This week’s spotlight is on Julie McDaniel, MPT, a Non-Clinical 101 graduate who is now Credentialing Operations Data Analyst for Humana!
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What is your full name, title, and company name for your current, primary role?
Julie McDaniel, MPT — Credentialing Operations Data Analyst for Humana
Where are you located?
I live in the Kansas City, MO area.
Where did you go to PT school, and what year did you graduate?
University of Missouri, 2009. I was the last five-year master’s program at Mizzou.
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
In what setting(s) did you work, and what types of patients did you treat?
I worked in pretty much every setting. Initially, I worked in SNFs and enjoyed that, but I always thought I wanted to work in outpatient.
Most of my career was in the outpatient setting for three different companies, and I enjoyed it. During that time, I completed a residency program for orthopedic physical therapy. I also worked PRN for a local hospital in order to supplement my income.
What did you enjoy about your early roles? What didn’t you enjoy?
I enjoyed working with stroke patients and seeing the progress within the nursing home. I always prided myself on working hard with my patients. Every clinic and facility I worked at got a better reputation for being a place to go to receive high-quality care.
I did not enjoy the politics of therapy. For example, when I first started, if a long term-care resident went to the hospital for three overnights, then you had to evaluate them—even if they weren’t appropriate.
When and why did you decide to do something non-clinical?
I decided to go non-clinical because I was furloughed from my job during COVID. I just had a baby and wasn’t allowed to come back after my FMLA ran out.
At the time, I was freaking out because I was in healthcare and didn’t have a job during a healthcare crisis. I also had two little kids and realized that PT wasn’t flexible for me to be the mom I wanted to be.
During that time, my husband found The Non-Clinical PT and a spotlight of a PT who was in clinical informatics. That gave me the hope that I could do something different.
Fast forward two more years—I finally did something about it and became a data analyst.
What are you doing these days?
I am a data analyst for Humana and work 100% remote. What is really great about this role is that it was 100% remote before COVID, so there is no chance of me having to go back to the office.
Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?
I am not treating patients anymore. I even decided to let my license expire—eek!
How long have you been in your current data analyst role?
I’ve been in my current role for seven months.
What do you wish you would’ve known before going into this role?
I wish I would have known all the resources out there to become a data analyst that are much easier. I also wish I would’ve known to leverage my LinkedIn to build a network of data analysts—and what an amazing group of people are in the data world.
Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?
I took Non-Clinical 101 and watched every single lesson to figure out what I wanted to do. I found the resources for resume-writing to be great because the resume is much different in the non-clinical world than the clinical world.
To become a data analyst, I took a bootcamp with the University of Kansas. It was 100% online: two hours, two times per week for six months. Overall, that was a great program. I learned every aspect of being a data analyst, and they have amazing tutors that you can meet with in order to fully understand the data and the code you are writing. My favorite part of the program was the career coach that I had at the end. They really helped me leverage my interview skills when I wasn’t getting the jobs after multiple interviews.
How did you find your data analyst job? Did you apply or find it through a connection?
I found my job by applying to it online. I was actively searching for a job and applied to over 300 job postings.
Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the job?
I had a special resume for my data analyst job. I created my own website in order to highlight my portfolio of data work that I created during the bootcamp. I also reworded my job requirements to focus on the data aspects.
I connected with another therapist-turned data analyst on LinkedIn. I saw how they set up their previous job responsibilities and changed mine to match theirs.
What was the interview like for the data analyst role?
My interview process for my current role was amazing—the most techy interview process ever. First, I received an email with questions and submitted my answers. Then, I met with my boss and the senior credentialing data analyst to interview with them.
It was a great interview; they asked very good and engaging questions. It was the easiest and best interview that I had in my whole process!
Then, I got a call the next day and was offered the job.
How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?
People who aren’t in healthcare didn’t understand why I left. They ask me all the time when I am going to go back.
Other PTs and people in healthcare ask me how I did it and if I can help them do the same.
What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you? What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?
A typical work week for me is very project-based. I am given projects as they come up from my leader for different areas within the credentialing department.
Most of my projects are Power BI based in order to create automatic reports for different departments or visualizations for my leader to use in an upcoming presentation. I always have a few different projects going at the same time. Then, randomly I will get asked to pull data requests from our SQL database in order to initialize credentialing.
What are some of the rewards of your data analyst role? What are the biggest challenges?
The biggest reward of my role is how grateful people are for the projects I do. The acknowledgement when you do a good job is amazing, and it isn’t expected. I also love to use my creativity skills in order to make a good and useful dashboard to make others’ jobs easier.
The biggest challenge is asking the right questions, so I know exactly how the data should be manipulated. In the beginning, I found that specific questions needed to be asked, so the data will reflect what they want. For example, “Which answer do you want true or false to mean?” It has been very interesting to learn the questions I need to ask to get the report generated correctly the first time.
How did your clinical background prepare you for this role? Which skills transferred?
My clinical background has helped me a lot in this role since it is in provider credentialing. I was a provider who was actively credentialed within Humana for many years, so I knew more of the background requirements.
Also, my understanding of insurance with my previous roles in outpatient PT, especially within the Medicare and Medicaid sector, has made all the difference with understanding the data better.
Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to patient care?
As a starting data analyst, I am making the same as I did at my last job as an outpatient PT. However, the benefits I have with my current position are better than I have ever had before. Now, I have better Roth 401k matching programs, emergency fund savings programs, and more PTO than I ever had as a PT.
I am writing this during Thanksgiving week, and it is the first time I have ever had the day after Thanksgiving off as a regular holiday!
What type of person do you think would do well in your data analyst role?
People who are detail-oriented would do well in this role. You also have to be inquisitive to succeed. Many days, I am googling something to figure out how to make the process easier or make the visual look better.
You also have to be motivated to learn and grow. Be willing to start using new skills instantly. I have always been a person who—as soon as I learn something, I do it—and that has helped me a lot in my current role.
Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?
I took the data analytics bootcamp through the University of Kansas and additional courses through Maven Analytics.
I currently take courses through my company. I have taken many courses through Humana that have progressed my ability to control the data from start to finish with Power Apps and Power BI. I am planning on starting six sigma in the new year and ASA cloud database as well.
What is a typical career path for someone in your data analyst role?
There are so many directions you can go with data analytics. Every company has and uses data in multiple different ways, and lots of companies are starting to progress to use the data in other areas.
What is next for you? What are your high-level career aspirations?
Honestly, I don’t know. I really enjoy my job within the credentialing department. I would like to continue to move up there and start getting into processes and process improvement.
I’m really enjoying where I am in my life right now. I finally feel like I have the work-life balance I have dreamed of.
I do have a mentor at Humana and am excited to learn more and see what my career can turn into.
What would you recommend to someone who is considering going into a data analyst role like yours? Do you have any special words of wisdom for the readers?
I would recommend doing your research and watching YouTube videos. There are so many great data analysts who create amazing content on YouTube that will give you a taste of what being a data analyst is like.
I also recommend focusing on Excel, SQL, and a data visualization platform, like Power BI or Tableau. With those three programs, you can do an entry-level data job.
What career advice would you give yourself that you wish you had during school?
I wish I would have looked at other options, but it was a different time. I was in school during the 2008 recession, where the only people getting jobs were engineers and healthcare workers. Data analysts were just starting at this time, and we didn’t even have EMR in the hospitals where I did my clinicals. I think everything happens for a reason.
What would you teach to today’s graduate students in your profession, if you had the opportunity?
I would teach a basic computer-function class—including Excel functions, PowerPoint, and Word—to make people more willing to solve their own computer problems.
I think, as a profession, we need to understand computers better to make them work better for us.
Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
I recommend not waiting so many years, like I did. If you aren’t happy and feel drained with more anxiety after a days’ work, there are so many other options out there.
I felt so hopeless before I found The Non-Clinical PT, and look at me now.
To become a data analyst, I recommend using some of the less expensive options out there. For example, I follow Break Into Tech, and she has a good program. Maven Analytics has a bootcamp now, and if it is anything like their courses, it is going to be a great program with lots of projects to get your feet wet in coding and developing reports.