Career Transition - From Decision to Determination

Hi folks. I would like take this opportunity to narrate my story about how I switched from pre-sales to being a data scientist. Career transition is an extremely difficult and challenging process. And the idea of facing up to difficulties and accepting challenges makes you a natural front-runner. So if you’re set on a career shift plan, gallop ahead with full speed. While this article may talk specifically about a transition to Data Science, the principles apply equally well to any other industry.

I always wanted to work in a Data Science role via which I could make a valuable contribution to the organization and eventually help them grow and succeed. I always thought learning on the job was the only way to achieve this goal. But my assessment was way off. There’s more to it than what meets the eye.

My job all these years involved interacting with clients — understanding their requirements & objectives in Infrastructure, Data, and Analytics space, and design solutions accordingly. Most of these interactions ended up with a POC and very few would actually be accepted for production deployment.

While there were a few elements of Data Analytics that bore upon my day job, I never had to utilize any of the advanced and impactful resources of Data Science. My willingness to learn and excel in Data Science always kept me motivated to learn more about it. And this is where my journey began.

I thoroughly understood what was expected from a Data Scientist. Now the question from there on was whether I had what it takes to be one? A negative answer to the aforementioned question would segway to whether I had the potential to groom myself to be a data scientist? Some self-study and cursory research built confidence in me. This seemed like a feasible goal.

I always knew Google alone cannot help me, so I started searching for tutoring. After speaking with around 45 different institutes and listening to everyone’s sales pitch, I almost gave up on the idea of becoming a data scientist. Most sales representatives would talk extensively about the different tools that would be provided during training. Almost none of them was interested in speaking about the core deliverables (both tangible and intangible) of the course.

Out of a feeling of helplessness coupled with a sense of urgency to begin treading towards a career in data science, I enrolled with a major name brand. The experience was dismal as I saw a huge chasm between the promise and what was delivered.

Fortunately, despite my hapless experience, I kept my spirits up in the hopes of setting my foot in the door. I decided to attend meetups where professionals and aspiring data scientists would gather and discuss the latest happenings in Data Science. There was this one meetup that I found to be the most impactful. ‘DataGiri’ featured some really interesting speakers, most of them industry professionals, who would run discoursive talks on the most pressing topics on Data Science landscape.

It was at one of these DataGiri meetups that I was introduced to GreyAtom — their education partner. And this was the turning point in my life. Due to my previous experience, I decided to take matters slow and warily arranged a few meetings with GreyAtom’s team of counselors. I was surprised to see that the counselors didn’t make an attempt to sell me any of their product offerings. Instead, they were keen on understanding my circumstance and what I wanted to get out of making a venture into data science. It’s this extremely professional and candidate-centric approach that won my heart and my mind.

I enrolled with them after a few meetings. The first few days post-enrollment were challenging. I remember sitting with one small piece of a puzzle in hand, wondering if I’d ever be able to solve it. However, the mentoring and the emphasis on practical applications slowly got me up to speed and I started getting better with my comprehension. With every module, I discovered a new piece of the puzzle and with every hands-on exercise, I could put them together better and faster. The picture became clearer with each passing day.

What truly boosted my confidence and intent was the first hackathon, where I was expected to work in a team and put all the learning into practice. Industry partners mentored us throughout this project. This gave me a deep insight of what a real world Data Science project is all about and helped me assess my own standing.

After this experience, I implemented a few new things in my ongoing projects at work and they turned out to be a very successful case study. I made it a point to use in-class takeaways at work. This leg-up followed by guided projects made the transformation smoother and uneventful and I was comfortable taking up Data Science challenges.

All this culminated into the litmus test, where a hiring partner assembled a hiring challenge in one of our classroom sessions. This made us test our limits and pressed us to think out-of-the-box to build solutions that are ready to be put into production. This challenge motivated me to go beyond the boundaries of classroom education and explore more advance techniques.

Fast forward to hiring season. Not only was I shortlisted for the interview by the hiring partner, but I was also selected for several other such interviews. And GreyAtom’s career services team had put in equal amounts of effort in preparing me for the some of the most challenging and sticky interview questions. This coupled with my determination and persistence kept me going through the ups and downs of the hiring phase.

As I write this up, I have on my desk a couple of offer letters for positions of Data Scientist with a couple of large MNCs. I will need a few hours to make up mind, as I see some smooth sailing ahead of me. But in the rear view mirror, I still can’t forget the long journey I made from haplessness to hopefulness.

To wind up, let me quickly recapitulate what you need to pull off a career transition move.

  1. Understand the demands of the new role.
  2. Plan a self-assessment to gauge personal strengths and weakness.
  3. Learn the basics by yourself to see if you can cope with the intellectual demands of the subject.
  4. Look up education institutions that offer quality education.
  5. Don’t be misled by promises of job placements. It’s impossible to guarantee a job. However, inquire about the availability of placement assistance.
  6. Build a great foundation upon which you will build advanced concepts.
  7. Never skip any opportunities to interview with hiring managers.

I hope this was helpful and insightful. Good luck!

(This article was originally posted on Medium by one of our alumnus – Sagar Dawda.)

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