George Mason University


News at Mason

His career plan? Invest in himself

January 24, 2019   /   by Damian Cristodero

Alexei Sothoron has two undergraduate degrees from Mason, including one with a double major. Now he's going for his master's. Photo by Lathan Goumas.

Alexei Sothoron looks at his education the way others look at their financial portfolios.

“If you think about it, your education is an investment,” he said. “You want to diversify your investments. I chose to diversify my education.”

Sothoron is on schedule to graduate from George Mason University in the spring with a master’s degree in data analytics engineering. He’s already earned an undergraduate degree that included a double major in accounting and finance, and a second undergraduate degree in information systems and operations management.

“My logic was that accounting uses information systems, and they use finance to do their jobs better,” Sothoron said. “If you have to get 150 credits for a CPA licensure, you might as well make it relevant and flexible.”

He said he considers his master’s degree the “icing on the cake” that will position him to solve data-driven problems in business or other fields. 

Sothoron, from Woodbridge, Virginia, came to Mason in 2015 after a year at Northern Virginia Community College. He said he was attracted to the university because of its proximity to Washington, D.C., which he figured would give him the best chance at landing internships.

The strategy paid off, as Sothoron has had internships with Guest Services Inc., Ernst & Young and Logi Analytics. This summer, he will intern with KPMG’s risk analytics unit.

An added benefit to being a student at Mason: having professors with professional experience in the fields he is studying, Sothoron said.

His schedule doesn’t leave much free time—he is also a graduate teaching assistant and a student ambassador in Mason’s School of Business and a statistics tutor for Mason MBA students.

“But I know myself,” he said. “I do best when I’m being challenged. Otherwise, I just flutter. You go after difficult things, you might find out they’re not so difficult. And if you can do that, what else can you do?” 

“He’s very curious, very interested,” said Associate Professor Pallab Sanyal, who taught Sothoron in a data analytics class. “Lots of good students are preoccupied with grades and ‘What can I do to get an A?’ But Alexei wanted to learn more about the topics. Good students like Alexei care about grades, but they’re not the be-all and end-all.”

There is, however, a bottom line.

“As a student ambassador, one thing I always tell people is that information is knowledge; it’s your friend,” Sothoron said. “I’ll get freshmen or transfer students, and I’ll tell them, ‘What you want to do is figure out the best way to make yourself marketable and make your investment of time and money worthwhile.’ ”

For Sothoron, it is with two degrees, three majors and four internships.