Greg Damico, Technical Faculty Manager at Flatiron School, spent more than twenty years in academia. He accumulated advanced degrees in Physics, Ancient Greek, Philosophy, and Applied Mathematics in that time before ultimately deciding to move into tech.
Greg shares his journey from academia to tech below.
An Academic Brush With Data
To say that Greg’s background is “academic” is an understatement. Beginning with a Bachelor’s in Physics, he followed it up with a Master’s in Ancient Greek and a Ph.D. in Philosophy. But it wasn’t until he was back in the classroom (again) for another Master’s, this time in Applied Mathematics, that Data Science caught his attention.
“I took a class […] in scientific computing and really started to see the power of combining math and programming,” Greg recalled. “From my philosophy days, I also had an interest in things like the nature of the mind and artificial intelligence, so all of these things were pointing to data science.”
The Appeal Of A Change To Tech
After spending decades of his career in academia, Greg cited a desire for professional stability as his reason for ultimately making his exit from the field. Choosing tech, he said, was easy.
“Lots of things about tech are attractive,” he said. “There is a great diversity of jobs (because everyone needs tech, always a need for tech people, great potential for working remotely, lots of really cool tasks tech is contributing to (medical work, police work, plus all of the “purer” work in developing AI and robotics, etc.). And of course, the money is pretty good too.”
As for growing pains when transitioning, he mentioned that there weren’t many. His eclectic background had well prepared him for this new industry.
“I needed of course to develop my own programming skills, but then it was just a matter of applying them.”
His Experience In Tech
Greg attended an accelerated online bootcamp program to expand his programming knowledge. Afterward, he joined Flatiron School as a Data Science Instructor in 2019. He has since moved into a Technical Faculty Manager role, and – after a brief adjustment period to the faster pace of the industry – enjoys the new field.
“I like working in tech a lot. The main thing I had to adapt to was the increased speed of the work week. It’s not that there aren’t deadlines in academia, but they just tend to be softer,” he explained. “Since moving into tech I’ve found that I’ve needed to make decisions faster, and often that means reaching out to people on other teams and being able to rely on them.”
As for what he’s been working on at Flatiron School, his projects have focused on student-facing experiences and systems.
“I am largely responsible for our transition to the CodeGrade platform, which I think should provide a much-improved grading experience on checkpoints and code challenges for our live instructors. I also played a big role in crafting exit tickets that are used after live lectures.”
His interest in data science continues beyond business hours as well. Outside of his work at Flatiron School, he also enjoys “exploring statistical questions that arise in the context of sports.”
As for all of the knowledge he accumulated while in academia, Greg said that it still has a factor in his new career in Data Science.
“I don’t use my Greek every day,” he admitted. “But my philosophical training has absolutely been useful in the tech world. Philosophy trains you to ask good questions and think about new possibilities. This comes up all the time when asking questions like ‘how do we re-organize curriculum to address a new need?’ or ‘if we design this tool from scratch which features would we want to have as users?’ Philosophy also teaches about ethics, which is ever more relevant to the field of data science.”
Advice For Flatiron School Students
Looking back at his career thus far, Greg is most proud of his impact on learners.
“Maybe this is a little trite, but I’m very proud of helping to jump-start new careers,” he said. “Watching students go from zero to hero never gets old.”
His advice for those students, however, is succinct and to the point.
“Do not be shy about asking for help, especially from your peers! Two heads are better than one, and collaboration will be important wherever you go anyway.”
Ready To Make A Change, Just Like Greg Damico?
Read more career-change stories like this one on the Flatiron School blog.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of 11 January 2023. For updated information visit https://flatironschool.com/.