“I think of a reporter starting an interview and that is how I like to come across with my first words.”
Meet Northview Weather Data Scientist and Flatiron School Alum Mark Ehler! After returning from the Peace Corps he worked in a retina lab. He began to think, wouldn’t it be great if I could make a more meaningful contribution at the intersection of data science and medical imaging? The proverbial spark was lit sending Mark on his journey. Read his story here:
You come from an interesting background. Tell us how you transitioned from the Peace Corps, to a retina clinic, to ultimately enrolling in Flatiron School's data science program?
Ultimately, I was no longer satisfied with working in a clinical setting and my mind kept thinking of a more efficient way to improve lives. A doctor at my clinic mentioned that he would be interested in machine learning to measure tumors. That got me thinking that I could develop skill sets and contribute so much more in the arena of medical imaging.
You were enrolled in the online program while still working a FT job. Tell us how you managed two large workloads at once, and what you learned about yourself during that journey?
The secret to working 60+ hours is to have a supportive group of friends! I told my job at the beginning that I was doing an online course. At work, I lived for lunch breaks and lulls in the clinic schedule but it was the few coworkers who understood my journey that allowed me the latitude to do my lessons. I studied before and after work most days and set up my weekends around designated blocks of time. I didn't go out much, but the people supporting me understood.
What was the “aha” moment that led you into this career path?
Life is full of "aha" moments! I had one when I started prepping for my course, learning python was easier than I thought it would be. What scared away a less confident self in high school, I found myself propelling through my daily goals with self assurance. I continue to have "aha" moments learning new things and diving deeper into tech, ever reminding me that data science was the right choice for me.
Shortly after graduation, you moved to a small town to seek employment. Tell us how you approached your job search in a rural location.
I moved to Burlington, VT to move in with my partner who started her PhD at UVM around the same time I wrapped up my capstone. The plan was to approach the move and the job search with an open mind. I was looking in seemingly foolish places at first. I sought out companies with values that aligned, any company that hired for the roles I was applying for, and any company I could drive to in an afternoon. It was an intersectional job search, at best. Burlington might be small but we have a young and vibrant community. There are tech meetups and a SoftwareDev public Slack channel to get involved with. I truly feel meeting people in person is much easier when the city is small and I took advantage of these opportunities.
What was your most effective job seeking tool, and how did you ultimately secure your position?
My favorite tool was to open with: "Hi, how are you today? Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me” … I get the most out of meeting people in person and genuinely feel grateful for each connection. I think of a reporter starting an interview and that is how I like to come across with my first words. Talking technical comes later in the conversation, it’s important to just make the connection on a personal level first.
What advice would you give to students who see road blocks instead of opportunities when job hunting?
Embrace the growth and change, it's part of the process. When I feel myself getting down about an obstacle I've hit I ultimately realize that I've been obsessing over it. What needs to be realized is that even if the results weren't what you had hoped for, you still improved. We all need breaks and I find that spending time to decompress and get myself out of my routine often has yielded exciting personal developments.
Career coach Elsa Vazquez reflects on how Mark's job search was so successful:
"During my Kickoff Session with Mark I quickly realized what a genuinely nice, caring person he is. Mark approached networking events with ‘What can I do to help others?’ and ‘Who can I connect with on a personal level?’ This sincerity, combined with his openness to guidance, quick follow up and consistent communication with me, resulted in a successful placement."