Data Analyst — Soya Jones

Data Analyst — Soya Jones

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Save 40% on Unlimited Medbridge CEUs with promo code TNCPT!
Save 40% on Unlimited Medbridge CEUs with promo code TNCPT!

This week’s spotlight is on Soya Jones, OTR/L, MBA a Non-Clinical 101 graduate who is now a Data Analyst for Optum!

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What is your full name, title, and company name for your current, primary role?

Soya Jones, OTR/L, MBA — Data Analyst for Optum/UnitedHealth Group

Where are you located?


Where did you go to OT school?

University of Florida.

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What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?

My very first job was for a SNF, but it only lasted three to six months. I left that role and went to the school system, where I contracted with the county for the next five years. I still did PRN work on the side, but I primarily worked in the schools.

In what setting(s) did you work, and what types of patients did you treat?

I worked primarily in the school-based setting as a contractor. I mainly worked with elementary-aged students, but I worked with some middle school students as well. I also worked in SNF and home health PRN over the summer, on the weekends, and in the evenings throughout the school year.

In 2020, I also started treating early intervention, as SNFs didn’t allow PRN therapists in the building at that time (at least in my area). At first, I mainly treated via teletherapy, but once it was safe, we gave the option for face-to-face treatment sessions in the home.

What did you enjoy about your early roles? What didn’t you enjoy?

I really enjoyed working in pediatrics because I could just treat my students and do my paperwork. There weren’t looming productivity expectations, like in other settings. I also really enjoyed working with parents and families, including seeing them celebrate the “wins” for their child.

What I did not enjoy was the “glass ceiling.” Three to four years in, I was making the same amount as when I started. I was getting a bit restless for opportunities for growth, both professionally and financially.

What else have you done since then, prior to your current role?

After I left my local school system, I did teletherapy for a bit while I mapped out what I was really looking for. I took a role as a skilled inpatient care coordinator (SICC) doing utilization review for naviHealth (part of Optum/UHG). That opportunity opened up doors for more career pathways and the ability to connect with leaders and colleagues across diverse roles I never thought could be a possibility for me!

It was through this exposure that I discovered my first role in analytics as an associate business systems analyst. My time with the team was invaluable; they fostered my growth by encouraging me to further my skill set in SQL, Power BI, and refine my client communication skills. I really enjoyed the work we were doing!

When and why did you decide to do something non-clinical?

I don’t think there was a solid point in time when I said, “I want to be non-clinical.” It really was more of a series of conversations and decisions that led me to today.

The one thing that was consistent throughout my journey was never feeling like the work was enough. There was always another student I couldn’t treat because my caseload was full or another eval that needed to be done.

I really wanted to do something that allowed me to make a bigger and better impact.

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What are you doing these days?

Following my SICC role, I was an associate business systems analyst, working on advocacy and consumer experience reporting work. More recently, I transitioned into a data analyst role at Optum.

Outside of work, I’ve channeled my peds OT knowledge and creativity into an Etsy store. It has been fun adding this creative outlet to my life to support fellow peds therapists!

Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?

I am primarily non-clinical.

How long have you been in your current role?

I was a business systems analyst from November 2022 to February 2024. I transitioned into my data analyst role in February 2024!

What do you wish you would’ve known before going into this role?

Skills can be learned; perseverance and attitude are on you. When you are willing to put in the work to grow professionally, it is a game changer.

Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?

I took Non-Clinical 101 prior to joining naviHealth/UHG as a SICC.

The course and community were very helpful in shaping my initial perspective because, while it’s hard in general for therapists to land non-clinical roles, it can feel that much harder for school-based practitioners, as many non-clinical roles are in the adult rehab arena.

Taking the course helped me have the courage to make the leap. The community has been a great support to know:

  1. I’m not alone—although it tends to feel that way sometimes!
  2. How important informational interviews and practice are! There were so many wonderful people who I connected with—both in and out of the Non-Clinical 101 alumni group—who gave great advice and were willing to connect. 

At the beginning of my non-clinical journey, the course was super helpful in recognizing that I have a valuable skill set and that no one gets to tell me what my career has to look like… I’m too busy shaping it.

27 career paths, 50+ non-clinical resume and cover letter templates, LinkedIn and networking tips, interview and negotiation strategies, and guided insights to make your career transition seamless and FUN!
Plus, you’ll get early access to curated non-clinical job listings and a bonus lesson on AI!

How did you find your data analyst job? Did you apply or find it through a connection?

I found it through a connection!

I strongly recommend networking within your current organization because you never know the opportunities that may come from friendships and professional connections you make.

How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?

Overall, people have been pretty supportive.

What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you? What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?

Each day is different. I have team meetings and meetings with customers. I’m working on report development in a business intelligence tool. I’m also researching databases in order to develop—or sometimes improve—an existing query.

What are some of the rewards of your data analyst role? What are the biggest challenges?

It’s exciting knowing that the work I do can have such an impact on patients!

At first, it was challenging getting used to all of the changes and being okay with not having everything done before having to pivot priorities. In time, I became accustomed to the process.

How did your clinical background prepare you for this role? Which skills transferred?

My background as an occupational therapist has uniquely prepared me for my role as a data analyst. The skills honed during my clinical practice—such as attention to detail, problem-solving, and a deep understanding of patient needs—seamlessly transferred into the analytical realm.

My ability to interpret complex situations, collaborate with interdisciplinary teams, and communicate effectively has proven invaluable in extracting meaningful insights from healthcare data.

Furthermore, as a previous school-based OT, I was very familiar with visual perception and concepts such as color theory and visual contrast, which gives me a unique perspective when designing reports. I see things from an inclusive perspective (i.e. utilization of alt text and contrast colors to reduce visual fatigue).

As an occupational therapist-turned data analyst, I aim to bring a holistic perspective to the field and contribute positively to data-driven decision-making in healthcare.

What type of person do you think would do well in your data analyst role?

A successful data analyst is someone with a passion for untangling complex data puzzles and who enjoys collaborating with their business and clinical teams. An analyst will bring a curious mindset, problem-solving skills, and a talent for translating data insights into meaningful stories. Communication skills, adaptability, and, most importantly, a commitment to ongoing learning are invaluable skills in this profession.

Do you work remotely or onsite?

I am fully remote.

Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?

I read the book How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen. I love to recommend this book because I think it really made me change my perspective from, “Why me?” to “Why not me?”.

I also took the Google data analytics certification program, which exposed me to concepts and entry-level terminology. I wouldn’t say it helped land me my first analytics role, but it was a very helpful learning resource. 

Furthermore, I went back to school in order to acquire my MBA after I already landed my first role. This allowed me to further my business acumen and confidence when talking with customers. 

What is a typical career path for someone in your role?

Associate Analyst –> Data Analyst –> Senior Analyst –> Lead Analyst or Analytics Manager (overseeing teams and projects) –> Analytics Director –> Senior Director of Analytics –> Executive or Head of Analytics

What is next for you? What are your high-level career aspirations?

Overall, I’m trying to stay open minded regarding the future and not beholden to a title, per say. I aspire to utilize my analytics and clinical background to eventually be a technical product manager or clinical analytics consultant.

What would you teach to today’s graduate students in your profession, if you had the opportunity?

Basic Excel and coding skills! Even if you don’t see yourself working in analytics, any sort of program manager or business professional will, at some point, need to know how to engage and talk “apples to apples” with their analytics teams to have a conversation about reporting.

Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?

Do the work before you ask. Before you send the email or before you send the message to connect on LinkedIn, do some background research on the individual you are reaching out to and the industry and/or company they work for. I was given this advice at the start of my career transition, and I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to be well prepared for a networking conversation.

You get more out of the conversation besides generic advice, and the individual who has sacrificed their time to connect with you may be more open to connecting you with others in their network. This advice has helped me so much in my career. 

Also, practice your elevator speech. Know key highlights that you can share in one to two minutes to introduce yourself, explain what makes you excited about this particular career path, and why you’d love to hear about their journey into the field. 

If you’re a school-based practitioner, don’t forget you have so many transferable skills:

  • Cross-team collaboration
  • Project management
  • Analytics (From data collection on student progress to formal assessment review from a reporting stand point, you are able to convey what the results mean to a non-technical audience.)
  • UX design—especially OT from a color theory or visual perception perspective 
  • Even sales, when trying to get some kids to participate!

Finally, if you are seeking to get into utilization review, I felt that my PRN work in SNFs and home health was most helpful to point out during the interview for my SICC role at naviHealth.

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