In 2016 I decided to switch careers. It was a big decision for me, and a bit scary. I had been working in the legal field since I graduated college. It was an area in which I grew and excelled, but it had become stale for me. I knew I wasn’t happy and that my heart truly belonged in a more technically challenging role; however, I had no idea where to start. In walked the Microsoft Professional Program in Data Science. Knowing that I learn best from structured programs, I felt confident that the classroom-style lecture and lab would be a great fit. I found it interesting and so very helpful that the program allowed me to first dip my toe into tech without too much investment. The courses are designed so that you can audit them and not pay a thing! Soon, I was hooked!
Jumping Into the Deep End
Standing on the precipice of greatness is often an exciting and terrifying experience. I was staring at the data field trying to decide which path to take. I was fortunate to be offered a position as a Marketing DBA with a SQL Server consulting company. I began learning and growing as a website designer, marketing specialist, CRM specialist, project manager, event coordinator, and database administrator. Wow, there is SO much to learn! So many paths to take, so many areas in which to specialize. It can be very overwhelming to the new student. After a while I found that I needed to make a move, I needed to take a big leap into the well of knowledge, so I left my position to go back and finish my data science courses.
What is “data science?” you may be asking. I feel that the term is both widely over-used and wholly underestimated. Think about the term “scientist” and what that entails. A scientist uses knowledge and technology to aid in finding an answer or truth. So naturally, a data scientist does the same thing. We use various means of technology, finesse, hypothesis, and trial and error to draw from the data the story that is waiting to be told. My personal journey took me along the path of learning Python and Azure Machine Learning, two things I never knew I would have any desire to learn. I faced these two courses with extreme skepticism. I resigned myself to the thought that I would more than likely barely get by (and that “D stands for diploma” as we used to say in college). Much to my surprise, I found that not only did I understand both, I absolutely fell in love with coding in Python and predictive analysis with Azure Machine Learning!
Data science really is so much more than exploring with new technology and programs. Data science also draws on the tried and true, and this is where my background in the legal field comes in really handy. For instance, can pure, raw data be racist? (Absolutely, and that will be a topic we save for an up-coming blog. ) When we are given data, it is never in a perfect form: information is missing or duplicated, in the wrong format, or is unusable for many other different reasons. Because of this, a data scientist must know how to clean, manipulate, and finesse the data in order to pull out the story. Much like an artist who starts with a block of marble creates a beautiful statue, Data scientists must know the curves and lines to manipulate to bring out the best form of the story the data is designed to tell. In the legal field, we used words and phrases to convey law, tell stories of guilt or innocence, and create the narrative we desired. It all takes an art form and knack for finesse.
There will come a time in life, perhaps many times, where you find your cheese has been moved. Many times as well that you find you need to move your own cheese. “Why the cheese talk Angela?” you might be pondering. Back in my first job out of college, an attorney I worked with gave me a copy of a book he wanted me to read. It was truly an eye-opening and life changing moment for me. If you have not read the book Who Moved My Cheese ? I suggest getting a copy. It is a good reminder that no matter where you are in life, if you are not living happy and feeling fulfilled, you CAN make a change. You can wait for someone else to move your cheese, or you can just move it yourself. So this is what I did, I moved my cheese.
I invite you to come along on this data science journey with me as we explore new programs and technologies. Over the next few weeks, I will be diving into my experience in each section of the Microsoft Professional Program in Data Science. I will NOT be sharing answers to test or lab questions, that would be cheating, and you know that as well as I do!