Julio Cárdenas-Rodríguez is a man on the move. After earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and biology at Mexico City’s La Salle University and running clinical trials at Merck, he moved to the United States, where he finished his Ph.D. in physical chemistry and began working as a professor of radiology at the University of Arizona. But last year, Julio decided to shake things up: “The truth is that I got tired of writing grants and trying to get money from almost one single source, the federal government.”
Julio needed help transferring some of the skills he developed as a scientist into a private sector healthcare role. After researching data science bootcamps, he decided that Springboard was his best option. He could do the work where he lived (Arizona), the price was affordable, and most importantly, the program was built around human relationships. “I needed another person to talk to when I was running into problems,” he said.
Springboard’s entire online community, which includes other students and alumni, was valuable, Julio said, but mentorship was the key to his success. And finding the right mentor was crucial.
Julio’s first mentor was “great,” but less focused on technical skills than Julio wanted. After sharing that feedback with the Springboard team, he began working with someone whose strength was bringing the data science experience into the real world. For example: “He recommended that I learn SQL, which I had no interest in, but I had to learn it,” Julio said. “And I use it regularly at my current job to get data.”
The lesson: “listen to your mentor.”
Julio made the most of his weekly video calls with his mentor by always creating an agenda, preparing questions ahead of time, and making a post-call to-do list. But the communication didn’t end there. Throughout the week, as questions arose, Julio used Github to send pull requests that his mentor could quickly respond to.
Also critical to Julio’s success in the program was his time management. “I had to have a set time and day to do all the Springboard coursework,” he said. “For me, it was three or four times a week, three hours a night, every week. Otherwise, I would not have finished.”
Career coaching is interwoven throughout the Data Science Career Track. The recommendation to join a local data science meetup proved fruitful for Julio, despite the limited options in his hometown of Tucson. At one of those events he met a recruiter who had experience hiring IT people, but not data scientists. Still, Julio gave the recruiter his CV and a link to his Github repository—another recommendation from his Springboard mentor—and scored interviews at three companies in Tucson, another in Phoenix, and others hiring remotely. Julio accepted an offer at large healthcare company.
As a senior IT systems analyst (the title “data scientist” doesn’t currently exist at the company), Julio’s typical day involves working with his clinical care management colleagues to maximize the clinical value of the data the company has. He also runs a small consulting company that applies machine learning to medical imaging, which has benefited tremendously from the best practices Julio learned at Springboard.
A key to getting his job were the capstone projects Julio completed as part of the Springboard program. Having run clinical trials in Mexico, Julio decided to tackle a project related to cancer. But one of the challenges in applying data science to healthcare is that the data often is dirty. He chose a public dataset on breast cancer from the Cancer Imaging Archive, created a Github repository, and put in it all the code required to clean the data and perform basic machine learning. “It was basically 90 percent cleaning and 10 percent data science,” Julio said, “but I wanted to show that to my prospective employers because otherwise they would think I’m just a professor with limited practical experience. That was my particular strategy.”
It was a good one. “When I got the job interview they specifically asked about that repository and that project, basically to gauge if I had been the one actually doing it,” he said.
Julio actually did it. And so can you. Check out Springboard’s Data Science Career Track for more on how you can transform your career.