How to become a self-taught Data Scientist

Published Aug. 15, 2019

Data Science is one of the most trending career paths right now, but it’s also one of the most competitive ones to get into. With hundreds of master students and PhDs entering the workforce every year, career changers and starters may get discouraged.

How to become a self-taught Data Scientist

Learn industry-relevant skills

Instead of going through college content and learning Data Science from bottom-up, you should hack your way into the industry by using a top-to-bottom approach.

But what does that mean? Instead of learning the fundamentals and basics behind every algorithm and method, try solving a problem that you might also need to solve in your preferred career.

Try getting some sample data on business churn statistics, and predict the performance in the following months. Do the same with financial data. Take it a little further, and create a full report based on some Google Analytics data.

Take it further, and apply Machine Learning to detect fraud, or, if you’re eyeing a specific company, try solving one of their problems instead. Don’t forget: Add it all to your portfolio.

This way, you’re going to quickly pick up relevant skills, and can catch up on the basics later.

Be persisent and sell yourself

You know what they don’t teach you in most colleges? How to interview, and how to sell yourself.

I’ve hosted a lot of interviews where candidates did not know how to impress their reviewer. In most interviews, your main job is not to pick the best solution for a technical problem. An interview is rarely decided by the best CV. It’s all about leaving a great impression on the reviewer.

Give your reviewer the feeling that you are the absolute best for the position. Don’t lie or exaggerate – just be yourself. Be open about your shortcomings, but reinforce your strengths.

If you didn’t know – being a career changer can be an incredible strength. If you do have a relevant career, play that card!

Pick the right crowd

If you’re looking to save some time, be sure to pick the right crowd to talk to. I’m going to be honest with you: That fresh startup full of new Stanford Grads that requires a Data Science PhD in their vacancies - might not be for you.

For that first entry, neither might be Google, Apple, Facebook and co. You’re looking for a place that respects you for your background, and is able to provide a healthy environment for you to grow in.

A good pointer for this could be the team page or LinkedIn – simply look at your potential future coworkers and check out their background. Are there any career changers? People who made it there with a different background? Junior members of the staff?

Don’t give up on other opportunities, but I’d recommend to prefer the ones you have a more realistic chance in.

Get some support from the inside

What if you could have a Data Scientist by your side at any time to help you with this big step? Well, it’s possible.

We’re not asking you to book a mentor here at all – in many cases it can be a great opportunity to reach out into your network, and see if a industry Data Scientist is able to help you.

If that’s not the case, we would be happy to have you! Here at MentorCruise, we’re offering help from over 150 Mentors. Data Science and Machine Learning have been one of our biggest focuses since the beginning, with nearly 50 Mentors listing either of those as one of their skills.

A mentor could help you with realistic interview preparation, can help you in studying the right things, and can extend their network to hopefully find you more opportunities.

If that sounds interesting to you, head over to our Data Science Page!