when life hands you a pandemic . . .

No doubt this crazy time has led many of us to re-evaluate what it is that we are doing with our lives; questioning our choice of career or our trajectory on a chosen career path may be top of mind. That is what brings me to this post, have I made the right choices relating to my career?

I had been thinking about this even before this pandemic struck. I had been working as a business analyst at a healthcare software firm and was promoted to a senior role. I felt like I really needed to make some decisions about how to move forward, staying with the team I was on wasn’t going to cut it, I didn’t see a path for growth there. I had no desire to enter the world of client management, and that really limited the number of options available to me at the firm. Should I try to go down the data or software engineer route? That didn’t seem like a great fit for me.

There was one area that really spoke to me though: the data science team. I was fascinated by how they took in all sorts of data from a number of sources and used that to build the predictive models that the software was based on. But, how do I get there? I looked at some postings at my firm — whoa, I was no where close to being qualified for a role like this. I started questioning some acquaintances who were in the field. Was an advanced degree really necessary? The answer always seemed to be ‘it depends’. The more conversations I had, the more I realized that ‘Data Science’ is not really all that well defined, and every organization has a little different idea of what it is.

I started to consult google. I found that data science practitioners have a myriad of interesting backgrounds, some have no degree, others have specialized PhDs. The more I read, the more I knew I could do this. I was missing some core skills, most notably proficiency in coding languages such as Python and R. That was something I could fix, but how? How would I be able to convince employers that I was a good bet, that I really did have these skills?

More research. By this point, the advertising on any web page I navigated to was giving me options for Data Science programs. They ranged from quick on-line mini courses to PhD programs. There were so many options out there!

I had a decision to make. It is December of 2019. I looked into a number of programs and had set my mind on a MS in Data Science. It was at this time that I was offered a new position with another employer, one that would allow me to save enough to make that MS possible. Everything seemed to be falling into place, and then . . .

March 2020. The bottom literally falls out. I no longer have a job and no good prospects. I had started interviewing at a number of firms only to be told that hiring was being put on hold due to the pandemic. That is when I started researching bootcamps. From what I could tell, I would be getting all the technical skills offered by an MS program in just a few short months. I talked to some people that had gone through these programs. It seemed like this could be a better opportunity!

So, I enrolled in a bootcamp, and I am excited about this new path. Turns out this pandemic may have just become an unseen opportunity.

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