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Denise Alfonso
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Sr. Growth Marketing Analsyt

I went to school knowing I wanted to study science but not sure what I wanted to do with that. As a kid I mixed shampoo bottles and made flower infused "creations", lined up my stuffed animals for school, played "check up" with my siblings and dolls, studied "wildlife" on my high-tech "binoculars" (read: looked at my stuffed animals through two empty toilet paper rolls taped together), and annoyed my parents asking for math problems to do. The other kids thought I was weird, but that's a story for a different post. Eventually, I went down the Chemistry route and did lab research, thought about becoming a doctor, volunteered as an after-school tutor.

After a short stint as a doctoral student, I became a teacher. Part of my doctoral program involved teaching college students and I realized that it was the most rewarding part of my day (as much as I liked mixing chemicals and watching them change colors). I thought working with kids and teaching them about how atoms and molecules make up the world around us was the funnest job on the planet. And I loved it! But four years in, I started to feel like something was missing.

I missed research and experiments. I missed thinking about new problems in mathematical terms. I researched different career paths and settled on the idea that I wanted to become a Data Scientist. You run experiments! Work with data! Math! But I had one problem....I had no business experience and I had never worked with a programming language before. Sure, I once knew my math and statistics, but it had been years since I had used more than what was necessary to teach high school and I'd never worked with the massive data sets that are becoming so common in today's rapidly changing digital landscape.

So I came up with a plan...sort of. I talked to tons of people. Friends, friends of friends, people connected to coworkers, complete strangers who I cold-emailed or messaged on job sites (I even cold-called a few people and let me tell you, for a millennial, that is TERRIFYING). And I learned that what I wanted to do wasn't impossible. I signed up for free classes online, checked out textbooks from the library, went to data science meet ups around the city. Eventually I started working on a few small-scale projects and applying for jobs. There were a looooot of jobs I never heard back from. Who was going to hire a teacher with no "relevant" experience? But I called the hiring managers, talked to all the people who rejected me, and learned a lot!

It wasn't easy. It took me at least a year while working a full time job to take these classes and apply for jobs. I left my job at an amazing school with awesome coworkers at the end of the school year so I could work on finding a new job full time. I was scared! I was giving up something amazing for uncertainty! And all that even though I knew I was lucky to have savings that let me be unemployed for a bit and a family I could go back to should I run out of money.

Four months later, after a summer of constant rejections (but some very useful conversations with the very people who turned me down!), I landed three final-round interviews, two offers, and a job at the kick-ass company I chose to work at.

#JobSearchStrategies #Stressful #Motivation #unemployed #careerchange #learning #education

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over 4 years ago
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Thanks so much for sharing your story Denise A ! You have a lot of great insights here, but I think just one to highlight is that rejection can teach you quite a lot! Our first instinct may be to turn away from rejection because being rejected is painful, but if we examine those instances we can learn a lot from them, especially if the hiring manager who rejected us is willing to talk about it. It takes a lot of bravery and introspection to do it right, but the result is so very rewarding.

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