Even with a background in economics, Doug was passed over for the data positions he wanted because he didn’t have an advanced degree. He spent his time rising up the ranks at Domino’s Pizza, going from food delivery to store manager, before the pandemic had Doug reassessing his career goals. In this article, Doug tells us why he chose Thinkful’s Immersive Data Analytics Bootcamp and how he learned the hard and soft skills he needed to land a job as a Game Analyst at App Annie.
What inspired you to make a career change into data analytics?
After I graduated from high school in 2005, I went to Oregon State University where I tried electrical engineering and computer science. Nothing clicked. I needed a break from schooling and spent a few years floating around, delivering newspapers, and making just enough to live.
I went back to school again and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Managerial Economics. I took a delivery driver job with Domino’s as I looked for a job, but most of the roles I was interested in required a Master's degree in Economics. I became a manager at Domino's and opened a store within our franchise in a nearby town that I ran for a year and a half.
I didn't want to get stuck in food service for the rest of my life, and I've always been tangentially interested in data on the economics side. In college, I did some data and regression analysis research papers. I really enjoyed working with databases and learning how data works.
After the pandemic hit, I started looking for tech-related positions, but soon realized I needed more experience in things like SQL and Python. I tried to learn machine learning through YouTube tutorials, but I didn't have many soft skills or connections to help me land a job. That’s when I found out about data analytics bootcamps.
There are so many data analytics bootcamps now — why did you choose Thinkful?
I was interested in the deferred tuition option at Thinkful’s data analytics bootcamp. Thinkful’s job guarantee was also a huge draw for me and ended up making the difference in the long run.
Did you have to complete pre-work for the data analytics bootcamp?
There was a prep course before the first day, but for me, it was relatively easy. I've always been a mathy person, working with computers most of my life, so I didn’t find the pre-work challenging.
What was a typical day like in Thinkful’s Data Analytics bootcamp?
Thinkful offers a part-time and a full-time data analytics course. I was enrolled in the full-time Immersion course, which is a lot more classroom-oriented whereas the part-time data analytics bootcamp allows you to move at your own pace. My typical day involved attending a morning class then meeting up with either a classmate or small group to work on modules and assignments together. Since there were roughly 40 people in my cohort, there was a lot of diversity in learning styles and experience levels with technology and course materials. The afternoon was spent working independently.
What did you actually learn during your bootcamp?
Thinkful’s Data Analytics Bootcamp is geared towards beginners. The bootcamp covers a wide range of content, which makes it excellent for less tech-focused people looking to switch career paths. The primary focus was on Excel and creating dashboards for companies. We also went into SQL, Python, and Tableau.
What kinds of projects did you build?
We had three major projects to utilize the skills we had learned and to build things from scratch. For my final project, I ended up using a data set from Kaggle about Metacritic scores for video games and how they relate to sales. I really enjoy video games, so this was a fun project to pull together. If you are looking to start a project, I recommend finding a data set related to something you really enjoy, be it politics, environment, sports, or video gaming.
Mentorship is a key component at Thinkful. How did your mentor guide you?
My mentor was there to provide career advice and assist me with what I was learning in the course as well as share resources and practice problems with me. We used a website called HackerRank to practice all types of programming together, and I got good practice out of that website. Through your mentor, you also hear real-world industry talk and gain insight into the data industry.
What kind of support did you receive from Thinkful’s careers team?
Thinkful’s careers team was wonderful! I initially did not feel ready for the job hunt, but the careers team helped bolster my confidence with their support. They helped me with my soft skills, such as how to navigate the interview process, set up a LinkedIn account, and how to find a job. They taught me the ins and outs of how tech jobs are posted, and helped me understand that I should go for jobs even if I felt underqualified. Having that support during my job search was huge.
What remote job search strategies worked best for you?
Some of my job search strategies involved cold applying to jobs, and some involved leveraging Thinkful's connections and alumni network. Utilizing your network is a significant benefit when you’re on the job hunt.
When you're done with a bootcamp, I recommend working on projects on your own time, especially in something you're passionate about. It's a big thing to show a potential employer that you're passionate about the area of the role you're applying for and have experience to back it up. For one of the companies I reached out to, they didn't have an open position, but they were interested in me because of a project I did at Thinkful.
Congrats on your new data role at App Annie! What is your job like? What team are you working with?
I landed a role as a Game Analyst! App Annie does data analysis focused on phone applications, and a lot of it is gaming-related, which I was already interested in.
What was the remote interview process like?
The interview process was long! That is definitely something to be ready for in tech interviews. I went through five interviews and a case study process. The whole process lasted roughly a month.
You were a TA at a data analysis bootcamp after graduating from Thinkful. What were the benefits of teaching before landing that first, full-time data role?
The TA role allowed me to keep up on skills and help other students navigate the bootcamp experience themselves. Having already gone through a bootcamp, I have a unique perspective on it, and sharing my knowledge with other students was nice. Helping them helped me at the same time.
Looking back on this career change journey, was enrolling at Thinkful worth it for you?
100%! Making a career change is a tough road; it takes a while. My career change took me 8-9 months after graduating to get my first data position, so you have to be prepared for those delays. The bootcamp can be an upfront cost, but when you enroll in the Deferred Tuition program, you don't owe Thinkful until after you get a full-time position. The payment plans were beneficial!
What has been the biggest challenge in this journey to make a career change into data?
My biggest challenge was putting myself out there by networking and continuously putting out job applications. The process can be very disappointing when you send out 50-100 applications and don't receive a call back from any of them. It's a shared experience, though, with many others trying to get those entry-level positions in a field that is gaining popularity.
As someone who went from delivering food full-time to now working full-time in data, I know a career change can happen — it can just be a hard road to get there sometimes, so it’s essential that you find ways to counteract the difficulties of the transitionary period.
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