SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Lakoduk finds answers in the data

MINOT, N.D. – Nathon Lakoduk didn’t start out as a management information systems major, but after encouragement from family, professors, and some of his own exploring, he knew it was the perfect fit.

After graduating from Our Redeemer’s Christian School, Lakoduk wanted to continue his education close to home. Minot State University was the obvious choice for the Minot native.

“Pretty much my entire family is located within Minot or in the area,” Lakoduk said. “I wanted to stay around and not have to move to a brand new place and be uncomfortable.”

Lakoduk began his college career as an English education major, but during his sophomore year, he wanted to explore different options. Thanks to a little advice from his older brother, Jordon, his third time was the charm.

“Management information systems was my third change in major in my sophomore year. I started out as an English education major. I found out that wasn't for me after one semester and then I switched to computer science, which I liked a bit more. For some reason I just didn't really click with it at the time,” Lakoduk said. “So, then I was asking my brother for some advice, and he said, ‘Why don't you just do what I did and do management information systems?’ And I've never really heard of it before, so I didn't know what it was. But I trusted him and did some research. I thought, ‘Hey, this might be interesting,’ so I stuck with it, and it ended up turning out pretty good.”

The management information systems major quickly found a great way to gain hands-on experience: joining the SWIFT (Students With an Interest In Future Technology) club and the Data Science club. During his time in SWIFT and the Data Science club, he was able to compete alongside clubmates in several data science and cybersecurity-focused competitions.

“We did cybersecurity competitions which were really challenging, but they also taught us all a lot,” Lakoduk said. “The competitions actually showed a few of my other classmates what they wanted to do as a job because I've heard many people describe them as very accurate representations of what it's like to work in an actual workplace. There have been a few data science or data analytics-focused competitions I've competed in as well. Before the Data Science Club was a thing, we kind of had a group of a few of us that would go look for them and compete in them together, and that was pretty fun.

“This past fall, we actually received a national honorable mention in the American Statistical Association Fall Data Challenge.”

Lakoduk started to really enjoy being part of the College of Business, and a huge part of that was due to his connections with his professors.

“I really enjoyed my experience with all the professors in the College of Business. They've all been really nice and supportive of my career,” he said. “The professors were super helpful. They taught the material, not just what we learned from the textbook or the coursework, but one thing I really appreciated was that they brought in their own experiences that weren't a part of the course, but what they thought might be useful.”

Numerous professors made his experience that much better and helped him explore his options further.

“I have four main professors that really made my time at MSU,” Lakoduk said. “Dr. (Chad) Fenner, advisor of the Swift Club, really urged us to get in on these competitions and I don't regret getting in on those, even though that's not what I'm going into, they are really beneficial. Dr. (Serena) Pontenila, from the BIT department, and Dr. (Daren) Erisman, from the computer science department, were a big part of me wanting to switch over and to want a career in data analytics.

The final professor and advisor helped him secure internships throughout his time at MSU, from working in the IT department on campus, First Western Bank & Trust, to his current internship at the North Dakota University System.

“I actually interned here in the IT department last summer, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Then I interned at First Western this previous fall,” Lakoduk said. “Dr. (Kristi) Berg from the BIT department was a great advisor and provided good advice about internships and how to get in on them. She was one of the main reasons I was able to get into First Western.”

Finding a specific internship in data science helped Lakoduk flourish.

“I then left to pursue another internship offer which I was offered in October last semester, which I've been at since, at the North Dakota University System. I was still trying to figure out what I liked and what I didn't like about MIS. Everything that I had been exposed to, I was leaning more towards data analytics/data science at the time, but I wasn't 100% sold on it yet. I guess going through and actually doing an internship where I'm doing actual IT work showed me that maybe I want to stick with data. So that's when I got the offer from the North Dakota University system, and that was what the internship was for, data analytics,” he said. “Dr. Berg advised me on the right choice to make when I had to decide between staying at First Western and taking an internship at the North Dakota University system.”

Lakoduk enjoyed his time with NDUS so much, that he applied for an open position. He will start his new position as a Business Intelligence Analyst on May 20. Along with his new career, he is looking forward to filling his free time with playing music as well as training and running his first half marathon at the SCHEELS Burlimot this fall.

“I really recommend students to get involved in a club or organization,” said the senior to incoming MSU students, “it really helps, it really helped me, at least with my motivation to do well in classes and make an impact with my peers.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 05/13/24   

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