Finding a Passion Despite
the Odds

Brendan’s Story

brendan steiger gets a second chance, gains the skills and confidence to get back on track after a serious car accident by completing a certificate in business intelligence, offered by uw professional & continuing education, a branch of uw continuum college.

Brendan Steiger began his freshman year at the University of Washington with a well-laid plan for his future. In high school, Steiger had participated in Washington Aerospace Scholars, a Running Start program giving juniors the opportunity to take college-credit STEM courses through a partnership between the UW and the Boeing.

“I was pretty proud to be a part of that,” Steiger said. “I was excited about engineering. I wanted to go into aerospace engineering.”

It was a seventy-mile-per-hour car crash ... It turned out that I had a traumatic brain injury.

 — Brendan Steiger, Alumnus, Certificate in Business Intelligence

And then in an instant everything changed.

“It was a seventy-mile-per-hour car crash,” Steiger said. “I was driving with my father to campus, and I got hit from behind — and in front. The car was completely totaled. I don’t really remember much. Just waking up and seeing that my dad was unconscious.” He and his father were taken to Harborview, where Steiger was diagnosed with a concussion.

He was taking multivariable calculus, and it was time for his midterm exams. But he found he couldn’t do it anymore. His short-term memory had been damaged. “It turned out that I had a traumatic brain injury,” he said.

Steiger’s neurologist told him he had the short-term memory span of 1 percent of his age group. Which meant he had to leave school. “I spent a year doing speech therapy to regain my memory, similar to the way a stroke patient would rewire their brain,” he explained. “It was very, very challenging and emotionally exhausting.”

After that year of rehab, Steiger was able to return to the UW, but he was unable to continue in engineering. Instead, he completed a bachelor’s degree in political science. “I just wanted to graduate with the hope that I could go back to school later and that my undergraduate degree wouldn’t define me,” he said.

Testing the Waters With a Certificate Program

Over the next couple years, Steiger continued recovering. He relied on his soft skills as he worked in sales, and as his memory improved, he moved into finance. In time, he realized he had a knack for understanding business problems and felt ready to pursue a new career.

“I really wanted to develop some hard skills,” Steiger said, “but I didn’t know where to go.” He decided a good first step would be to enroll in the Certificate in Business Intelligence: Techniques for Decision Making from UW Professional & Continuing Education, a branch of UW Continuum College.

But it wasn’t an easy step for him to take. “I was worried about not doing well,” Steiger explained. “Going back to school was a big deal for me.”

Fortunately, Steiger discovered that he was able to do the work, which included using data analytics software applications and statistical programming languages. He also made another discovery: “I found out that I really did enjoy it,” he said. “Finding exactly what I wanted to do was also a big deal.”

The technology and methods Steiger learned in the certificate program have helped him advance in his career — he’s currently a revenue management analyst for a cruise line — and have given him the confidence to pursue a new dream.

“I want to go back for a master’s, and data science is something I’m really considering,” Steiger said. “I’m really motivated to move to the next level.”