After earning a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s degree in applied information technology, Scott Reed still felt stuck. He wanted more technical knowledge that allowed him to utilize data science skills on a daily basis. He chose Thinkful’s Data Science Flex program to enhance his knowledge, and now he’s been promoted to a Product Analyst IV at Fannie Mae. Check out how Thinkful helped Scott advance in his data science career.
What is your educational background?
I earned my undergraduate degree at Bucknell University where I studied international relations. My original intent was to go into intelligence analysis because I always liked working with data. I was actually always fond of Excel, even in high school. So what motivated me early on was knowing how to solve anything in Excel. After Bucknell, I received my master’s degree from George Mason in applied information technology.
Since you earned a master’s degree in applied information technology, why did you decide to enroll in Thnkful’s data science program? Describe your career trajectory.
While I was getting my master's degree, I worked as an analyst in a program management office for a government contractor. I needed to upskill technically so that I could work on more data projects. But even in my master’s program, I didn't really learn the technical chops needed to be a data scientist or to be a strong data analyst on the job. During my master’s program, I was unhappy with my project management analyst job. So after finishing that program, I landed a Business Architect role at Fannie Mae.
Before Thinkful, I was working at Fannie Mae doing data architecture, but the role has changed over time. The role incorporated a lot of logical model development working with business execs, developers, designers and data structures. But the role wasn’t super technical. Thinkful actually gave me the hard skills, like Python programming, that I really needed to be able to take on the machine learning work that no one on our team really knew how to do. Thinkful provided the foundation that I needed to excel and take on a new role at my company.
So I've wanted to attend Thinkful for a few years. At Fannie Mae, I saw all these other people do the work that I wanted to do, but they really had the technical skills that I always wanted. So I finally gave in and took the plunge. And as soon as I enrolled at Thinkful, I started talking to my old boss who was on a different team. They offered me a role to switch teams, even before I finished the Thinkful program because the job specifically relates to data science. I’ve been with Fannie Mae for about six years, and I’ve had about three or four different roles there, but I’m finally in a role that directly relates to data science. I’ve been a Product Analyst for about two years now.
Did you consider attending any other bootcamps besides Thinkful?
I did, but I felt comfortable with Thinkful. Thinkful had a good hold of what they were teaching and I really liked the mentor aspect because I knew I needed that motivation and help. I felt comfortable investing a good chunk of money into the program. I was also impressed with the initial contact from folks at Thinkful. I was hooked.
What was one of the biggest challenges for you throughout the data science program?
So since I did come from a data background, I've been working around it for so long, learning the material wasn’t the challenging part for me. I think the hardest part was the time commitment, working full-time, and managing the coursework. My mentor was hard on me and I learned a lot. I couldn't slack off, I had to be present in our sessions, and I had to do the work.
Describe your favorite aspect about the Data Science Flex program.
There's satisfaction in being able to figure something out on your own, like going through curriculum exercises and having things make sense. I really enjoyed those moments and I still think back to them too. Sometimes when I'm stuck on something at work, I go back to the debugging methods that my mentor taught me. Being able to figure something out on your own is special – that's how you really learn.
What’s your advice for data science program graduates who are in the workforce and want to get promoted at their job?
It’s really about the effort. A lot of the data science use cases that you work on in the Thinkful program are right in front of you and clear cut. All of the work about finding a problem to solve has already been done for you. That’s the hardest thing about applying what you learned in the Thinkful program to the workplace.
I would suggest reaching out to other teams, don't step on toes, but find a problem that hasn't been solved yet and use what you've learned. The effort of finding a problem that wasn't asked of you to solve will go far.
That's definitely great advice. Have you been able to work remotely during this time?
I've personally been working remotely since late 2016. It was actually because of special circumstances. I was in the DC office and I got married. My wife got a job opportunity in California, where she’s from. So I’ve been working on East coast time.I start around 6am PT and finish around 2pm.
Do you have any insight you'd like to share about having a career that allows you to work remotely?
I think the COVID-19 situation will change that landscape forever. I think more and more companies will go toward remote work. Specifically, a data scientist being remote goes hand in hand. I definitely prefer being remote as I’m more of an introvert. Being in an office every day was draining for me. Just like any other role, you need to have certain ground rules working from home – designating one spot to work, getting ready in the morning as if you'd be going into the office, designating your gym time etc. It's so hard to find a good work-life balance with a remote role, but you need those boundaries. And if you're on Zoom calls, Zoom fatigue is a thing. Don't be afraid to turn your camera off and just call in.
My whole team is asking me what to do because they're all working remotely full-time for the first time. I tell them it's all about self-discipline and making sure you're not overworking.
What career advice do you have for prospective Thinkful data science students and upcoming graduates?
Remember that the definition of a data scientist is different for each company. When you're interviewing, some companies will think a data scientist is like a full stack engineer and others will think the role should focus more on the foundations of data science. Some data scientists will work on analytics, some will work with inference, and others machine learning. In my case, we’re doing everything.
Don't be intimidated by options, but have expectations for what you want to do and prepare yourself for the interview process. Take what you learned from Thinkful and make sure you do the practice quizzes and practice problems. Know that there will be a right fit for you and your skillset.
When you start your interview process, know that a lot of times it's not even your fault, companies aren’t always clear about what they want in a data scientist. I encourage you to keep going.
The moment you finish Thinkful, be confident in what you've learned. You will find the right company for you.
Learn more about Thinkful’s Data Science Flex and Immersion courses.