Student Profile: Kayla Sealie

February 25, 2021

Written by ITS Campus Engagement, Jim Phillips

Meet Kayla Sealie - Part of the ITS Student Profile Series


Though many in our student profile series exhibited a burgeoning interest in technology from an early age, Kayla Sealie instead combined a natural inclination for data analysis with a passion for learning, which did not become fully apparent until a bit later in her teenage years. As part of a high school internship program, Kayla was thrown into a project to maintain the school’s master calendar. Spoiler alert: it involved data entry. “I loved the behind the scenes work I was doing; I was fond of organizing data and using data to place students in appropriate classes.” 

She enjoyed it so much that later, during her second year at UCSC, she returned to her highschool as a summer intern to continue work on the same master calendar project. “During this internship I used my new understanding of data and statistics in sociology to analyze student data. This was not only a great practical experience of data analysis but also sparked my enthusiasm for data analysis of groups with statistical value.” It is a rare individual who finds satisfaction deep in the weeds of administrivia, but what a pivotal role that person plays in an organization. And, for an IT department such as the one here at UCSC those well-organized data aficionados are absolutely crucial to achieving operational efficiency.

Working in ITS Where Great Things Happen

And so, it was a happy day indeed when staff in our Resources Planning and Management (RPM) group received an application from Kayla for an administrative assistant position. While Kayla knew that working in RPM would grow her technical skill set and administrative prowess, she had another motivation: 

“This is the work that allows great things to happen for an organization. And, being part of a team that makes great things happen for others is extremely satisfying to me.” 

Kayla’s supervisor, Al Covington, appreciated her positive attitude: “Kayla has been the first student worker that I’ve had the pleasure of supervising, and she’s certainly set the bar high with all the excellent work she’s given me and the whole team in RPM. I have no doubt that she’s destined for great things in her professional career, wherever she chooses to take her talents!”

Kayla thought equally highly of Al’s efforts, “Throughout my time in ITS, Al has consistently asked me if there were any areas of the RPM team I would like to learn more about. I have spent the majority of my time learning about HR under Al and it has been an honor and privilege to be mentored by him.” 

Kayla’s experience is not uncommon. While it is true that in a majority of cases, being successful in IT is about getting specific work done or completing a project on time, most student workers in ITS have flexibility to align their responsibilities with their talents, interests, and aspirations. That flexibility promotes engagement, one of the key contributing factors to a satisfying work experience.

Working on ITS Projects that Matter

Of all the projects Kayla worked on during her time in ITS, she found the ITS Exit Interview Research Project to be the most valuable. “I have learned so much from this project and was able to apply lessons from my major on statistical methods and evaluation of evidence. I learned how to use new applications, such as Google Data Studio and Qualtrics, and build my skills with applications I already knew well, such as Google Sheets.” But, perhaps most importantly, Kayla came to realize that she is capable of improving the outcome of a project by conducting research from the ground up. 

Kayla at Graduation

Kayla’s advice for UCSC students considering employment in ITS is conceptually simple but much more challenging to put into practice: “Look at it as an opportunity to grow your professional skills and a space where you can learn new skills. Make the most of every task and every project you complete because there is always something to learn from each work experience.”

What Lies Ahead 

So, what lies ahead? Having graduated from UCSC in the fall of 2020 with a degree in Sociology and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Kayla looks forward to someday working in a position where she can conduct research and collaborate on projects. In the meantime, she is currently exploring furthering her education in Computer Science and Cognitive Science in order to apply artificial intelligence to sociological research. “By bridging these two disciplines, I hope to use findings from my research to improve educational institutions.” 

Many who work in IT come from different backgrounds, and a surprising number of very successful staff have degrees that don’t fit the typical IT mold. Kayla recognized that what she brings to the ITS team is her deep knowledge of statistics and her growing experience with data analysis. And, having that self awareness early not only bolsters a person’s confidence, it can shape one’s professional identity for years to come.