Milena Afeworki, a September 2021 Data Science graduate from Flatiron School, began her career as a civil engineer in Northeast Africa. Now, she is living in California and thriving as a Data Scientist.
Milena Afeworki began her career in Eritrea, a country in the Northeast of Africa on the coast of the Red Sea. She earned a Civil Engineering degree from the Eritrean Institute of Technology, joining a consulting and engineering firm after graduation where she explored her interest in mathematics and data visualization.
“I began as a Structural Civil Engineer, working on Infrastructure design projects in various sectors, including public, and NGO initiatives,” she explained. “I was passionate about solving problems using mathematical analysis, design, and visualization which was my main reason for choosing the field in the first place.”
But, 5 years and a move to the USA later, she saw just how big an impact data could have on the world – and she wanted to be a part of it.
“After moving to the US my network grew, I learned more and was captured by the beauty of how much data was behind the projects being launched,” she said. “I wanted to be part of the bigger determining factor that drives the decisions of projects that are set in motion.”
Though many would consider Civil Engineering and Data Science completely unrelated, Milena says there is a thread of logic that weaves the disciplines together.
“There is a lot of similarity between the two fields. Both aim to solve engineering problems by optimizing processes and resources,” she explained. “Moreover, resolving intricate engineering problems and presenting the outcomes through impactful visualizations to offer valuable insights to guide business strategies interested me more.”
Despite the similarity of logic used in both the fields of engineering and data science, the tools used differed significantly. Making the transition between fields would require Milena to expand her skill set to include Python, Statistical Analysis, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning. To expedite her learning process, she turned to a Data Science bootcamp – specifically, to Flatiron School.
“Flatiron School was first my choice because of its reputable Data Science program and structured career coaching,” she recalled. “I wanted to gain hands-on skills and practical experience in designing and building data science projects applying Machine learning tools. The program’s curriculum, which covered relevant tools, languages, and frameworks, aligned with my career goals.”
With her goals set, Milena enrolled in Flatiron School’s Data Science Live program. A full-time, immersive course designed to teach students the data science fundamentals they need to enter the industry, the program moves quickly over 15 weeks of instruction. Milena remembers initially struggling with the accelerated pace of learning.
“Understanding the intricacies of data science in a fast-paced learning environment [was challenging]. Handling large volumes of data efficiently and effectively required a deep understanding of various tools and techniques,” she explained. “Given the program’s demanding nature, I occasionally encountered frustration when confronted with obstacles, but such moments ultimately pushed me to persistently seek solutions.”
Unsurprisingly, Milena’s favorite part of the program was what drew her to the field initially – seeing, and being part of, projects with impact.
“My favorite part of the program was working on real-world assignments. These projects simulated the challenges that Data Scientists face in the industry, allowing me to apply the concepts I learned, incorporating my previous experience and enhancing my problem-solving skills.”
Milena graduated in September 2021 and began the job search, supported by her dedicated Flatiron School Career Coach.
“My career coach played a crucial role in providing guidance on crafting my resume, preparing for interviews, and expanding my network,” she recalled. “I owe my interviewing skills and networking skills to my coach, without whom it would have been difficult.”
Ultimately, Milena accepted a Data Integration Engineer position, which she thanks her Career Coach for helping her land.
“Her professional insights and emotional support helped me navigate the competitive job market and ultimately secure my first Data Engineering role.”
Working In The Field
When we spoke with Milena, she’d been working at her company for 1.5 years and had received a promotion to Data Analyst. Her experiences in the field, she said, have been exactly what she hoped for.
“Working in the field of data engineering has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. The opportunity to work with cutting-edge tools and technologies to solve complex data challenges is fulfilling and aligns well with my passion for creating efficient data solutions,” she explained. “Overall, I’m thoroughly enjoying my journey as a data engineer, and I’m excited to see where my career leads.”
She is also particularly proud of a project she worked on that tied back to her original career in civil engineering, examined through the lens of data science.
“I designed and implemented a Classification Model on the Structural condition of Bridges in the US, using climate data from NASA and bridge records from the Department of Transportation. The purpose of the project was intended for the bridge management system to be capable of accurately predicting future bridge conditions and help make an informed decision on when and where to allocate maintenance budgets.”
Visit Milena’s LinkedIn page to see what else she’s up to.
Reflecting On Her Journey
Looking back on where she began, a career and a continent ago, Milena credits her adaptability for her success in pivoting professions by way of a bootcamp.
“The most significant lesson I gained from my time at Flatiron School was developing the skill to thrive in uncertain and ambiguous scenarios,” she said. “I’ve come to view these situations as valuable opportunities for me to inquire, observe, learn, and embrace mistakes, all of which contributed to my growth beyond my initial capabilities.”
But, remembering the challenges she experienced at the beginning of her program, she recommends that future students just keep moving forward and working at the material, even if it feels impossible at first.
“Expect a learning curve where immediate progress might not be apparent. But keep persisting, and once those skills take root, you’ll be amazed by how far you’ve come.”
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Read more stories about successful career changes on the Flatiron School blog.