With a quantitative background in statistics and economics, Eddy Atkins needed to sharpen his computer programming skills in order to make the leap into Data Science. He travelled from Perth, Australia to learn Python at Byte Academy in New York, and Eddy talks with Course Report on his graduation day about the differences between his Masters degree and a coding bootcamp, his advice to other international bootcampers, and the most challenging aspect of the bootcamp.
(Thanks to Byte Academy intern Kameron Block for his assistance with this Q&A)!
What did you do before enrolling in Byte Academy?
I was an economic consultant for a couple years before I enrolled. I completed my post grad at London so I come from an economic background.
When did you become interested in coding?
One of my best friends back home is a web developer, and he introduced me to Python about a year ago. At the time, I didn’t really have a practical application for it, but I found some of the introductory courses online enjoyable and intellectually stimulating.
My interest was really piqued though when I saw the opportunities to apply computer programming / data science techniques to the data I worked with in my job as an economic consultant, but I lacked the technical know-how. This frustrated me, and set me on the path to Byte Academy and my postgraduate study in London.
Why did you enroll in Byte Academy?
I want to enter the field of Data Science and I already have stats training required. The other half I needed was computer science skills so I thought a coding bootcamp that taught Python, a great language to analyze multiple levels of data, would be best. Byte Academy was the only bootcamp in NYC that I could find that taught this. I wanted to be located in NYC too.
The timing of the Byte Academy program was great as it was before the first year of my one year course to get a Masters in data science.
What is your career goal after graduating?
My career goal is not to get a developer job, rather, I want to apply the skills learn to data science. The instructors at Byte are forthcoming in explaining how coding is relevant and what to focus on.
What advice do you have for other international students interested in a coding bootcamp?
If you love to travel like I do, I would seriously consider a boot-camp that offers you the opportunity to experience another country at the same time. Programs like this really demand that you have no other commitments for the three months, so for me it was a no-brainer to choose somewhere that I could have some fantastic new experiences in the free time I did have.
Additionally, I think all students should seriously consider a US boot camp. Most students (although I am a exception) are looking to gain employment at the end of the program, and cities like San Francisco or New York are at the heart of the world’s tech scene, where the opportunity to make connections with a potential employer are magnified.
What are your hobbies? What do you like to do for fun here?
I like to keep fit, including running, and I’m hoping to compete in the London Marathon next year. I'm also a big music fan, and New York has such an amazing line up of live music, so that has occupied a lot of my free time.
What are the differences in the tech scenes between the US vs Australia?
The attitudes are incredibly different, technology in Australia isn’t really regarded as a mainstream career path. This probably has something to do with the lack of opportunities in tech in Australia, if you want make it big, you inevitably will have to move to somewhere like the US.
The difference is particularly noticeable in New York where every second person seems to work for a start up, and the population is relatively tech savvy. When I mention I am learning Python it isn’t met by blank stares, like it probably would be back at home. It’s a very exciting environment to learn in.
How has your experience been here so far?
It’s been absolutely fantastic. I really like launching myself into something full time and being hands on from day one. An experience like this teaches you the theory, but every moment is devoted to learning how to apply that theory.
What is the most challenging aspect of the program?
The group work has been the most challenging. You stop and think about what you are putting down in the computer and being able to justify and explain it. That’s important. You are always stopping and thinking and analyzing about what you are doing at all points.
Is Byte Academy what you expected?
Although I was aware a coding bootcamp would not be like a University degree, where you are only in class for a few hours a week and may only know the name of a couple of people in your classes, I think I was still surprised by the degree of intimacy that a bootcamp offers. For 12 weeks, the students and instructors around you are your family, for better or for worse. I am never alone in working through a problem, whether it is help from fellow students or an instructor.
What are the instructors like at Byte Academy? Does the teaching style match your learning style?
I have a fantastic relationship with the instructors. The curriculum is based on group work, but we’re sitting across the desk from our professors. If you have a problem at any moment it’s just a matter of shouting across table.
We were in the classroom from 10am-6pm, but the time commitment depends on how much you want to put in. There are weekend projects so you spend at least one day per weekend on homework. The pre-work was very helpful.
You’re graduating this week- are you interviewing for Data Science roles in Australia or the US?
I only just graduated from my undergraduate at the University of Western Australia, so that is all out of sight at the moment.