From Ph.D. to Python: An Academic’s Path to A Data Analytics Dream Job
Juliana (Julie) Novic was no stranger to the classroom when she enrolled in the Case Western Reserve University Data Analytics Boot Camp.
Already armed with a Ph.D. in anthropology, and having worked in various universities, Novic was a whiz at time management, research, and presentations.
But there was one thing holding Novic back from the career path she dreamt about.
“I was scared of coding,” she said, recalling her hesitation when it came to pursuing a job in data science.
But that fear didn’t delay Novic very long. After some consideration, and following a couple of life twists, Novic took the plunge to engage in a data analytics boot camp. (Spoiler alert: The story ends well—with a dream job and a lot of friendships.)
A cross-country move, and a leap of faith
At a crossroads in her career, Novic moved across the country to help care for her grandmother. It was while living in Ohio, balancing caregiving with various odd jobs––substitute teaching, temping at a local university––that she decided to face her fears.
“I came to the conclusion that I really did need to upskill if I was going to have a viable career outside of archaeology,” she said. “I did a search for coding boot camps, and the Case Western Reserve University program was the first one that popped up. It seemed to have everything I was looking for.”
One of those must-haves was in-person interaction. “In all my earlier educational experiences, the thing that helped me the most was working with other students. Doing group projects, learning from each other, and building skills together were things I really valued,” Novic said.
She considered a few other options, but the fact that Case Western Reserve University was a short drive away became the deciding factor. “I could do it and still work. That was important to me,” she said.
Connecting with teachers and classmates
Three days a week, Novic clocked out of her day job, made the 40-minute drive to Case Western Reserve University, grabbed a quick bite, and arrived early to class, where TAs Ian and Alex were ready and waiting. They answered questions and offered reassurance when learning multiple new coding languages got overwhelming.
“I can’t say enough great things about Ian and Alex. They were very patient and helped explain things while being completely nonjudgmental about the process. When I felt like an idiot because I couldn’t understand something, they were there to say, ‘No, you’re not an idiot, we’ll get through this.’ They were invaluable,” she said.
And beyond the supportiveness of the TAs and her instructor, Novic forged strong bonds with her classmates, making the entire process easier and more enjoyable. “We spent a considerable amount of time together, and I came to feel very close to them,” she said.
The class even celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday together, a collaborative and team-building moment that stood out for Novic. “At Thanksgiving, we organized a potluck lunch. Using the skills we’d been learning in class, we built a website that stored information in a database to plan the meal. Everybody brought something, and we ate together during a break between classes,” Novic said.
A little help leads to a dream job
Two months before graduating from the CWRU Data Analytics Boot Camp, Novic was offered “a dream job” at Pandata LLC, a data science consultancy firm in Lakewood, Ohio.
“It’s this amazing job doing everything I wanted to do. I’m using all the coding languages, all the libraries, everything I learned at boot camp. It’s kind of insane and wonderful at the same time,” Novic laughed.
“I can see myself growing professionally here for the foreseeable future, doing data analysis and eventually moving up into a data scientist role, still using the skills I’ve developed through Case Western Reserve University.”
Novic credits career services with helping her land such an ideal position. “I have all this experience in academia, but writing a résumé for a business rather than a university is a completely different animal.”
The career services staff helped Novic with her résumé and provided guidance for her LinkedIn profile—an important detail that increased her appeal to employers.
The boot camp also encouraged Novic to network, leading her to join a Meetup group of women in coding. She also attended a local coding conference. “Without that encouragement, I probably wouldn’t have met the people and made the connections that led to landing this job,” she said.
Asked to offer potential students one piece of advice, Novic said, “You get what you put into it. Go to the events, do all the activities, go to class, finish your assignments. If you’re going to do it, then do it all.”
Fear of coding didn’t stop Novic. Your fears don’t have to stop you, either.