Zach Zazueta: From Financial Analyst to Data Analyst

Zach Zazueta began his career working for mission-driven educational institutions before pivoting into Data Science.

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Zach Zazueta, a 2020 Data Science graduate from Flatiron School, spent half a decade in the finance department of educational institutions before an interest in data-driven problem-solving led him down a different path. 

He details his path from finance to data science below.

A Foundation In Finance

When Zach Zazueta graduated from college in 2015, he knew that he wanted to combine his interest in math and economics with his degree in Political Science to work for a mission-driven organization. The mission he chose? Addressing unequal access to quality public education for inner-city minority students coming from low-income homes. 

“I was on a finance team in the education field working for a network of charter schools supporting 50 elementary, middle, and high schools in the NYC metro area,” Zach explained when we interviewed him in early 2023.

A few years in, he found himself working with data in Talent Analytics designing evaluation systems. It was during these exercises that Zach’s interest in data took hold and he began to consider a different career path.

“Eventually, the interest and enjoyment I was getting from the problem-solving outweighed the satisfaction I got from the organization’s mission,” he said. “It was time to enter a new environment with new business challenges that would push my learning.”

Pivoting To Data Science

Once Zach made the decision to switch from his current role, the decision to pursue Data Science seemed like an obvious one. 

“I always had a draw toward numbers-focused work. In my [early career] I found designing logic behind Excel formulas compelling. Mapping out data to tell a story and bring clarity was rewarding,” he recalled. “And after working with SQL and Tableau [designing evaluation systems], I knew they were areas I wanted to grow in.”

After dabbling in open-source materials and learning on his own for a time, Zach ultimately decided to apply to Flatiron School’s Data Science program to accelerate his learning.

“I was having difficulty making sustained, targeted progress in my learning. I saw Flatiron School as a unique opportunity to boost the nascent skills I had already developed and learn how to code quickly,” he explained. “And a bootcamp was a faster and less expensive avenue than a traditional master’s degree program.”

His Bootcamp Experience

Zach enrolled in Flatiron School’s online part-time Data Science program in 2019. Like many other students choosing to pursue a career change while maintaining their current employment, he initially found the added time requirements difficult to adjust to. 

“While I appreciated the flexibility that this option allowed me to have as I was able to continue working and earning income while enrolled, it was a big time commitment to tack onto regular life.”

But, throughout the course, he developed skills that proved invaluable once he entered the job market. 

“The module wrap-up projects were quite helpful as a practice to become an authority on a data project I owned,” he explained. “I’ve often had to present and explain findings to non-technical stakeholders [in my career], laying out the ‘so what?’ business impact of my analysis. It was also helpful to take a project from raw data to visualized findings – end-to-end projects can be the most rewarding.”

Working In Tech

Zach graduated from Flatiron School in 2020. Since then, he has been enjoying working in Data Science, mentioning that he uses the skills he learned during his bootcamp almost every day.

“[Working as a Data Scientist] absolutely lives up to the dream,” he said. “I am applying the skills I learned in Flatiron on a daily basis. 90%+ of what I do in my everyday job is coding, writing queries, and making data tell a story.”

The data that first piqued his interest and the data he uses now differ greatly in size and scope, a change that ties back to his early fascination with economics. 

“Shifting into tech has afforded me the opportunity to work with truly big data.  Working with data tables that are petabytes in size has been a vastly different experience than my time in non-profits,” he said. “I also now work for a global company instead of focusing on just one city; seeing how global markets impact the data has been a really exciting change.”

Reflecting On His Journey

Looking back at the beginning of his career change, Zach’s main takeaway was the necessity of a growth mindset. 

“The data community appreciates the learning journey. No one will expect you to know everything at once. They just want to see that you are equally passionate about solving the same types of problems they are,” he explained. “Because of that mindset, it is a terrifically collaborative space that allows learning to flourish.”

His advice for current students is to lean into the discomfort of that growth mindset and embrace the process. 

“Try and hold tight to the fact that this is a career change – and careers are measured in years, if not decades. If the first few years start slow, that’s okay; the growth becomes exponential once you have a foothold.”

Ready For A Change, Just Like Zach Zazueta?

Apply Now to join other career changers like Zach in a program that sets you apart from the competition. 

Not ready to apply? Try out our Free Data Science Prep Work and test-run the material we teach in the course. Or, review the Data Science Course Syllabus that will set you up for success and help launch your new career.

Read more stories about successful career changes on the Flatiron School blog.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of March 24, 2023. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

About Anna Van Deusen

Anna Van Deusen is the Marketing Content Manager at Flatiron School. When not writing about tech and Flatiron School students, she can be found hanging out with her dogs on a beach…

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