The pandemic has been an incredibly stressful time for most of us. It has taken a toll on our mental and physical health, and left many of us unemployed.
However, the pandemic helped me gain a different perspective on life. I managed to break into the data science industry in the midst of a Covid-19 lockdown.
Before the pandemic started, I was living a relatively comfortable life.
I had a part-time job during this time. I worked as a tutor during the weekends, and went to university on the weekdays.
Like any other teenager, my priorities were friends and having fun. I was living a happy and worry-free life.
With no goals and no large ambition.
When someone asked me what I wanted to do in the future, I didn’t have an answer.
I was pursuing a data science major, but I didn’t really enjoy it. I liked writing, but didn’t know if I could make a living from it.
I didn’t really care, honestly. After all, I had years before I needed to worry about the future.
All this changed when the government imposed a nationwide lockdown.
Suddenly, I could no longer do the things I liked anymore. I could no longer go out with friends or go to the movies every week. I was stuck at home with nothing to do.
Then, I lost my tutoring job.
Within weeks, my life had changed drastically. Now, I was stuck at home with nothing to do and no source of income.
The upside of all of this — now that I had nothing to do, I could think clearly.
I started thinking about the future. About what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to become. I realized I had no clear goal in mind.
I took a piece of paper and started making a list of the different career options I had:
- Software engineer
- Data scientist
- Content creator
I was leaning towards the last two options because honestly, the first two scared me.
I was once told by a professor that “some people were just not cut out for programming,” highlighting my inability to code.
Her words rang in my mind for two years, and I was afraid to pursue a career that required me to code.
I watched videos and read articles on all of these career choices. I took a look at salaries, prospects, and job satisfaction.
And machine learning really stood out to me. I started binge-watching videos of AI applications.
I watched, fascinated, as Watson (an AI application) beat the world champion at a game of Jeopardy.
That was when I decided I was going to give it a try. I wanted to be part of the magic that created Watson. I wanted to pursue machine learning and work with data.
I knew that I still had a big barrier to cross before I could go into any of this.
I needed to know how to code.
So I enrolled into data science online courses, and started doing challenges on sites like HackerRank.
It was difficult.
But I had an end goal in mind. And I decided to keep trying until I became really good at it.
As I coded for 6–7 hours a day, I started to really enjoy it. I realized that my biggest barrier was my own fear.
I even wrote an entire article on getting over the fear of programming, because I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who felt that way.
After getting over the initial fear that was holding me back, the rest fell into place pretty easily.
In just a few months, I:
- Taught myself Python
- Learnt the basics of data science and machine learning
- Built machine learning projects and blogged about them on Medium
- Created a data science portfolio website
I wasn’t making any money yet, but I felt more accomplished than ever.
After some time, the lockdown was lifted and I was called back to my tutoring job.
This was something I really wanted just a few months back.
But things were different now, and I turned the job down.
I had no other source of income, but I knew that going back to my previous life would distract me from everything I had built.
I wanted to focus on my end goal, and the work I was doing now.
I was going to wait for an opportunity that aligned with the things I was working towards.
Not long after, my hard work paid off.
I got an internship offer from a data and AI company. They were impressed with my portfolio and projects.
I was still studying at that time, and this was a full time internship opportunity.
This meant that I had to juggle full-time studying with full-time working.
But this wasn’t an opportunity you’d get everyday, so I said yes.
Now, a year later, I’m working in the same company as a data scientist.
In life, things happen to you that you don’t expect. But sometimes, those things happen for the best.