Why I Chose Data Science: A Retrospective Look

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

As I stand on the cusp of graduating from the Flatiron School Data Science boot camp, I cannot help but think back and reflect on my journey: What helped make the initial decision to start, the challenges I faced along the way, and what I gained from the experience.

Making the Initial Decision

The story of me eventually deciding to sign up for Flatiron School in August of 2020 begins a few months earlier that year in March, at the start of the pandemic. As it did for many people, the sudden and abrupt stop to travel, public areas, and any nonessential job that required or had people in close proximity for the sake of preventing a possible global catastrophe derailed the plans that I had at that moment in motion. I had recently ended my job in Pittsburgh to look for an opportunity to move back to Colorado. I had worked up in the mountains of Colorado in Outdoor Education before I had moved to Pittsburgh and worked as a sustainability consultant. My goal at the start of 2020 was to find a way to get myself back out there as soon as possible, as it was the first place that truly felt like home to me.

When the pandemic hit and many jobs closed down, the prospective opportunity I had fell through and I was encouraged then to think of others. I first came upon the idea of doing a data science boot camp through conversation with a close friend. In college I had studied engineering but decided to pursue career choices that would have me closer to nature than a typical engineering job would. In making that decision, since having graduated the work I had been doing did not have the technical challenge that I had in my university experience, and I considered data science would be a great way to merge my soft skills with a technical position that I found of interest. Upon considering it as a possibility, I signed up for a short course on Udemy had me absolutely fall in love with data science. Afterwards, I considered doing a data science boot camp as a real possibility for me to engage in a field that is more technical but still requires creativity, and a good dose of soft skills. A key part of this decision was that this felt like I was finally choosing a path that I’d confidently walk down for myself and my future career. It felt momentous and still does to this day.

Personally, I do not think if it wasn’t for the pandemic that I would have ever stopped and considered doing a boot camp as an option. In a way, that is my silver lining from that occurrence. I looked through many different options before ultimately deciding that Flatiron School was the best choice for me due to how the program was segmented and the post-boot camp career help. After completing their pre-work I was set to join their August cohort.

Challenges Along the Way

Flatiron School’s program, while slightly longer than others, still carries you at a breakneck pace through new content and material. Office hours are held every day and instructors are more than willing to help answer any questions and help one grasp the material. While I was afforded an easier start since having had taken the coding course on Udemy, that advantage quickly left after reaching the second phase of the program and being exposed to entirely new material. My biggest initial challenge was structuring my schedule in a way that would allow me to dedicate the amount of time needed to complete the program in balance with my home-life. In deciding to do the coding boot camp, I had moved in with my aunt and uncle in Maryland. They have two wonderful children, one of 2 year and another of 8 with a cognitive disability. In exchange for providing me a place while I did the boot camp, I helped out with the kids.

In late November of 2020, my aunt and uncle had gotten ill with Covid-19 and I had stepped up to help with child care, while they were quarantined, and also help them recover once they were past the initial stages. Flatiron School allows one repeat in case emergency situations like this occur, and it was during this time that I decided I would plan on repeating that module so that I could help my family recover. By the time I rejoined Flatiron in a new cohort, my family had recovered and I was able to continue.

The last two phases proved to be very challenging. In them we learned of a variety of complex modeling techniques and how they can be used to solve different kinds of problems, as well as intricate ways in which to apply machine learning to a variety of problems. It was in this time battling with these new concepts that I pushed past previous limits of amount of time and effort I had been able to dedicate in a day. I feel like there was a portion of my being that I needed to transform to continue exceling and it was in managing to do so that I am finally where I am now, looking at graduation just around the corner.

What Was Gained

It’s almost obvious to say but the amount of materials covered, the hours of concentrated study, and long late night coding sessions taught me a lot. More important than the knowledge I gained throughout the program, was learning that I am capable of accomplishing a feat such as this. Going through this program has given me the confidence to know that there is nothing too challenging that I cannot overcome with enough dedication. I look forward to where these newfound skills and confidence can take me once I graduate, and to the future skills that I will eventually acquire.

To anyone considering enrolling in a coding boot camp, look at your options, evaluate if you can give it the time necessary, and make sure it is something you are interested enough that you’re willing to give it the time it deserves. If it is something you decide on doing, I am sure you will find that it was well worth your time.

Data neophyte and Nature enthusiast. Maryland-based for the time being.