Career Tips

From Environmental Engineer to Data Scientist (Plus Post-shift Update) | UNICORE

What work had been you doing beforehand?

I used to be working as an environmental engineering marketing consultant.

I primarily labored on environmental compliance (for manufacturing, municipalities, firms), web site plans (for brand spanking new development), and a few environmental remediation plans (for contaminated websites). My day-to-day concerned a whole lot of pc aided design (CAD) or geographic data system (GIS), and report writing.

What are you doing now?

At the moment, I’m a knowledge scientist at BMW.

I work with complicated issues crossing many alternative teams and areas of the enterprise. I work primarily in Python and develop machine studying (ML) or Synthetic Intelligence (AI) fashions. 

It is a distinctive position, as I’m a part of the IT Improvements and Analysis group. We take pleasure in engaged on cutting-edge issues, and bringing new concepts and expertise into the BMW group.

I additionally supply on-line teaching companies to assist individuals create profitable graduate faculty functions and safe funding at prime universities.

How did you are feeling in your work earlier than you determined to make the change?

I felt a little bit bored in my position as an environmental engineer.

There wasn’t a ton of room for downside fixing. Many issues had been merely reporting the info.

I truly favored engaged on remediation plans, and performing some investigation. However, I discovered the CAD work tedious. I did not get pleasure from gazing a display ensuring one line linked to a different line, and enhancing colours and line weights.

Why did you alter?

I stored having the sensation that I wished to contribute extra by means of my profession, and I couldn’t see a path ahead at this firm.

I additionally didn’t need to be my boss. Not that I may very well be my boss, because it was a privately owned firm (and I wasn’t going to be supplied partnership).

I longed to really make a change, and never simply report the info.

I didn’t need to keep in the identical engineering position, however I liked downside fixing. I assumed I may have extra of an impression, and a extra senior position, if I obtained my PhD. I wished to be on the desk making selections, not doing the grunt work to report info.

Moreover, the pay at this job was fairly low. As an engineer, I used to be making 30% lower than different engineers in several cities. This agency was positioned in a stylish place the place “everybody needs to reside”. So, the agency took benefit of this truth and really paid lower than in different large cities. However, the price of dwelling was simply as excessive. It was not preferrred.

When was the second you determined to make the change?

Once I was sitting in my condominium listening to college students down the road shoot off fireworks at 11 p.m.

I assumed “What the hell am I doing right here?”

The condominium was fairly low hire, nevertheless it’s what I may afford. I used to be an engineer, dwelling like a bartender. I made a decision I wasn’t going to scrape by. I’d push myself and go after what I wished.

How did you select your new profession?

I’ve at all times liked downside fixing, and wrestling with new challenges. And I am enthusiastic about decreasing air pollution and preserving our sources.

Due to this fact, I began researching roles the place individuals had management roles centered round sustainability and environmental useful resource administration. I quickly found that each one the roles I favored required a PhD.

So, I made a decision to pursue my PhD in environmental engineering. I figured I may turn into a professor, or work in authorities analysis as soon as I graduated.

About half-way by means of my PhD, I realised academia wouldn’t match my way of life. I had a husband, and in addition a model new child. My husband had a profession, and he didn’t need to bounce across the completely different tutorial establishments whereas I pursued tenure.

Due to this fact, I modified tack. As a graduate pupil I would began studying completely different programming languages, and creating machine studying fashions to resolve my analysis questions. I liked this mix of science and technical coding. I additionally started listening to in regards to the scorching discipline of ‘information science’, which completely blew me away. I had no thought this was a profession possibility! And a extremely paid one! 

I made a decision this was the proper means for me to make use of my analytical nature, and remedy real-world issues for giant organisations. I used to be all in.

After studying a lot in regards to the graduate research utility and funding course of, I additionally wished to make use of this data to assist others obtain their objectives, which led me to organising my teaching companies.

Are you pleased with the change?

Sure, I am very glad in my position as a knowledge scientist.

I get to work on new and difficult issues consistently. I additionally get to be surrounded by good PhDs who additionally love tackling issues.

As a result of this position interfaces with so many alternative teams, I form of really feel like a marketing consultant inside the organisation. It’s actually enjoyable to place my considering hat on and remedy issues for various teams.

With my teaching, I really like studying about every shopper’s aspirations and serving to them craft their successful functions. I try to demystify the method so extra individuals are capable of navigate graduate faculty efficiently. It actually is an excellent expertise and I would not have the ability to do that had I not made my profession change.

I’m far happier having an impression now, reasonably than ready twenty years to presumably have an effect in academia.

What do you miss and what do not you miss?

From my environmental consulting days, I miss the actually cool and quirky individuals I labored with. 

From my tutorial days, I miss the theoretical questions and period of time you could possibly dedicate to at least one downside. Now, issues transfer at a sooner tempo!

I don’t miss being bored or questioning if I’m having an impression.

How did you go about making the shift?

By way of my PhD, I principally sat down at my pc each day after work and researched applications that match my standards.

I then methodically contacted professors to be taught extra about their work. My laborious work and analysis paid off: I secured three presents for full funding at prime universities! This was actually essential, as I didn’t need to tackle extra debt for a graduate diploma.

Then later once I pivoted in the direction of information science, I began researching roles within the sector, and secured an internship at a neighborhood tech start-up. It was an superior expertise and I obtained to see first-hand how information science labored within the company world.

After I graduated with my PhD, I wanted assist breaking into the tech trade. I made a decision to finish an intense seven-week bootcamp for information scientists from Perception Information Science. 

What did not go properly? What fallacious turns did you are taking?

As I used to be on the brink of graduate, we knew we wished to maneuver nearer to my husband’s hometown.

We each ended our jobs, and moved with none ensures. What a threat! This was extraordinarily demanding, to say the least. Add in a one 12 months previous and you’ve got an ideal recipe for 2 adults to implode.

My husband obtained a job rapidly, and that form of locked us right into a location. I wasn’t thrilled. I hoped for a unique metropolis with extra tech jobs for me. Combating this sense of being trapped wasn’t at all times simple.

Nonetheless, I hate the sensation of helplessness, so I rapidly determined to place my head down and get to work.

How did you deal with your funds to make your shift doable?

Leaving my engineering position wasn’t that troublesome, as my grad pupil stipend offset most of that wage. We additionally had my husband’s earnings to assist us throughout this time. 

I’ve at all times been a saver, and I simply watched what I spent cash on. I believe it additionally helps to notice we didn’t have massive obligations (like a mortgage) presently.

Once I completed my PhD, and previous to touchdown my information scientist position, I used to be a bit burdened. How may I justify childcare (an enormous expense) to deal with discovering my job? We determined to make the funding in part-time childcare, and it gave me the required time to seek out my job.

What was essentially the most troublesome factor about altering?

Shifting to a brand new metropolis and looking for a job with no community was laborious.

Fortunately, information science is such a marketable ability discovering a task was not too troublesome. 

I did should job hunt and interview whereas pregnant. That put some stress on me. Whereas legally I knew I could not be discriminated towards, I nonetheless felt self-conscious. All of it labored out, and I obtained employed at a unbelievable firm, so it’s doable to job hunt whereas pregnant!

Being in IT with a non-IT background is typically difficult. I’d say 90% of the time I’m completely wonderful, however some technical points I miss. Nonetheless, I’m studying rapidly on the job and absorbing as a lot data as doable.

What assist did you get?  

The bootcamp with Perception Information Science was an outstanding expertise.

I set to work with an incredible cohort of different PhDs attempting to transition to information science, and obtain profession teaching steering. I’d extremely advocate this or different bootcamps for individuals trying to transition to information science or information engineering. Constructing your community can also be a priceless profit of those programmes.

Additionally, by an especially fortunate break (being in the precise place on the proper time) my husband handed my CV on to my (now) boss’s boss. He was impressed and we had been capable of arrange an interview. 

What sources would you advocate to others?

I’d 100% advocate bootcamps with built-in networks or profession placement. 

Perception Information Science works like a headhunter and companions with large firms (Fb, Apple, and many others.) to put fellows. It is extraordinarily worthwhile, and an effective way to make connections. 

What have you ever learnt within the course of?

That folks don’t know as a lot as you assume they do. 

That you just’re most likely simply as able to doing the job you need, you simply don’t assume you might be.

What would you advise others to do in the identical scenario?

In case you’ve left your previous position and moved to a model new metropolis, I’d say go for it.

Ready round for one thing to occur is just going to depart you extra burdened than truly leaping in.

We caught up with Natalie not too long ago to see how her shift was figuring out, roughly a 12 months on. Here is what she’s been as much as, and the largest classes she’s realized.

What’s modified for you in your profession since we first printed your story?

I not too long ago switched roles from a Fortune 500 firm to a smaller start-up.

I am now a senior information scientist, and made this variation as I wished extra publicity to extra elements of the enterprise and technical work.

I obtained what I requested for! It is a very fast-paced setting and I am studying a ton.

I am additionally persevering with to develop my grad faculty consulting enterprise (For The Love Of Grad), and have discovered some superb outcomes with preliminary purchasers. I plan to continue to grow this enterprise and studying extra in regards to the on-line service house.

How do you are feeling about your work now?

I nonetheless very a lot love information science.

I am additionally changing into conscious that I can not do every little thing. I am glad to get uncovered to new applied sciences and methods of doing issues, however I am additionally conscious that I recognize working with individuals and can possible take a extra project-management- / people-management-focused position sooner or later.

What challenges have you ever come up towards since making your shift, and the way precisely have you ever handled them?

Studying new expertise consistently requires additional mind house.

I do my finest to maintain up, however do not stress about not understanding every little thing!

How is the monetary facet of issues panning out, and is that this what you’d anticipated?

I am persevering with to make an excellent wage, and discover that is what I anticipated.

What have you ever realized, since making your shift?

I’ve realized that you just by no means cease studying, and that there are nice individuals all over the place.

Is there the rest you’d prefer to share?

You’ve got a whole lot of choices with information science, so you actually can push your profession in any path you want!

To seek out out extra about Natalie’s graduate utility assist companies, go to

What classes may you are taking from Natalie’s story to make use of in your personal profession change? Tell us within the feedback beneath.

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