Today, the tech industry boasts plenty of opportunities for creativity, even for those with backgrounds in fields like, say, engineering. Yes, engineering. Just ask Practicum graduate Ryan Elmachtoub. As a former mechanical engineer, he was working at a construction company when he began to feel detached from his engineering roots. While trying to reconnect with them, he fell in love with data science and with Practicum’s help, he was not only able to transition into the data science field, but he also received three job offers within a year.
Finding support to reconnect with his roots
Ryan’s venture into the tech industry started off with a desire to rekindle his engineering background and stay up to date with cutting edge technologies. After graduating from Rutgers with a Mechanical Engineering degree, Ryan started working in commercial contracting as a project manager for five years. He felt that he had learned a great deal in management and was looking to evolve his career towards digital product development where he saw the opportunities as limitless.
Ryan began to plan his next steps. “I knew I wanted to do something in tech, because the global market is evolving towards programming.” Ryan explains. After listening to podcasts about the emerging industries in tech and conducting plenty of research, he fell in love with data science. “I found that data science is applicable across many industries. It almost feels like the things that you can do with data science have a sense of magic to them. You look at them and say, ‘Wow, how did that happen?’,and that's what drew me to it. I saw a lot of potential in AI and developed a desire to leverage it towards positive impact projects.”
With a path chosen, he started looking for ways to make a transition – only to discover there was a massive amount of information to digest. “There are so many languages, tools, and libraries out there. If I wanted to make sense of it all, I needed it to be career-driven,” he recalls. Once he came across the Practicum Data Science program and saw it offered the guidance he seeked, he felt it was just what he needed. “The whole thing happened very quickly. I told myself, ‘Next week I'm going to look online, I'm going to see what's the best match for me, and I'm just gonna go for it.’” So, he signed up.
Resurrecting the learning habits
Ryan’s determination was vital. Considering that he had a demanding full-time job and was caring for his pregnant wife, getting things done was not easy. With Practicum’s flexibility, though, it was still possible. All programs at Practicum consist of a number of two- to three-week sprints, each of which has to be finished on time in order to access the next one. The sprints, in turn, include reading, coding practice, and project assignments. Ryan could read and practice at his own pace, but assignments had to be submitted by the deadlines to complete the sprints.
“The first month was very tough. I was working 60 hours+ a week studying and managing several work-related projects at the same time. Even in my sleep, I was thinking of my projects. I worked from 7 AM to 5 PM, and then from 6 PM to 10 PM on weekdays. Even on the weekends I would wake up early and do five hours of work each day.”
Making time to do the assignments was only half the problem. Getting back into studying after a number of years out of college and diving into an unfamiliar field was so tough it even made him second-guess his decision. “At first—I would say the first couple of weeks—I kept having these thoughts, like maybe I'm not cut out for this. I was trying and it just wasn’t clicking.” Fortunately, that’s when Practicum’s community-tailored environment came into play and boosted Ryan’s confidence. “Throughout the curriculum, the [Practicum] team was great. They were encouraging us and meeting with us every week [via Zoom]. And they were talking to us about how it's normal to feel that way. It was the stuff I needed to hear at the moment, [and helped me keep] a positive mindset. Keep adapting and learning, it's never too late. It's just a matter of time, and persistence is the key. After, I would say, maybe a month, I really started to settle into a routine.”
Once Ryan overcame his self-doubt, he began to leverage his background in mechanical engineering. He had already taken courses on differential equations, linear regression, and MATLAB in college, which are useful skills to have when learning data science. He also had good critical thinking skills, which he polished at his project management job. This combination helped him push through. “I do think that my engineering background complemented what I learned at Practicum and definitely opened up a lot of avenues for me,” he says.
Reshaping the future
When the course was over, though, Ryan didn’t rush to apply to jobs. He chose to go for quality instead of quantity. He read through Practicum’s career resources to create a solid CV and cover letter. “I combined many elements of what they suggested at Practicum with what I thought was appropriate. I asked a lot of people who were in the industry [for advice], and I kind of formulated my own resume,” he recalls. Next, he took the time to pick the most relevant jobs and tried to strengthen his applications through networking.
“The approach I took was to really read the job description, see if I could find a mutual connection (like through LinkedIn), and make sure my resume highlights what the job description was asking for. Out of the 40-50 resumes and applications I submitted, I heard back from five. And of those five, they were the five referrals that I had gotten. So, it really says a lot about having a referral, I think that's the most important thing. Obviously, you need to have the skills to back it up. But networking and meeting people, whether it be people you know already or through LinkedIn, just getting that referral really helped me.”
At the same time, Ryan realized his job search might take a while, so he did his best to show the potential employers he was really interested in improving his data science skills. He started earning various skill certificates from online learning resources. “Just to show that I'm constantly trying to keep my skills on par. And I guess as I kept adding these skills to my resume, it became more and more desirable.”
This yielded splendid results: Ryan got three job offers! He chose the offer from ZS Associates, a management consulting and professional services company focusing on consulting, software, and technology. He landed a role as an associate consultant in decision analytics. “I'm going to be implementing my project management experience with the data science knowledge that I've acquired. I will be working with a team that designs and develops data driven products and solutions for biotech companies.” He’ll be working hybrid, which he hadn’t done when working in construction, but was prepared for at Practicum.
He plans to stay in the data science industry because of all the ways he can use his skills for good. “It's a growing industry, there's so much room for innovation, and that's really what I want: to innovate within the data science industry, because I think there are so many ways we can take what we've learned at Practicum and apply it to so many fields.”
Does Ryan’s story resonate with you? Check out our top-rated Data Science program today.