Today’s interview is with Paulina Zheng who changed career by studying Data Scienceat Flatiron Schoolin New York. After attending the bootcamp she was able to get a job with a startup and today she gets to work on machine learning. Read on to learn about Paulina’s experience at Flatiron School, her advice for people wishing to pursue a career in data science without going back to university and much more.
I’m currently a Data scientist at Envisagenics, a biotech startup in NYC. My passion has always been in leveraging data to create solutions for real-life problems.
So you learned Data Science at Flatiron School. What got you interested in this field in the first place?
I actually used to work in epidemiology which is really a data science-adjacent field. I remember reading about the latest developments in tech and machine learning. I realized that in data science, there was always going to be something new to learn, new challenges and I wanted to be a part of that.
I was in the inaugural data science class so it was definitely a learning experience for all involved. We had lectures, coding labs, and projects. I think the best part was the projects that we worked on, getting our hands dirty with real-life data that we were interested in investigating further and making sense of it with new algorithms that we had just learned. We learned by doing, which is the best way of learning.
Flatiron School’s career and employer partnerships teams were fantastic with preparing me for and connecting me with opportunities. I actually interviewed with a recruiter from Envisagenics through a career fair set up by the employer partnerships team which got the ball rolling. I then had a phone interview with the company’s CTO and then an onsite where I interviewed with the rest of the team.
My role is very machine learning-oriented. I work on a couple dedicated projects so a lot of my typical day involves literature reviews (researching potential new algorithms or optimization techniques etc), coding, and model optimization. I also meet frequently with other members of the team (BD, bioinformatics analysts) because our projects are connected and ultimately, these projects are part of the company’s portfolio and our results help inform the company’s direction.
I switched careers and I’m really happy with the direction that my life has taken. Because my job is so tech-focused, there’s always going to be something new to learn and I’m excited to go into work every day where challenges abound.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into data science but they don’t have the time or money for a degree?
You get what you put into it. I’m not saying it’s easy but I’d recommend working on different projects that showcase skills that employers are interested in (analytics, coding, statistics, machine learning) and taking advantage of accessible programs like Flatiron School. In tech, people care more about your demonstrated abilities, not as much where you’re coming from. A degree sometimes helps but it’s all about whether you can do what they need or not.
Definitely. I’ve studied with and work with extremely smart and driven people and it’s easy to feel out of my depth. I usually take a step back, take a mental break, and remind myself of how far I’ve gone. It’s an incentive to always keep learning and improving my skills as a data scientist. And I try to remember that there are always going to be people who are better but that just means that there is more to aspire to.
I want to keep learning and definitely improve my coding, maybe work on developing my leadership skills.
Flatiron School is global tech skills school with immersive on-campus and online programmes that train passionate people to excel in rewarding, future-proof careers in data science, software engineering, UX/UI design & cybersecurity on campuses in London and cities across the US.
Their Data Science programme helps students launch new careers with a full suite of in-demand skills in data, code, statistics and machine learning, taught by seasoned industry experts. Flatiron School is committed to helping their grads land jobs, with dedicated career support, a proven job search framework, access to an extensive UK employer network, and a money-back guarantee.