Navigating my student journey into Data Science

13 October 2021
  • ACS emerging professional member Zachary Isaac talks about his interesting career journey from nutrition studies to data science, his aspirations in tech, and key tips for achieving a growth mindset.

Let me start by acknowledging that my journey has by no means been a linear progression. It has had many twists and turns which have ultimately led to me being increasingly resilient and adaptable, whilst further developing a growth mindset and a productive self-reflection capability. Little did I know at the time that these were all extremely valuable attributes for embarking on the journey of becoming a data practitioner.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed problem solving and helping others, that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment from your dopaminergic pathway. In particular, I gravitated towards mathematics and science as there is an appealing sense of truth and certainty; so often there is a clear correct answer. I spent most of my childhood growing up in Washington D.C before settling on the Gold Coast for high school. Inherently, I became familiar with the notion that change is a constant. Upon graduating from high school, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to study. Data science had not yet emerged into what it is today, so I decided to channel my altruism and interests into a Bachelor of Nutrition.  As I progressed towards the end of my degree, I found that my expectation of working as a Dietitian didn’t exactly align with the reality of the work. Sure, I enjoyed helping others, but I wanted to make a larger impact. This left me feeling uncertain of where my career path lay, so I found a secure day job in an unrelated field and took the time to thoroughly explore my options. So I took into account my skills, passions/interests and future job prospects.

After exploring a multitude of pathways, I came across Data Science which seemed to satisfy all my criteria.  I tested the waters through a couple of nano-courses at Datacamp and reached out to some industry professionals to talk about their day-to-day work. I was ecstatic! I felt like a fire had been lit within me. To be successful in this field I knew it required some careful planning, research and networking. I took up a holistic approach to building the foundations of my career, which is very much still a work in progress. As this is an emerging, dynamic field I wanted to ensure I was developing the right skill set that would position me for the workforce.

Notably, one of the best decisions I made was to become a student member of the Australian Computer Society. It was refreshing to be a part of an independent organisation, that could offer me relevant industry insights without the prejudice or bias associated with expensive educational institutions. I’ve felt welcomed and included and have had the privilege of meeting many industry professionals with a wealth of knowledge and expertise, at the Gold Coast chapter events. This exposure alone has helped to bridge the gap between being a student and understanding what employers are looking for. Additionally, I’ve discovered new organisations that I would like to be a part of, such as KJR and Datarwe, which further motivates me to excel in my studies.

Data is ubiquitous and is one of the most valuable commodities. It’s an incredible time to be working with data and harnessing it to create innovation and impact. Personally, I’m interested in channelling my skills working with data into the areas I’m passionate about, that is healthcare and renewable energy. I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my key takeaway points for those who may currently be studying or considering it as an option:

·       Have a ‘growth mindset’ – You will always be learning, so embrace it.

·       Have a holistic career approach – Having the relevant degree and good grades will only get you to an interview.                            Companies/hiring managers are looking to see whether you’ll be able to work collaboratively with their team. Robust and           proactive communication skills are essential.

       “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” ~ Aristotle 

·       Plan ahead – Don’t wait until you graduate before you start considering where you’d like to work. Introduce yourself to                the business/company and find out what tools or software their teams are working with.

·       Connect and network with others.

If you would like to get in contact with me, I will be attending the next ACS Queensland Gold Coast Chapter event on Tuesday the 19th of October at TAFE Coomera so come and say hello!  Alternatively, please feel free to reach out via email or LinkedIn.

Zachary Isaac

ABS Community Field Officer

Post graduate data science student at RMIT

E: [email protected]

M: 0439 584 289