Alumni Spotlight

From Realtor to Blockchain Data Engineer with Jigsaw Labs

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Last updated on March 23, 2022

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Zack was unsatisfied with his career trajectory in real estate, and wanted a role that was more collaborative, intellectually stimulating, and impactful. After connecting with Jigsaw Labs, he decided to enroll in the Data Engineering Bootcamp (which includes a 3-month internship during the course of the bootcamp!) to launch a new career in data engineering. Now Zack is a Blockchain Data Engineer at LGND Group and he tells us how the bootcamp and internship experience at Jigsaw Labs gave him a leg up in the exciting world of data engineering.  

What inspired you to pivot from working in real estate to data engineering?

I was in an environment where there wasn’t much opportunity for long-term growth or intellectual collaboration. I also wanted a career that would be more impactful. I had taken a couple of online data science courses, including a data analyst & data science class. Towards the end of the course, it became clear to me that data analytics/science was interesting but not the career for me. I enjoyed being in the trenches and building things, which is what led me to pursue a career in data engineering. 

How did you decide to attend Jigsaw Labs

I met Jeff Katz, the founder of Jigsaw Labs, through a networking platform called Lunchclub. At the time, I was trying to figure out how to get into data engineering. Jeff recommended that I attend the Data Engineering Bootcamp and I jumped right into it! 

Did the bootcamp require you to have previous coding experience? 

The bootcamp does not require previous code experience but it can be helpful! Knowing some data manipulation tools, such as Pandas, can be helpful prior to enrolling in the bootcamp. Jigsaw Labs does provide free workshops and introductory courses that cover the foundations of coding. 

What was a typical day like at Jigsaw Labs? 

It’s a 24-week bootcamp, and our cohort had class on two weekday evenings and all day on Sunday. Our class instruction would typically begin with an introduction to a data engineering theory. We would then work in a lab to apply that theory through experiments or projects. 

Were you able to juggle the bootcamp and work?

Yes! I continued working in real estate while completing the bootcamp. Since the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the real estate industry, it made it easier for me to juggle both working and bootcamp.

What did you learn in the data engineering bootcamp?

Jigsaw Labs taught me how to: 

  • Build a data pipeline.
  • Develop a full stack application, using HTML, CSS, Javascript, Python, and SQL. 
  • Integrate applications into cloud operations, like AWS.

Did the teaching style at the bootcamp match your learning style?

The teaching style comprises both lecture and practical application. This matched how I learn because I am better able to retain information by practicing the theory through hands-on projects.

What kinds of projects did you work on in the bootcamp?

At Jigsaw Labs, I developed a full stack application that extracted and ingested school data through an ETL pipeline, and provided data visualizations for the web interface showcasing the performance of a school compared to other neighborhood schools.

Jigsaw Labs offers students an internship experience. What was your internship like? 

I worked at Bucephalus, which is an e-commerce start-up. My internship lasted six months and I worked about 15-20 hours per week. Since it was a start-up, I was able to be a jack-of-all-trades at the company and I worked on a variety of engineering projects. Overall, I was able to enhance my collaboration skills by working with other engineers in an actual production environment. I was also exposed to different engineering tools, which helped me think more critically about the architecture of products and how everything works together. My internship experience was valuable because it helped me get my foot in the door when I applied for full-time positions. 

Did you use everything you learned at Jigsaw Labs in your internship?

While I did learn many new things during my internship, I was also able to reuse projects from my bootcamp, including the data pipeline I built while at Jigsaw. 

How did Jigsaw Labs support you in the job hunt and during your internship? 

Jigsaw Labs was really helpful during my internship and job search. We had a class that met twice a week to ensure we were staying on course to land a job after graduation and answer questions we had about our internship experiences. Jigsaw Labs provided recommendations on platforms to use and reviewed my resume and cover letter.  

What roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating from Jigsaw Labs?

I was applying mostly to entry-level data engineering roles after I graduated, but I was also able to interview for technical roles that required a client-facing background. 

Congratulations on your new job as a Blockchain Data Engineer at LGND Group! What problems does LGND Group solve?

LGND Group provides an NFT platform for luxury art and for musicians to release merchandise. We also have a metaverse development platform that allows people to mint their digital real estate assets as deeds and sell them to other players. LGND Group is in the process of launching LGND Music, a music streaming service built on blockchain.

How did you pivot from data engineering to blockchain?

When I was making the career change from real estate to engineering, I was keen to work in blockchain, but there was a barrier to entry as I was still at the beginning of my data engineering career. While completing my Jigsaw Labs internship, I enrolled in a separate course to learn blockchain so I would be more eligible for those types of roles.

How did you land your job at LGND Group? 

LGND Group was interested in hiring a data engineer with e-commerce experience and familiarity with blockchain. They were interested in the culmination of my experience, including my Jigsaw Labs’ Data Engineering bootcamp and internship experience with an e-commerce startup. They liked that I had also completed a blockchain course and developed a decentralized application from it.

What kinds of projects are you working on at LGND Group? 

I currently work in our Accounting & Finance department. I aggregate transaction data from multiple blockchains, unify them, and deliver them to the Finance team for review and analysis.

What languages or tools do you rely on now as a blockchain data engineer? 

I typically use Python, Pandas, and SQL/Postgres every day. 

Since you dabbled in data analytics, data engineering, and blockchain engineering – what is the difference between those three career paths?

Data Analytics focuses on gleaning business intelligence from internal and/or external data, the insights will likely be about the internal operations of the business, or perhaps the market/business the company is already or looking to engage with. 

Data Engineering is responsible for the storage, maintenance, and reliability of data. Generally, a data engineer will also build the pipelines that direct data from one source to another. Additionally, they will often work with a greater number of tools and have more cross exposure to different engineering domains since they are effectively at the center of the data traffic.

Blockchain Engineering is more an umbrella term for engineers that work in the blockchain space. Since the technology is quite unique and different from regular applications, domain expertise is essential. In other words, you could be a blockchain infrastructure engineer which would overlap greatly with someone from a DevOps background and the same for data engineering vs blockchain data engineer. The only truly unique domain in blockchain engineering is “smart contract” development, which is building immutable programs that exist within any particular blockchain network.

Looking back on this experience, was Jigsaw Labs worth it for you? 

Jigsaw Labs was absolutely worth it! While real estate had the ability to make me a lot of money, it was not an environment I was keen to stay in and the industry didn’t have long-term viability. The career growth in data engineering is far more engaging and personally rewarding. In this field, I have so many options and opportunities, including the opportunity to integrate my knowledge of blockchain and data engineering with my real estate work, too.  

Find out more and read Jigsaw Labs reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Jigsaw Labs.

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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