical day, I talk with stakeholders in New Zealand and overseas, identify data-use cases, ensure that data is available to other parts of the business that need it, and provide support to my data scientists and engineers.

I enjoy finding hidden, vital information in data and using this to give the company strategic advantage. I also really enjoy being involved in strategy formulation. Statistics is an art, just like painting and poetry; it’s all about pattern recognition.

To succeed in this sort of role, you need to have a commercial mind-set, skills in communication and leadership, and a strong knowledge of the field.

I went to the University of Auckland because it’s a top-notch university, and the Department of Statistics is one of the best, with first-class academics throughout. They prepare you for real work situations.

Among the statistics papers I took were Introduction to Statistics, Data Analysis for Commerce, Statistical Theory, Applied Multivariate Analysis, Applied Time Series Analysis, Statistical Programming and Modeling using SAS, Advanced Statistical Modelling, Introduction to Bayesian Statistics, Official Statistics, Introduction to Medical Statistics and Professional Computing Skills for Statisticians.


Melissa Dunn, Customer Modelling Manager, Westpac

Bachelor of Commerce (Economics) and Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Statistics

In my role I use statistical skills, including modelling and data mining, to better understand our customer base. These insights are then presented to various stakeholders.

An honours degree in statistics has prepared me well for the technical and communication skills I need at work. What I enjoy most about my job is being able to apply the skills I learnt at university to real business problems, and having the ability to influence decisions. I also enjoy trying and learning different techniques that can be used to solve a given problem.

I think certain personal qualities can help people do well in statistics. It’s important to be inquisitive and pay attention to detail, without losing sight of the bigger picture. Studying statistics alongside another subject can also be valuable, as it provides the opportunity to combine technical and contextual knowledge. Verbal and written communication skills are also important since results often have to be communicated to third parties.

Some of the statistics papers I took were: STATS108, STATS125, STATS208, STATS210, STATS220, STATS301, STATS302, STATS310, STATS325, STATS326, STATS330, STATS341, STATS351, STATS708, STATS740, STATS761, STATS770, STATS780


Asad Ali, Assistant Professor, Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan

Phd in Statistics

I equip aerospace and aeronautics engineers and space scientists with sophisticated data analysis tools to strengthen their decision-making abilities. I help them translate their observations and data so they can make more informed decisions in the face of uncertainty.

One of the things I do, for example, is use the Bayesian approach to detect and characterise gravitational wave sources through their radiation in space-time. To help my Bayesian approach, I employ advanced MCMC algorithms to carry out estimation procedures. To be a statistician, particularly a Bayesian one, one needs to be expert in programming and computing.

Statistics and astronomy are close kin; most of the early statistical techniques were developed by astronomers. I enjoy the challenging nature of astronomical data analysis. It’s exciting to explore our mysterious universe and the complicated behavior and nature of the massive objects floating in space.

Statistics deal with observations and I have been a keen observer by nature since my childhood. To well in statistics, the most important thing is sincerity. If you are sincere about achieving a goal, you will automatically work hard. You must be consistent and never give up. And show utmost respect to your parents and teachers.


Richard Hopkins, Pricing Analyst, IAG

BSc in Statistics and Computer Science, BSc(Hons) in Statistics

Pricing analysts use statistical modelling to determine fair premium prices. This ensures that there is both enough money to pay for claims and that the company is making a profit.

What I really enjoy about this job is the fact that there is something new to do every day. I also enjoy the people; it feels like we all belong to one big family. The hardest part about my job is knowing where to go to find the data that you need. There is a ton of data and it is stored in lots of different tables.

I went to the University of Auckland because it’s New Zealand’s only world-ranked University, and I knew that it would provide a great launching pad. Additionally, I heard many good things about the university – great facilities, good course content and the likes – from family and friends.

I actually started studying majors in computer science and mathematics. I took Stats 101 in my first semester and enjoyed it so much that I changed my majors to statistics and computer science – and the rest is history!

I am of Samoan and New Zealand heritage, and while I was at university I was a mentor in the Tuākana programme, a Māori and Pacific learning community.  It aims to help students to transition to university life and achieve academically. As a mentor/tutor in the programme I recruited students, built relationships with them, and provided academic support, usually in the form of group tutorial sessions.

To do well in the workplace, I think it’s important for students to develop a strong work ethic while studying – you can accomplish anything if you work hard enough for it. Also, it is important to start networking as soon as you can. Lots of people finish university without building relationships or establishing networks, so they receive a degree upon the completion of their studies but have nothing else that will help them to bridge the gap between academia and their ideal career path. Networking is key!


Maryann Pirie, Statistician, AgResearch

BSc (Hons) in Statistics (Otago), PhD in Geography and Statistics (Auckland)

I work alongside scientists and carry out a range of tasks, from experimental design to analysing data and writing papers. I work mainly with scientists who focus on improving meat quality by looking at issues such as storage and handling, but I also work with members of the Land and Environment and Pest and Weed Management teams.

When a scientist has an idea for an experiment, I will meet with the scientist and discuss what’s needed, then provide a suitable experimental design. The scientist will then conduct the experiment and return the data to me. I analyse the data, provide a summary of the results and discuss them with the scientist. I’ll also help write up the methods and results.

One of the things I really like about my work is being involved from the beginning to the end of an experiment. I like the freedom of working directly with scientists, and that my skills are highly regarded. If there’s something I’m not familiar with, there is a great team of experienced statisticians here who are happy to discuss an issue with me.

Another thing I enjoy about this work is the large range of different experiments that I’m involved in – they have ranged from looking at ways to improve meat stability, through to weed and pest control to optimise crop growth, and monitoring nitrogen leaching in soil. 

My PhD looked at kauri trees, whose growth rings are often used as proxies in climate change studies, to see how we might improve the methodology – in the photo, I’m taking measurements from a tree. My PhD helped me learn how to research and teach myself new ideas and concepts, as well as teaching me how to work independently and present my ideas confidently.

During my PhD, I worked as a graduate teaching assistant, which helped me learn how to clearly explain statistical concepts to others.  It’s a very useful skill in my day-to-day work.




Pieta Brown, Insight Manager, LAB360

BSc/LLB, BSc(Hons) in Statistics (Auckland)

LAB360 is a brand of Loyalty NZ, the parent company behind Fly Buys. We implement data-driven solutions that drive better outcomes for our clients and provide the science behind their decisions.

As Insight Manager, my role is to work with both our internal technical team and our clients. Typically, this involves translating a client’s business problem into an analytical project and then using our findings to deliver new insights and recommendations.

Day to day, this involves meeting with clients, understanding different data sources and systems, discussing methodology with the technical team, reviewing statistical outputs and developing client presentations.

For example, a client approached us wanting greater understanding of how customers make decisions about products and services and, more importantly, how to quantify these customers to identify strategic opportunities. We used their customer and transactional data combined with LAB360 data sources to identify clusters of customers with similar behaviours and attributes. Our design team helped develop engaging ‘personas’ to represent each customer group.

I love the challenge and variety that comes with this role – from high-level conversations about a client’s strategy to the specifics of a particular predictive model.

Doing my honours in Statistics was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My courses ranged from the theoretical, in probability and Bayesian inference, to the very applied – working on statistical consulting projects and issues in marketing and medical statistics. Over the course of the year I worked on advertising revenue, renal failure, genetic data, geyser eruptions, clinical trials and magazine sales, to name just a few!

The Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland provides a great working environment with friendly staff and students, excellent resources and opportunities to be involved with leading research.