Greg Damico: From Academica To Tech

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.”

To learn more about Greg’s work, visit his website and LinkedIn

Ready To Make A Change, Just Like Greg Damico?

Inspired by Greg’s career pivot story? Apply Today to our Data Science Course to take charge of your future in as little as 15 weeks.

Not quite ready to apply? Book a 10-minute chat with admissions to see if you qualify, or test-drive the material with Data Science Prep

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

Jesse Pisel: From Geology Professor To Data Science Curriculum Manager

Jesse Pisel, Data Science Curriculum Manager at Flatiron School, has a Ph.D. in Geology and spent more than a decade in Academia and earth science-related positions before making the jump to tech. 

He shares his journey from Geology Professor to Data Scientist below.

An Academic Foundation In Earth Sciences

Jesse Pisel began his academic career, as academics do, with a bachelor’s degree in Geology and Earth Sciences. This was followed by a Ph.D. in the same field, during which Jesse began a decades-long love affair with data.

“I got into data science during graduate school while working on spatial statistics and geology,” Jesse said. “Turns out machine learning was a great approach for mitigating human bias at different spatial and temporal scales” 

After receiving his Ph.D., Jesse worked as a data scientist in oil and gas, mining, and governmental industries, followed by several years of teaching and researching at universities. His affinity for data, however, followed him through all of his positions and in each industry. 

“The math part of data science really drew me in from my background in earth surface processes. Machine learning has the potential to make predictions at a much more granular level, allowing me the time to think about the bigger picture of the problem I was trying to solve. Ultimately it was a chance to think of the implications of the solution, and find underlying themes in the data.”

Diving Into Data Science

After spending more than 10 years in geology-related academic and industry positions, Jesse made the decision to pivot his career into tech, citing the desire for a quicker-paced work environment.

“Academia was a lot of fun, but it is very tough teaching a course and then having to wait for the next semester or next year to see how changes I made in the curriculum worked or did not work for the students,” Jess said on the switch. “I was really after a bit faster pace than academia offered.”

Jesse found the faster pace he was looking for in tech. As for what made tech an attractive option, well, the answer is in the data. 

“Tech […] has so much data and has so many unique solutions that we use every day. It is pretty unique to come up with a math-based solution to a problem and be able to implement it with a team so quickly,” Jesse said. “It feels kind of like having super or magic powers. Plus I get to work on really challenging problems with the best and the brightest folks out there.”

In order to make the jump, Jesse had to acquire some new skills in both theoretical and applied applications. 

“Getting a good handle on databases, networking, and algorithms along with machine learning and deep learning theory helped in the transition,” he explained. “Once I understood the theory, the tools were fairly straightforward to pick up.”

His Experience In Tech

As of the end of 2022, Jesse has been working in tech for about a year. The transition, he says, has been smooth and well worth the effort to work in the faster-paced industry he’d wished for. 

“The transition has been great between tech and academia. Things move faster in industry, but the problems are larger and have more data to solve them. But ultimately at the end of the day, it is about working with a great team that is focused on the same goals and figuring out the optimal way to achieve them together.”

He’s worked on some interesting projects too, both of which incorporated his Geology background.

“My favorite projects are both geospatial-based. The first was an applied geospatial analysis of geochemical data. In the study, we investigated potential critical mineral deposits at a state-wide scale from open-source datasets. The second project used reinforcement learning to optimize electric vehicle charging stations. This study used energy consumption, points of interest, and electric vehicle ownership rates to determine where chargers would get the most use.”

Advice For Flatiron School Students

Speaking with Jesse, you get the impression that he is both very good at what he does, and enjoys it. Looking back at his career so far, however, he is most proud of the impact he’s had on others.

“So far I am most proud of all the research and projects my former students have completed. It really is satisfying watching students learn data science skills and then use the skillset to solve real-world problems.”

Jesse’s advice for students interested in pursuing data science is perhaps tailored to his experience moving among different industries in his career.

“There are so many unique areas of data science to pursue. Getting a broad understanding of data science and all the different areas (statistics, machine learning, deep learning, visualizations, etc.) will help you identify what you find the most interesting. Once you know what you are interested in, you can then spend time deep diving into the topic to become an expert.”

To learn more about Jesse Pisel’s work, visit his LinkedIn and Github

Ready To Make A Change, Just Like Jesse Pisel?

Inspired by Jesse’s career pivot story? Apply Today to our Data Science Course to take charge of your future in as little as 15 weeks.

Not quite ready to apply? Book a 10-minute chat with admissions to see if you qualify, or test-drive the material with Data Science Prep

Read more career-change stories like this one on the Flatiron School blog.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of 19 December 2022. For updated information visit