From Zero to Tech Evangelist in One Year

It hit me today that I wrote my first-ever Python code just over a year ago (!) 

I had to stop and really think about that for a moment because I’m now an Evangelist at Coiled, which means I get to paid to spend my days writing about all things PyData for a living. To be honest, pulling up my first Github commit felt like looking in the mirror and seeing a different person…..the things that can change in one trip around the sun!

GIF of dog scaring itself by looking in a mirror

I’m sharing my story for anyone else aspiring to move into the tech, data science space to say: there’s so much more possible than you might imagine right now! Please do reach out to me if you’re on this journey, too – I’d love to connect.

Becoming a Coding Human

About a year ago, in the middle of the first Covid lockdown, I decided to rekindle an old and dormant curiosity for coding. I was unhappy at my previous job and was looking for something new to challenge my brain cells with. I’d done a little bit of HTML and C++ in high-school but that was close to 2 decades ago and I remembered very little of it. What I did remember was that I enjoyed the logical thinking and the slow, thoughtful construction that went into it. So I spent my spare time (read: the precious few hours a day when my newborn daughter was mercifully asleep) playing around with Python…and couldn’t stop!

I did my research and soon signed up for the Springboard Data Science Career Track. That was money very, very well-spent. The self-paced, fully-online program matched well with my learning style: independent, curious and disciplined. Well, mostly disciplined 😉 And in those moments when my discipline waned, the weekly calls with my mentor (shout-out to you here, Guy Maskall!) gave me the human connection and motivation to keep on ploughing my way through the curriculum.

Fast-forward a few months and I’m now a Data Science Evangelist working with some of the brightest minds in the PyData space. There’s no way I could’ve imagined a year ago that I’d be working with and learning from all the smart, kind people I now get to call colleagues at Coiled. Let alone that I’d know how to build my own ETL workflows and ML models and could hold a meaningful conversation about things like distributed computing, Zarr, Parquet, pickling, and unclogging orchestration pipelines.

GIF of mario trying to unplug a pipe

So…

…How Did I Get Here?

My main takeaway from this experience:

A lot can happen in a year…and there’s no way you can possibly plan it all out. Be curious, set an intention and start working towards it…and then be open to changing course and receiving the things that show up along the way.

To boil it down to a few golden nuggets of wisdom:

Find your curiosity

A career in data science sounded both strange and unfeasible from the vantage point of my noob-self considering a radical change 15 months ago. But I couldn’t shake the Python-bug I’d caught: I was fascinated by the world of programming and wanted to learn more. And more. And more… Lesson here? Find the thing that you can’t stop yourself wanting to learn more about. Then chase that without worrying too much about where it’ll lead you.

Dare to dream big

I’ve long had a dream to travel more, but for some reason thought that wasn’t really going to be possible now that I was ‘an adult’ (whatever that means) who needed things like ‘stable income’. But as I caught the Python-bug I also started to wonder if I could maybe land a remote job and have the freedom to actually chase that dream. Still, I thought I’d probably have to put my head down and gain experience for a few years at some boring office job before that would be possible. Thankfully, the universe proved me wrong 🙂 

Create a structure

During my bootcamp, I went into full-on, no-compromises self-discipline mode. I was waking up early (before baby, so often 5AM, to squeeze in my first 2 hours of studying), intermittent fasting, no drinking, no sugar, etc. Looking back, that was pretty extreme, but that’s the structure that worked for me. You’re a different person, so I don’t know what will work for you. But spend time noticing when you feel most productive and optimistic about your work…and then do more of that. One thing I would recommend across the board to anyone in the world trying to accomplish something meaningful: limit your social media. Try checking you socials within a boxed time-slot of 1 hour or less per day. I personally even keep my socials on a separate device that’s out of sight to limit distractions.

Nurture your relationships 

Yes, Richard the individual Coding Human definitely put a lot of effort into this whole endeavour. But there is simply no way (neither on earth nor in the metaverse) that I could have done this without the support of people around me… My partners, friends and family who believed I could do this, my mentors and other professional connections who patiently answered questions, made introductions, and went out of their way to tell me they saw potential in me…the list is LONG. You will need good company along this journey because there are going to be moments when you feel like quitting and going back to your comfort zone. Thankfully, creating a community of kind and supportive people around you is not actually very hard to do:

Be kind and attentive to the people you encounter along the way…and you’ll get a lot of kindness and generosity in return!

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