Data Science Career Track
Mengqin (Cassie) Gong
Before Springboard:
Data Analyst
After Springboard:
Data Scientist, Product, at Whatsapp
I really appreciated the career services that Springboard provided me after graduation. Whenever I landed an interview, I would schedule a call with my mentor, and he would advise me on how to prepare for the interview based on the job description.
I really appreciated the career services that Springboard provided me after graduation. Whenever I landed an interview, I would schedule a call with my mentor, and he would advise me on how to prepare for the interview based on the job description.
Meet Mengqin (Cassie) Gong, a graduate of Springboard’s Data Science Career Track.

After being out of full-time work for nearly three years, Cassie Gong landed a role as a data scientist on the product team at Facebook.

The Facebook Return to Work Program is a 16-week immersive training and mentorship program designed for people who have been away from work for two years or longer and are looking to re-enter the workforce full-time. At the end of the program, the top performers will be considered for a full-time position at Facebook. Cassie’s career coach at Springboard pushed her to apply—and she, along with 16 other Springboard students, submitted applications for the role. Now, Cassie is about to start work as an analyst on the Whatsapp team (Facebook acquired the instant messaging app in 2014). While taking time off full-time work to care for her family, Cassie, who has a history of working with nonprofits, continued doing part-time data analytics work for the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula.

“Cassie jumped on every opportunity that was sent her way to best prepare for the role, and made it an absolute joy for me to advocate on her behalf when presenting candidates to the Facebook team,” said Nadeja Adams, senior account executive for Employer Partnerships at Springboard. “Her journey is a true testament to the hustle and grit of the Springboard community, and we are all so incredibly proud of her!”

You’ve been working as a data analyst for several years and you have two master's degrees—one in statistics and the other in economics. What made you want to study data science at Springboard?

I resigned from my last job in 2018 to stay home and take care of my family for one year. At the end of the year, I started to look for a job, but it was really difficult for me. I was thinking about how to polish my skills and learn advanced data analytics skills so I could apply for a more advanced position, so I started looking for an online course. In the end, I chose Springboard because I feel Springboard has a really good curriculum, and they also provide career services. The job guarantee was really attractive for me. I chose data science instead of software engineering because I have a background in statistics and economics plus some experience working as a data analyst.

What did you envision as the next step? Did you have a dream job in mind or a company you really wanted to work for?

In my new position at Facebook, I will be working as a data scientist. I'm excited to work at Facebook and learn advanced technologies and get access to one of the largest datasets in the world. I also think it's a really good opportunity to get some industry experience. Then I hope I can be exposed to more projects related to machine learning and deep learning—this is what I focused on at Springboard—and then I can work on machine learning-based teams. Img

So how did your placement with Facebook come about?

My career coach, Molly Medaris, told me about this opportunity and I was interested because it is actually a Return to Work Program. Candidates are required to have been out of the workforce for at least two years. Because I hadn't worked full-time for over three years, I actually qualified for this program. Shortly after I applied for the position, I got the interview. The first interview round was with a recruiter and the second was with a data scientist. The final round consisted of four technical interviews in total.

The most helpful thing was that my career coach told me about this position. If she hadn’t told me about it, I would never have received this offer. Secondly, Nadeja Adams, [senior account executive for Employer Partnerships at Springboard] works with a recruiter at Facebook, so that’s probably why I got the interview. I think I got the offer because of a combination of luck and hard work.

I did a lot of interviews before this one, and even though I failed those interviews I think they contributed to my success this time because I knew what to expect. I had experience talking about my story and I had enough practice in the technical interviews.

I'm sure a lot of people want to know what the interview process is like at Facebook. What's your advice to other candidates or other Springboard students who are interested in working at Facebook? What should they expect?

Do some research online, because there are a lot of materials about how to prepare for technical interviews at Facebook, including practice questions. Also, make sure to check out videos on YouTube. The most helpful channel for me was Data Interview Pro.

Did you have to do a take-home assignment as part of the interview process?

No, just the interviews.

What about culture fit at Facebook? How do you show them that you’re the type of person Facebook is looking for?

During my interview, I was not asked any behavioral questions. I think they were looking for someone with a solid knowledge of data science, someone who is smart and who knows how to solve problems.

Tell me about your job search experience after you completed the Machine Learning Engineering Career Track at Springboard. What was the process like?

After I finished the course at Springboard, I started to look for positions in data science, data analysis, and business intelligence. I found that it was easier to get interviews for data analyst roles than data scientist roles. Non-profit organizations and education companies seemed the most interested in my resume because I had some experience working with nonprofits.

So I did a lot of interviews with those kinds of companies, and I had discussions with my career coach, Molly, every week. After that, we would adjust my job-hunting strategy accordingly. She gave me a lot of helpful suggestions. She told me to focus on nonprofits in the Bay Area and look for remote positions online. She also suggested I reach out to my previous boss to get some advice. I think the career coach at Springboard was really helpful and she gave me a lot of support. Img

Will you be working remotely in your new role, or will you be based at the Facebook campus in Menlo Park?

This position is supposed to be on-site but the Facebook campus is not entirely open at the moment [due to COVID-19], so my role is remote for now but will be onsite in the future.

Are you looking forward to working at the famous Facebook campus?

Yes! Actually, my previous job was also in Menlo Park, and on my way home I would pass the Facebook campus. Now, my dream has partly come true because I now work at Facebook—just not on campus at the moment. I hope I’ll get to enjoy the facilities someday.

Let’s talk about your Springboard experience. How did you find the mentorship and course curriculum?

The mentorship was very helpful. My mentor had a lot of knowledge in data science. He helped me a lot with my capstone project. Also, I think the mentorship program after graduation was even more helpful because I was searching for jobs every day. I felt so disheartened. I wanted to work on some personal projects, but to be honest, I didn't know where to start.

So I really appreciated the career services that Springboard provided me after graduation. I reached out to my mentor to discuss potential projects I could work on, and he suggested a lot of projects that could be helpful in job hunting. Whenever I landed an interview—especially a technical interview—I would schedule a call with my mentor, and he would advise me on how to prepare for the interview based on the job description.

During the interview process, did you have the opportunity to talk about the capstone project you completed during the course?

Yes, of course. During interviews, I would always introduce my capstone project. I performed a data analysis on Airbnb data in San Francisco. I used a few different models to analyze the data.

Then, I compared the performance of each model. I was able to apply my knowledge from Springboard to work on real-world data, and I also had the opportunity to try out different kinds of models. I think the capstone project was really good practice for me and I always talk about it during technical interviews when they ask me to introduce myself.

Do you have any advice for other people who are looking to land a job in data science but have a gap on their resume due to family responsibilities or other factors?

You can start by taking a course like those offered at Springboard and looking for part-time or freelance jobs. These types of jobs have a slightly lower bar than full-time, permanent positions.

They also have some flexibility for people who just want to try out different roles. I think that's a good starting point for people like me. I had been working part-time for my previous employer for the past several years, and it was a good way for me to keep my skills up to date on new technologies. Don’t ever stop learning.

Finally, don’t be afraid of failing interviews because you can always learn from failure.

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