Data science career advice to my younger self

Data science career advice to my younger selfI don’t know if any of these ideas would have benefitted a younger me..I think they would have.If there’s such a thing as a career ladder, I think it looks something like this.As near as I can figure, data science started to become a popularly-used term around 2012 when an article in the Harvard Business Review called it “the sexiest job of the 21st century.” As I read that article, I remembered thinking that that was the kind of stuff I’d been trying to do for three or four years..I started to refer to myself as a data scientist, and over the course of my career I’ve held data science positions and founded and managed data science teams across the security and intelligence, travel, asset management, education, and advertising industries.My ideas about where and how to work as a data scientist have shifted a lot over the course of my career..For much of my career, it didn’t occur to me to think about all things things I did in my job and identify the things that made me happiest even if they didn’t pay more or give me a better title..I wish I had done that earlier.Don’t try to fix the worldFor a lot of my career, I looked for ways that my job would let me work to fix some sort of major social problem..The company I work for now was founded with a pretty focused purpose: figure out how to get advertisements in front of a desired number of prospects within a desired timeframe and within a desired budget..Because the company I work for has learned to make darn good widgets, those of us who work there have the freedom to branch out into a number of R&D efforts.The work I do now is almost all what I would consider interesting R&D, and almost none of it would be possible if the company hadn’t, for many years, had a myopic focus on building a super good advertising widget, as well as all the infrastructure to support that..I’m now working directly on the intersection of offline and online behavior, which I think is one of the most interesting things I could be working on..I think my chances of working on such an interesting topic would be much less if I had looked for a company with an explicit change-the-world focus, or even a company that was specifically founded to understand the intersection of offline and online behavior..I either had to (1) take an entry-level position with it’s entry-level salary simply because there was so much supply that I couldn’t demand any more for an individual contributor position, (2) make a career change and become a full-time manager, (3) trust that my luck and my savings account would hold out as I waited for a company that was looking for my exact profile, (4) settle back into a largely tech-ignorant company like some I had worked at before, or (5) move to a place where the market wasn’t so saturated.My family finances (and, yes, pride) wouldn’t allow me to take the entry-level position..(Don’t yell at me if you’re from one of these places and don’t like your tier — it’s personal heuristic, not a validated classification).All those next-tier places have tech industries that are really large compared to the rest of the country while small compared to the first-tier hubs..They don’t have as many experienced people as they need, partially because the first-tier locations are eating up the more experienced people (many of whom, I suspect, are taking management jobs or jobs that pay less than what their experience warrants because they’re competing against a huge pool of people equally desperate for employment)..While there are fewer companies to choose from in the next-tier locations, those companies are still doing really interesting things, and there are enough of them that there are still opportunities to move jobs in the future without moving location.Work/life balance outweighs almost everything elseI’ve come to recognize how essential it is to my own happiness to work at a place that recognizes my right to spend time with my family.. More details

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