When I was a young child, I wanted to become an author – probably because I read a lot of books. Well, now we’re here and from the title you can see that my career went into a different direction… BUT you are also reading this blog post about my journey, so in a tiny way I ended up being an author anyways 😉
- Birth – 2014: “People are either good at math or languages.” Yeah, nah. In 7th grade my favorite subjects were math and Latin, but most people knew me to be good at math – maybe because it was less common or expected from girls. I have no idea who decided that languages and math had to be mutually exclusive, but I refused (and later added French, as well as taking courses in Spanish and Italian).
Being interested in multiple things sure is exciting, but it also had the downside that I didn’t know what to do as a job or what do major in in university for the longest time.
Notably for this particular story, I did absolutely no coding or computer science in school or out of school at the time.
- 2014: I started university as a math major. In Germany we have to enroll in a specific major from the first semester on and mine was math. I had researched multiple related programs such as physics (I never felt comfortable or excited about optics, mechanics, etc), finance (the most advanced math was basically multiplication which felt boring) or business (again, equally little math).
In the end, I was informed by my mum that I could simply study math and would be very employable (again, in Germany. This seems to be somewhat different for pure math in different countries) in different industries like insurance or accounting, which sealed the deal for my enrollment in mathematics.
Still no coding? Or so I thought. In my first week I was informed that the “Mathematics AND APPLICATIONS” was meant very literally and that I needed to do one application module in the very first semester and in a gut decision, that would later lead me directly here, I decided against the popular choices of physics and business and went for the other popular choice of computer science (which required no previous coding knowledge luckily).
- 2015: Adding a second major in computer science. In my first semester I met another student majoring in math and taking computer science classes. Except he did something different: he was taking advantages of the slightly modified plan at our uni that allowed him to use the overlap between the math and computer science majors to simply to both of them. At this point I had discovered I enjoyed computer science very much and we became friends and then the following thought process happened: I doubted my ability to study math. I doubted my ability to add more stress by double-majoring. But I compared myself with this other student and decided “If he can do it, then so can I.” Yeah, a frightening mix of self-doubt and arrogance.
- 2016: Despite self doubt, I also became a teaching assistant/tutor. This happened in my 4th semester. You want to guess how it happened? Well… My friend (see above) started tutoring in 3rd semester in computer science and I watched that and decided “If he can do it, then so can I.” The lesson here is clearly to choose ambitious friends, y’all.
I was uncomfortable with talking in front of people and presenting and I still doubted my academic capabilities. So being a teaching assistant not only allowed me to earn money on a super flexible schedule, but it also improved my confidence and padded my resume with my first work experiences. I continued doing it through most of university. Don’t underestimate the power of working together with professors and teachers either, we got so many nice opportunities through this exposure!
- 2018: Teaching is nice, but what will I actually do after graduating?! The looming question got even more looming the closer I got to finishing my bachelor degrees (yes, two. Double-majoring, remember? Two bachelor theses, too.). I decided I needed an internship or student job in the “real world”, away from university to discover what I liked or disliked.
I applied to an IT consulting company because of a referral of my mum’s colleagues husband.
- Two bachelor degrees means two options for my master’s degree. Two theses, everyone, felt a bit like self-inflicted misery, just to reiterate on this. I decided that the coding world sounded more appealing to my personality than the insurance/accounting world, so I decided against math and for computer science as a masters. Not going to lie, it hurt a little, as math is still a love of mine but it was also extremely tough and demanding to study and I was done with self-inflicted misery.
- 2020: Master’s thesis in machine learning. During my master’s I didn’t really specialize too much, but I discovered I liked data related topics more than software engineering topics, likely because of the closer relation to math. Through delivering a very good talk on a deep learning research paper in a seminar module, I got the follow-up offer on writing my thesis on this topic. To make things short here, my topic ended up being “Towards Better Understanding Stochastic Gradient Descent for Deep Learning” and was very theory-research heavy. For a few month, I thought I was going to do a Phd afterwards, but that is a longer story.
- 2021: Remember that part-time job? I switched departments. During my master’s thesis, I decided that my part-time app-development job was no longer aligned with my future job goals which were now clearly in the machine learning area. Luckily, the company I worked for had multiple different departments and I was directed towards their analytics department where I was warmly welcomed and ultimately switched into.
- Hackathon at work: Deep learning image classification in chemistry. Since I was already learning about deep learning while doing my master’s thesis, I jumped on the opportunity to participate in a 3-month hackathon with my new work team. It allowed me to get to know the team better and prove myself. We didn’t win, but I learned quite a bit about working in a team and working with PyTorch.
- November 2021: Graduating is bittersweet? I was happy I was done with my thesis and sad because I wanted it to be so much more. I was excited to see what the industry would bring me but anxious about not fitting in. I was relieved to be earning money soon, but terrified of salary negotiations. Remember that Phd I considered doing? Choosing between consulting and a Phd was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. But I did graduate! (In the middle of the second lockdown phase, so no party whatsoever)
- January 2022: Started my full-time job as a Data Science Consultant. Remember that IT-consulting company and their analytics department? That’s exactly the one, where I now work 🙂 I decided graduating was going to be stressful enough without job switching and I was excited about the variety that consulting would bring me. In this job, I can gain different experiences ranging from front-end visualizations over classical Data Science up to back-end data warehouse building, all of which are more or less new to me.
- Today: My goals? Phew. I’m currently in my first client project and I already learned so much – much of it in the soft skills or business practices area. I don’t have clear-cut career goals, my main goal is trying to find my place in this scene first.
Before graduating I also started this blog, a Youtube channel and a fairly successful Instagram page – which allows me to still share a bit of my love for math and research topics. 1,000 Youtube-Subscribers is definitely on my goal-list though 😉