Mike Roth: Fine Arts to Data Science
“My takeaway is that I’m not too old or unworthy to pursue a career change and that I can always expand my knowledge and experience.”
Mike Roth, an August 2022 Data Science graduate from Flatiron School, began his career learning computer engineering before a love for creating pulled him towards a degree in fine arts. A decade later, however, he’s come full circle.
He shares his journey from the arts to Data Science below.
A Foundation In Fine Arts
Mike Roth has spent his career in the pursuit of creation. Initially beginning his education studying Computer Engineering, he ultimately graduated with a degree in Fine Arts. While many would question the transition between the two fields, Roth says that they overlapped at their core and differed only in the method of creation.
“I didn’t see much difference between the two [majors] since they are both highly creative fields, and I wanted to combine the two interests to take advantage of the power of coding in art.”
Post-graduation, he used his combined skillset in a variety of positions including graphic design, web development, and marketing. But, a decade into his career, the financial pressures of living in a major city pushed him to consider a new career.
“I was using my coding skills to create art and design, but I still struggled to make enough money to survive in New York with just a degree in Fine Arts,” he explained. “I’d designed graphics and websites my entire career and was looking for a new challenge.”
Roth didn’t have to look far to settle on his next path. He simply went back to the beginning – back to his enjoyment of coding.
“I love to code and wanted to pursue a career where I could code all day.”
His Bootcamp Experience
While looking into fields where his coding skills would be a valuable asset, Roth discovered Data Science and bootcamps.
“Initially, Data Science seemed more interesting to me because it was one of the most challenging courses in a bootcamp,” he recalled. “Then I realized that I could do so much more with math and science on top of my software engineering skills.”
A referral from a friend spurred his interest in Flatiron School’s Data Science program.
“I had an artist friend who graduated from Flatiron’s software engineering program a few years before me and has had a lot of success since. His experience made Flatiron one of my top choices for bootcamps. I wanted stability and progress in my career, and I knew from his experience it was achievable.”
Roth applied to Flatiron School’s full-time, 15-week Data Science course during the pandemic, but delayed his start date until in-person classes at the NYC Campus resumed.
“I really wanted to learn data science from people around me, not just online tutorials,” he explained. “Attending the bootcamp on campus was an amazing experience.”
He recalled how challenging the accelerated pace of the program was, but highlighted the support he received and the connections he made with those around him on campus.
“The coursework is very demanding. Keeping up with every topic and project often required me to work late at night,” Roth said. “But my favorite part [of the bootcamp] was learning from my peers and professors, who would discuss complex math and neural network ideas.”
Job Search Experience
Mike Roth graduated from the Flatiron School Data Science program in August 2022. Unfortunately, his job search initially got off to a rocky start.
“I think because of my untraditional background I had trouble getting interviews. It was very difficult and disheartening at times.”
But, throughout his job search, his dedicated Flatiron School career coach was there to keep him moving forward.
“My career coach was extremely helpful and supportive, and I owe all my interviewing and applying skills to him,” Roth said. “I called him my job therapist because while most of the job search work is on you, my career coach was there to back me up technically and emotionally.”
Despite the trying start to the search, Roth ultimately accepted a role as a Senior Consultant at GCOM Software. When we spoke with him in early 2023, he had only good things to say about his new career.
“I love it! I didn’t know how much I would enjoy Data Science before I applied to Flatiron, but I really can’t get enough of it. I’d do personal science projects all day if I could, but I’m so happy to get paid for it and work with an amazing team of engineers and scientists. I can’t wait to see where my career leads.”
Reflecting On His Journey
Looking back at his journey from Flatiron School student to professional Data Scientist, Roth is particularly proud of the projects he completed while in bootcamp. Those projects, fittingly, combined his love of the arts with his new data skills.
“In one project, I used informational entropy and neural networks to authenticate any artist’s work from fraudulent copies, specifically Bob Ross’ paintings. For my final project, I created a sound wave similarity search engine that uses data from Spotify’s API to find songs that are similar sounding. Try out a working demo here.”
Roth commented that he’d also learned to let go of societal notions around changing careers.
“My biggest takeaway from the bootcamp is that I’m not too old or unworthy to pursue a career change and that I can always expand my knowledge and experience, even if it seems different from my background.”
The fact that he’s come full circle is not lost on Roth either.
“This was the path I had always been on to begin with; headed toward something challenging and new. I still have a bit of an imposter feeling about my math and science abilities, but I’m really excited to do this kind of work and I’m proud of what I’ve learned.”
His Advice For Other Students
Roth’s advice to others pivoting to a new career by way of Flatiron School is to lean into the uncertainty and inherent struggle in learning something new.
“Don’t get too worried about whether you understand everything the first time. These concepts can be really difficult to understand or visualize the first time around, and take time to sink in.”
He also emphasizes the fact that, even after graduation, they should expect to continuously be improving and expanding their skillsets.
“I’m still constantly learning and feeling frustrated when I don’t understand something right off the bat, but I know it will come eventually. Work is work, but the work you put in always pays off – you learn more from your mistakes and difficulties than anything else.”
As for his love of creation, that passion is here to stay.
“I’m working as a data scientist now, but I think I’ll always be an artist, no matter what my job is. Plus, at times Data Science can be more of an art than a science.”
Ready For A Change, Just Like Mike Roth?
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Read more stories about successful career changes on the Flatiron School blog.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of May 24, 2023. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.
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