Common threads exists in successful students that have transitioned to data science as a career after a bootcamp program.
Congratulations! You finished a full-time or part-time data science bootcamp. The data science education market has grown significantly in the past few years. An entire spectrum of programs in data science and/or analytics are available in-person, online, and in hybrid form. I personally got a jump start in data science from completing a part-time data science program at General Assembly and then got a Masters in Science in Computer science with a Machine learning specialization from Georgia Tech’s OMSCS. I was able to hone my programming and data skills during my educational journey working at technology focused companies by day and study by nights and weekends. I am also drawing from experiences as bootcamp teaching assistants and instructor.
So, what are the next steps for career and personal growth? Where should I focus my job search after completing a bootcamp or certificate program? Unless the program has a placement program or career counselor, there is no straight forward path after the ink dries on your degree or certificate. The common threads in successful students (including myself) that have transitioned to data science as a career after a bootcamp program include, but not limited to:
Develop a clear and succinct story about your transition. Remember to tailor it to the role/person.
People love a good story. It doesn’t have to be epic or exciting. Keep your timeline and purpose simple. If the story meanders too much then focus on a theme or purpose to bring things together. Depending on the audience, my themes center around either an extreme curiosity to learn, social justice, systems, and problem-solving. The story can be driven by a single experience or purpose.
Tap into the local community
Local companies and groups need budding data professionals. It can be easier to connect with people already associated with local and small businesses, especially at hiring manager positions. While some smaller companies can be more risk adverse, they are also more budget conscious and open to creative solutions. If not already available, ask the bootcamp to network with local companies on the behalf of students. Their relationship with them are invaluable and can lend a hand in credibility in your job search. Also, more likely than not, bootcampers have already worked in their local communities so transitioning when someone knows your previous work history or coworkers can go a long way.
Be open to titles and functions that provide data experience
The ideal position after a bootcamp or certificate for data science is “data scientist.” If you don’t have an advanced degree (PhD or masters) or at least 2 years of working experience in a related area, not very many companies will hire a data scientist right out of a bootcamp. Find a position that enables you to leverage data for decision-making and potentially learn from other data professionals at the company. Placement in a data related role after a bootcamp as soon as possible has advantages for future job searches. After completing a part-time bootcamp, I transitioned from my legal policy work to project manager and data scientist a small government firm. The work wasn’t split fairly between the two titles but it got me started. Some related positions that is a worse a search:
- data analyst/engineer/consultant
- database programmer/engineer/architect
- project or product manager
- customer success analyst/coordinator
Understand your limitations from other perspectives, aka see your blind spots
Take time to understand your personal and professional experiences, abilities, and limitations. Self-awareness is helpful in the upcoming processes. Limitations can be addressed directly with interviewers and companies. A willingness to acknowledge short comings show that you are a mature and growth-minded candidate. The data field grows and changes quickly so even experts have to keep learning about new things.
Take incremental steps to your goal
Don’t be a hurry to get to the final goal. You’ll get there. Develop the skills and experience that you need to have a strong and lasting career. The title of data scientist is not the end all be all, it didn’t exist 10 years ago and it may not be there in the future.
Believe in yourself
Job searches are designed to be discouraging to candidates. The interview process is constructed to weed people out so at every turn someone is pushing your resume to the “NO” pile. Companies are trying to fill positions with near perfect candidates, while bootcamp candidates are (often) looking for “any” data focused role.