Making the Move:  Traditional Finance to Marketing Data Science

The Making the Move series strives to inspire those who come from unique backgrounds and want to break into the world of tech. Here’s a secret… You don’t need to be a computer science major!

Today, I am sharing the career journey of Owen Ho, Sr. Business Planning Manager at Microsoft where he leads a team of 8 to analyze product growth opportunities for the Edge Browser product group. This means that he runs return on investment (ROI) or customer lifetime value analysis on go-to-market strategies.

Avid about academics

Owen spent the first half of his life in Taiwan before moving to Seattle for university. He graduated from the University of Washington with a double degree (Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Bachelor of Science in Economics) and originally wanted to become a Ph.D. Professor of Economics because he enjoyed macroeconomics and modelling.

While the financial crisis was going on, he got really burnt out in his last year of school and saw that his peers who had already graduated were making good money. At the same time, his dad cut off his financials and told him to start working instead of studying too much. Hence, Owen decided to join the workforce and reconsider going back to school after making some money.

Factual about finance

Since starting his career at Boeing, Owen took on 6 different roles in every function of corporate finance (except accounting). This included budgeting, forecasting, deal making, financial modelling, and negotiating hundreds of millions of dollars worth of supplier deals with the power of analytics.

Eventually, he got bored in the repetitive and predictable world of finance and found that he enjoyed dealing with ambiguity and tackling non-routine projects. These reflections led him to pursue an MBA because he saw it as an opportunity to switch careers or industries more easily. With an MBA, he could gain a variety of experiences and have the option of going back to what he did before or trying something completely new.

Marketing MBA to Microsoft

After completing his MBA, Owen joined a digital marketing agency where he led analytics engagement with different clients in retail, online streaming, travel, and tech industries. This was the start of his career in the data science field. After becoming an Associate Director of Data Science and Analytics, Owen took his advanced analytics experiences to the Microsoft Advertising team.

With his strong experience in both the finance and marketing, Owen could naturally consult different business stakeholders—from marketers about their project proposals to finance directors about opportunity deals. His biggest value add is knowing how to simplify complex concepts by breaking them down to the bottom line. This includes simplifying advanced analytical findings into digestible pieces of data that help and inform decision makers.

Advice for career transitions

When it comes to making a switch in your career, Owen says the best time to do it is when you can say YES to any 2 of 3 questions below:

Do you have the technical skillset?

  • When it comes to any career that involves analytics, Owen says that the hard skills are necessary. Whether you have or don’t have them already, you must expect to put in the time to develop your technical skills and learn the tools and discipline.

Do you have the network?

  • It’s important to form connections in the company or industry that you’re trying to get into. Keep in touch with your previous colleagues and managers, and don’t be afraid to reach out when the time comes. Be very intentional and state why you want to meet… and become comfortable with rejection because it happens (but just move on to the next person).

Have you considered your personal considerations?

  • Think about what your personal life priorities are like a relationship or family that you want to start or grow, a certain lifestyle that you want, and cities or countries that you want to live in.

If at least 2 of these areas are favourable to you making a career switch, and you are excited about the role, then you can do well and make an impact! The rest of the uncertainties will eventually sort themselves out. It is still possible to make the switch even if you are missing 2 of these areas, but you may burn out trying to catch up. For example, Owen wanted to pursuing an MBA (network) while switching careers (technical) was tough and he was working 60 hour weeks for half a year and was close to burning out.

Closing thoughts

Career transitions are hard… so be brave!

owen ho
  1. Be thoughtful about why you want to make the switch. Don’t just do it because you’re going after money. Ultimately, you want to find a career that will bring you happiness and growth.
  2. Try to change or freshen up your career every 2-3 years. The first year is all about learning on the job and setting up a plan for success. The second year is executing the plan and making progress. And the third year is getting that promotion to stay or finding something different to stretch yourself. If your job is constantly changing, then you may not need to change it as often.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail early in your career and don’t play it safe… life is short!

Thanks so much to Owen for taking the time to share his career path and advice. Make sure you also check out the other #MakingTheMove posts here.

Hi, I’m Karen and I am passionate about sharing my learnings, experiences, and perspectives. Most of the time it’s related to career development; other times I am simply interested in random topics. You’ll find a mix-mash of content on here from paying off student loans to creating a career walking deck, so enjoy whatever you find and do share your feedback with me and share #kkarenism with others 👀

P.S. I do this mainly for fun and out of passion, with a hint of hope that I can retire off this one day ✨ thanks for checking my blog out. You can also check out my TikTok and Instagram. Have an awesome day!