“Lots of organizations need your expertise right now, and you might be able to find a great fit in an unexpected place, so don't give up…adapt.”
Meet Flatiron School Alum and Shopify Data Scientist, Jenny Kreiger! As she was excavating remains in Pompeii for years, she knew she was drifting farther away from studying human behavior. So she traded in her shovel for a laptop and enrolled in Flatiron School. Now, she's pursuing her true passion for discovering the answers that are unearthed in the data. Jenny tells her story, here:
You have an undergraduate degree in classical art and archaeology. What made you pursue that path, and what did you accomplish?
I did my undergraduate degree in classical studies because it gave me opportunities to study lots of things I was interested in (languages, cultures, art, architecture, etc.). It also afforded me the ability to study abroad and to participate in archaeological research. After graduation, I decided to pursue a PhD in classical art and archaeology because I hoped it would open up opportunities to work in higher ed, museums, government, or cultural heritage organizations. Getting my doctorate was challenging, of course, but also really rewarding. I lived in Italy for three years, spent five summers working in Pompeii, and interned in museums around the US. I was very lucky!
Where did you get the idea to pivot into data science? Was there a moment or exposure that led you to this decision?
The academic job market is notoriously challenging, so from the start of my doctorate, I was always researching and preparing for alternatives. My graduate school offered a few free sessions with a career coach, and that coach taught me how to think about what I really enjoy doing and how to find those things in unexpected places. Data Science came up then as a possibility for me because as an archaeologist I liked using data to learn about human behavior. But I worried about whether I could learn all the math and programming required. For the first two years after graduation, I did tons of tutorials and classes online to build my skills in Python, R, and statistics. I was learning a lot, and I really enjoyed the material, but I didn't feel like I could really do data science independently. I decided to see if I could get into any bootcamps, and to my surprise, I did! That was a turning point for me. I chose to quit my job, enroll in Flatiron School, and really commit to a career change.
What surprised you most regarding your Flatiron School experience?
I think I was most surprised by how quickly it went and how much I learned in such a short time. There were lots of occasions when I told my partner, "A week ago I had never heard of this technique, and now I'm doing it!"
What was your approach to networking and ultimately how did you secure your job?
I started off my job search networking at local and regional events, but then all my efforts got shut down by the pandemic. Luckily, tech communities were quick to adapt to virtual events, and I was able to attend lots of cool events virtually that I wouldn't have been available to in person in my small town. I got my job through the "Out In Tech" slack workspace. A Shopify employee posted a link to their jobs page and offered to talk to anyone interested, so I chatted with him and asked for a referral. Pretty soon, I was talking to a recruiter, then a couple of hiring managers, and then I was invited to go through the full interview process. I received several great leads through Out In Tech, so if you identify with the LGBTQIA+ community, I recommend checking it out.
Where are you working and what types of projects are you engaged in daily?
I'm starting my new job as a Data Scientist at Shopify in July. I'm joining the team that focuses on the online platform that business owners use to manage their stores. I'll be analyzing how people interact with this platform and helping to assess the potential impact of proposed features and changes.
What can you share with grads who are searching during Covid? What words of encouragement would you like to share?
This is a really hard time to be looking for a job, and it's OK to acknowledge that challenge and the impact it has on your physical and mental health. So first of all, take care of yourself! Job searching is even harder when you're sick or stressed, so make sure you're safe and healthy above all else. Once that's done, be strategic and reevaluate your priorities on a regular basis. Everyone is making compromises because of the pandemic, so think about how you can be adaptable without settling for a situation that you know deep down doesn't resonate with you. Lots of organizations need your expertise right now, and you might be able to find a great fit in an unexpected place, so don't give up–adapt!
Career coach Ellen Chang reflects on how Jenny's job search was so successful:
"Jenny never gave up. She got to the final round and almost got an offer from Cascade. They couldn't hire her due to the pandemic. She saw Shopify, knew they were hiring only in Canada, but went for it anyway. At the same time, they decided to only work remote. It worked out wonderfully for her!"