How I got my first data science position

TL;DR: I had a subject matter expertise in clinical research and I learned python and data science in 2 years with no prior programming experience. I got job as data scientist in August 2020.

Here is some background information on me. I graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor’s in Political Science. Currently, I am in a Master’s in Epidemiology at Georgetown University. Also, I completed a Certificate in Data Science from Georgetown University in Summer 2020.

Step 1:

Finding my niche

I was working in clinical research at UCLA from 2014–2016. This is while there was a significant breakthrough in oncology know as cancer immunotherapy. Through my job, I learned that data science was being used to predict which tumors might respond to different drugs developed by pharmaceutical companies. I thought that was so cool. However, I knew nothing about data science. After I left this position, I began teaching myself Python.

Step 2:

Learning Python and GitHub

I started working a less demanding job so that I would teach myself python. At this point, I was reading about bioinformatics and becoming one with Learn Python the Hard Way. Also, I poked around Reddit a bit to find learning python resources and asking questions when I got stuck. Here are some of the things that I used at this time. Also, I learned how to use GitHub during this time. Feel free to follow me.

Step 3:

Getting Into and Starting Graduate School

Eventually, I realized I had needed more formal training in data analysis. Initially, I was interested in molecular or genetic epidemiology since I thought this would work well with Data Science and staying in the healthcare space. I had one caveat. I cannot pay for this degree. So, I researched what employers would pay for me to get my master’s degree. I found that Georgetown University paid 100% tuition for the employees if they get into one of their graduate programs.

Well, I packed my bags and moved to DC, and began working at Georgetown. I got into the masters program. After a year or so, I was eligible for free tuition, so I started my master’s program. I took classes to build up my knowledge of statistics. However, halfway through the program, I decided I needed to make another push will building my data science skills. I signed up for a SQL Fundamentals course. Then, I applied for and got into a Certificate in Data Science program at Georgetown University.

Step 4:

Summer of Data Science

In May 2020, I started my certificate in data science program. It was tough but I learned a lot. This is what was covered in my program.

1 Foundations of Data Analytics and Data Science
2 Software Engineering for Data
3 Data Sources & Storage
4 Data Ingestion & Wrangling
5 Data Analysis I: Statistics
6 Data Analysis II: Machine Learning
7 Visual Analytics
8 Applied Data Science (capstone project)

It was like drinking from a fire hose but I got through it with the help of my capstone group. I knew once we got past the Data Sources and Storage section that I was ready to start applying.

Step 5:

Job Search and Hired

I used LinkedIn, Indeed, USAJOBS, and Zintellect. I found my first Data Science position through Zintellect. I think the key thing that helped with getting this position was explaining my capstone project from my Data Science Certificate program. Also, I explained my experience from my master’s program designing a research study and completing data analysis.

If you are interested in learning more, follow me on Twitter @ahobby9.

Data Scientist + Healthcare. Twitter: @ahobby9