February 2022 National Student Data Corps Data Science Career Panel

Guest Post: Defne Ulusoy

A recording of this event is available at the Northeast Big Data Hub’s YouTube channel. 

On February 18th, 2022, the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub (NEBD Hub) hosted the sixth National Student Data Corps (NSDC) Data Science Career Panel to have panelists discuss their career trajectories and share insights and advice on starting data science career journeys. The talk was co-moderated by Haleigh Stewart, a senior at Columbia University and a Project Coordinator of the National Student Data Corps, as well as Benjamin (Benjy) Sango, another senior at Columbia University and Student Assistant at the NEBD Hub. 

At the start of the webinar, Emily Rothenberg was introduced as the new NSDC Program Coordinator by Haleigh, who then proceeded to briefly talk about the NSDC, a community-developed initiative hosted by the NEBD Hub. The NEBD Hub has four focus areas ranging from Education and Data Literacy to Health, Urban to Rural Communities and Responsible Data Science (including Security, Privacy and Ethics). The NSDC was introduced as a Premier Program in the area of Education and Data Literacy. The mission of the NEBD Hub is to leverage its role as a community convener, while creating a network of collaboration to fuel data science innovation through diverse partnerships, as well as working to increase data science capacity and talent with a focus on underserved communities. The NSDC, since being launched in February 2021, has become a national program with members across the U.S., and has gained an international reach. In fact, the diversity of the members of NSDC mirrors that of the data industry. Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mali, Ecuador, Turkey, Australia, Germany and the Philippines are only a few examples of countries where NSDC members are located. You can see the complete list of 20 countries in the NSDC here

The February 2022 edition of the NSDC Data Science Career Panel series – an event which marked the one year anniversary of the program – featured speakers from different industries: Ashwin Venkatraman, the CEO and Founder of Resermine Inc.; Atena Sadeghi, Senior Manager and Data Scientist at Accenture AI; and Logan Havern, the CEO and Founder of Datalogz.

The discussion started with panelists explaining their data science journeys, as well as what excited them the most about the field of data science. All panelists’ journeys with data science being different, their answers greatly differed from each other. Ashwin mentioned the constant changes of the data science paradigm, as well as the opportunity to create a much more lasting impact from data through the use of new tools to drive decision-making, as the sources of his drive to pursue data science. Logan explained that he was much more fascinated by seeing applications of data science infiltrate our day-to-day life. Atena had a different take on this question and mentioned the perpetual opportunity to learn something new in this field as her main interest.

Then, Ashwin and Logan addressed how one can come up with an idea for a start-up, whereas Atena spoke of the influences to become a data scientist at a large corporation. When asked which coding languages to prioritize, all three panelists agreed that Python is an important one to get started. Logan and Ashwin have additionally mentioned CUDA, MATLAB, R, SQL and Tableau as important tools while stressing the fact that one does not need to be a computer scientist to get started with coding and data science. 

The last question gave panelists the opportunity to provide some advice on how to get started with this field if one had no prior experience with data science. Atena first explained that, despite the field seeming difficult to enter with no experience, it is not impossible. This, she explained, is due to the fact that employers are always looking to fill positions to develop something; therefore, it is possible to enter the field by showing recruiters what one is good at. She advised prospective job seekers to get involved with projects far from their comfort zone, and to always aim to learn more. Logan mentioned that building up a portfolio of personal projects is also important, while Ashwin supported this by saying that one needs to put themselves in a position where they are building something. 

The panel-discussion was then followed by a section where Emily went over the multiple resources and programs proposed by the NSDC and revealed a new program at the end, launching the inaugural NSDC Data Science Symposium. In fact, the NSDC has great resources, not only to learn more about data science, but also to help teach data science. The Learner Central portal allows interested individuals to learn data science at their own pace, while the Educator Central portal is meant to help teachers develop a data science program. The Video Library was also mentioned. It consists of videos filmed by Data Science students using the IBM Open Data Science for All GitHub content. 

Moreover, free resources for NSDC chapter development and career development were also reviewed. Emily and Haleigh encouraged interested students to explore the NSDC Chapter Central portal to join a community of support in data science. Lastly, the Volunteer Central portal was discussed. In fact, the NEBD Hub has a program called REAL Volunteers (Research, Experience and Leadership Volunteers) where a group of students donate their time and skills to content creation and development. Through this program, opportunities to facilitate online events, curate resources and more, all the while learning more about data science and its real-world applications are offered. 

Lastly, a new program has been revealed: the NSDC’s Inaugural Data Science Symposium (DSS)! The NSDC DSS is a virtual forum for undergraduate and graduate students from private, public and community colleges to present their research, learn about academic research and network with other data scientists and students. You can apply as an NSDC Explorer (or student participant), or as a mentor and/or judge!

Finally, the panel-discussion Q&A led by Beatriz De Lucas Sacristan and Binyam Dele, two of the Hub’s REAL Volunteers, had panelists talking about their challenges in their studies and respective industries, soft-skills needed to work in the data science industry, the qualifications one must have to find jobs, how to infiltrate the industry nowadays, and the future of the field. The Q&A concluded with the most important advice from panelists to students: “put yourself out there and do not be afraid to reach out to professionals.”

The virtual event was wrapped up by Haleigh thanking all the facilitators, panelists, REAL Volunteers, and Outreach Team, as well as the attendees for their insightful questions and involvement with the event. To finish the February 2022 edition of the National Students Data Corps Data Science Career Panel, Haleigh informed the audience of ways in which one can stay in contact with the NSDC:

Find more information about the National Student Data Corps on our website
Connect with us and fellow data science enthusiasts by joining the NSDC Slack community
Sign up for the NSDC newsletter
Follow the Hub on Twitter at @nebigdatahub and the Northeast Student Data Corps at @data_corps
Follow the Hub on Instagram and LinkedIn
Email us at contact@nebigdatahub.org with any questions or comment