Alumni Katy Salts and Brandi Reger joined us at a public panel event to discuss their Transition into Data Science! Keep reading to hear what stands out to them about Codeup, how Codeup helped them launch a career in data science, and what they are up to now.
Katy Salts graduated from Codeup’s first Data Science cohort back in June of 2019. She has since started working as a Data Scientist at Cyber Fortress, where she has been for about a year. Prior to joining Codeup, Katy studied and worked in biology.
Brandi Reger graduated from Codeup in July of 2020 with our third Data Science cohort. She has since been hired as a Data Engineer at HEB. Prior to joining Codeup, Brandi had just gotten a degree in Geology in pursuit of becoming an Archeologist after serving in the Army for 5 years. She minored in Statistics, which she wanted to pursue further after realizing archeology wasn’t for her.
Why did you choose Codeup over other routes?
“I didn’t have the ability to take off work and pursue a Masters Degree for 2 years or an undergrad degree for 4 years, and this was the perfect crash course. Also the cost is a lot cheaper than graduate programs and I got a lot of help with grants and scholarships.” – Katy
What sets Codeup’s curriculum apart?
“It’s very applied. You put what you learn into use and you learn why you learned it that way. In collegiate, you’ll take a test but it’s not quite the same thing as getting your hands dirty and figuring it out. Your mind can drift during lecture and you don’t really “get” it until you do a project. But since you’re doing a project on almost every topic at Codeup, that really solidified the topics we were learning for me.” – Brandi
How much programming did you know coming into Codeup?
“I could not name one programming language. I didn’t know anything. The prework was the first time I wrote a line of code. With Codeup, they will start you from the very beginning of learning programming, it’s just fast-paced.” – Katy
How did you address fears or doubt about whether or not you can do it?
“Just get your hands dirty and do it! Once you’re working on it, it turns out it’s not as bad or as hard as you thought it was. Because you don’t know it, it seems like this amazing, glorious thing in the sky but when you actually work on it you’re like ‘oh, it was just that, that’s no big deal.’ All you have to do is try and apply yourself and you’ll figure it out.” – Brandi
What was one of your favorite lessons?
“The first project we had, our instructor had to go away for the weekend so we couldn’t contact her. The whole class collectively could not come up with an answer to the problem. We were freaking out thinking like ‘We did something wrong. Why can we not figure it out? She left us!’ We were so scared. When she came back she said ‘you learned a really important lesson, and that’s that sometimes there is no answer to the question. You just need to be able to look at the data and take it for what it is.’ You can’t make things up based on the data you find. You have to come up with real conclusions. That one hit me pretty hard and I never forgot it.” – Katy
What advice would you give to someone in the admissions process?
“The prework is the best thing you can do for yourself coming into the program. We didn’t go in knowing everything and memorizing it all, and they didn’t expect us to either. You just have to know basic concepts. Like understand that there’s a way to do something and maybe not necessarily know how yet but know that there’s a way. So just being exposed to it ahead of time is helpful.” – Katy
Brandi, you had the unique experience of being in-person and virtual. What was that like?
“I really liked being remote. Being in class, it was distracting. My classmates, we were best friends basically while we were going through the program. So we were constantly chatting and everything. But once it was remote it was all quiet. There was nobody distracting me, and I could focus on what I was doing.We could still chat when I wanted to but I could turn off chat when I needed to. Also when the teachers were talking, I had my dual monitors, so I was able to look up what they were talking about and it really solidified what I was learning. So, I got a lot out of it.” – Brandi
How was your experience with our student placement team?
“They are not messing around! I mean, they start early and they leave no stone unturned! They come in and they’re completely revamping your Linkedin, email, photos, what you should and should not post. One-on-one meetings about what you’re looking for in a company and how they can help you get there, what connections they have, who to talk to, who to connect with. How to answer phone calls. Interview questions in class, like answering them together, answering them one-on-one. Mock interviews, resume building. Beginning to end, I mean, that alone was worth it to go through Codeup because no other place gives you that much attention on one single student, and everybody got that attention, and everybody got jobs! And that’s because of all the work they put into getting you ready not just technically, but professionally. They will get you there if you just listen to them and don’t fight back, don’t argue. Just do what they’re saying because they’ve done this enough times and they know what works. Just trust them.” – Katy
What does working in the field look like?
“My job is awesome! I get to work from home. It’s definitely constant learning. I think Codeup really prepared me for that because they didn’t just teach me how to code- they taught me how to learn and how to learn quickly. I carried that into my job and my job taught me not only to code but also to be able to apply that to a business model. Learning doesn’t stop after Codeup.” – Katy
What’s a typical day in the life for you?
“I just started a couple of weeks ago so right now a day in the life is reading things and trying to figure out what they are. There are multiple data engineering teams so we all get together and talk about the projects we’re working on and new projects coming down the line. Or we’ll talk to the Data Scientists and they’ll tell us how they’re using our products and what they need from us, and we get to see what happens with the data we’re cleaning and putting together. It’s a constant moving forward and checking in with each other. At this job, you use every programming language you learn at Codeup and 10 others that I don’t even know yet. Everything you learn is useful for something. Codeup teaching you how to learn is very useful because there are still a lot of things I need to learn now.” – Brandi
What distinguishes a Data Engineer from a Data Scientist?
“As a Data Engineer, I clean up the data and put it together in a way that makes sense. We take the data in a nasty, messy state, it’s all over the place, and make it nice and neat so that somebody else can figure something out from it.” – Brandi
Is there anything that surprised you in terms of what was considered “data science” during your job search?
“You have to think of data science as a spectrum of things and on that spectrum you can specialize in different areas, like just gathering data, or just cleaning, just modeling, just making presentations or dashboards. A lot of businesses don’t know what they actually need. They’ll say they need one thing but really what they’re asking for is something else. So you need to be able to sort through those and ask clear questions in interviews. That was a tough lesson to learn in the job search.” -Katy
More personal quotes include Katy saying that this was “the best thing I’ve done” and Brandi saying that the experience “made me a better person.” Thank you both for joining us! At Codeup, we don’t just teach code – we are in the business of empowering life change!
If you’re ready to pursue a new, fulfilling career, check out our blog “What Data Science Career is For You?” to continue leaning into this exciting field.