During our recent Data Science Career Track alumni panel, three Springboard grads looked back at their transitions to data science, discussed the challenges they faced along the way, and shared what they’re up to now. They also explained why Springboard was the right choice for them. Three reasons the trio had in common were the focus on mentorship, the robust career support, and the job guarantee.
Before we get to their thoughtful comments, let’s meet the alumni:
Meghan Thomason has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Davis, and learned complex statistical techniques to evaluate data during her studies, leading her to consider data science as a career. She started the Data Science Career Track in August 2017 and finished in early 2018. She now works as a data scientist at a digital publishing company.
George Mendoza comes from a liberal arts background, having majored in history and economics at Brown University. He started the Data Science Career Track in November 2017 and finished in June. He works as a data scientist at Hypergiant, an AI consulting startup.
Jose Bacoy studied mathematics and statistics in college, but spent much of his career in IT before transitioning to data science. He started the Data Science Career Track in March 2017 and finished that summer. After a year at Ford as a data analyst, he’s now a data architect at Verizon.
I feel really strongly about the mentorship part of Springboard and I think it was the reason that I finished… I have been in school forever and so I know what my learning style is. And that learning style is that I need some kind of external motivation. Having the mentor definitely provided that for me. So, selfishly I knew that was gonna work. As far as my specific relationship with my mentor, he was always really helpful, he was able to [give] a lot of tips on writing more efficient code, on the more specific side of things, but also just big-picture sort of, you know, what are the goals, what am I trying to accomplish here with a given project or even with homework assignments? Having someone to bounce ideas off of was pretty fantastic.
When I started the course, I really didn’t know Python at all. I taught myself R initially and that’s how I applied to the course. So as I was going through it in those six months, I had to teach myself Python. So having a mentor there who’s experienced in that was incredibly helpful, in addition to just hammering home the idea that the models are the last 10 percent and you have to do all the hard work beforehand—all that was very useful.
I’ve been with two mentors in Springboard and both of them are very good… You cannot learn things on your own—not all people can do that: learning by themselves. You will need someone to answer your questions. And the only way to get good answers to your questions is from someone who really has experience in the field. And Springboard can give it to you.
On Career Support
The career coaches are rock stars. First of all, I feel like we should start with, like, career coaching is not free. I sought out some career coaching even before starting Springboard, partly in just making the decision to leave… academic research. I feel like that value in Springboard is kind of substantial.
One of the really cool things about Springboard is that they force you to do homework assignments for your career development. So one of the projects was to just list a bunch of companies that you think are interesting based on some directions that they offer you. Going into that, I was like, that’s so silly. Why am I spending time doing this? Thankfully, at the end of it I was like, that was actually really helpful. I mean, really! By the… end of Springboard, I realized that a better environment for me would be a small startup, as opposed to a giant Fortune 500 or something, so that was super valuable.
Just even by pushing the networking—you know, some people are good at networking and some people are not, or else are just not motivated to do it, and I think their continuous encouragement to do that was helpful. They had lots of different tips to offer. The thing that worked for me in the end: I mean, I think all Springborders are gonna be career switchers, or at least career jumpers or something, so for me I felt like I was best able to convince a recruiter or some other data scientist of my skills when I was standing right in front of them and talking to them. So the most efficient way for me to do that was to go to conferences. So one of the career coaches suggested: well, you need to start contacting conference organizers and ask them if you can get a discounted rate because conferences are not cheap. And that was how I ended up getting my job: from going to a conference and meeting somebody.
Career services is sort of an entire product unto itself, really. I mean, there’s people on LinkedIn that, you know, ask for money so they can review your resume. Here, you get the constant feedback with experienced recruiters—or, you know, at least somebody that knows the right way to pitch yourself. That’s something I had to learn: how do I present my knowledge and, specifically as somebody who’s a little younger and doesn’t have a graduate degree, it was trying to tie in potential with where I was at now, the understanding that it’s a continuing learning process. Just ironing out the message was hugely helpful.
On the Job Guarantee
If they have a guarantee that you will become a data scientist, then they are sure that the curriculum or the training that you will have is sufficient enough for you to get a job. And in fact, when I was about to finish my bootcamp in Springboard, I had an offer already. Because during your curriculum, they will ask you to apply for a job. They don’t tell you to apply for a job at the end, but during, so I got accepted at Ford the day before I finished my curriculum.
The job guarantee is like a crazy insurance that they’re not going to offer unless they’re positive that it’s going to work out.
Watch the entire panel discussion here:
These Springboard alumni transitioned to data science careers and you can too. Learn more about the Data Science Career Track. It’s a flexible, mentor-led course with a job guarantee.