When it comes to learning tech skills such as coding and data analysis, it’s not enough to just learn theory. Mastering coding languages and other software requires hands-on practice. When Marcy Misner started her journey into data science, she knew absolutely nothing about it. However, she had the curiosity and grit to learn all she could.
When Misner was doing her research, she found many free programs and tutorials that could give her the basics. But she ended up deciding that she absolutely needed a curated curriculum and high-touch support.
“While the free programs appealed to me, I didn’t really know what I would need, what was important, what wasn’t important. I looked into some job listings and saw that there were some things that kept coming up like SQL, and machine learning; they just seemed really daunting,” she said.
After 33 weeks of hard work, Misner graduated from the ENTITY Data Science Virtual Academy in February 2022. She currently works for Woz U as a data science mentor under lead instructor Joseph Raetano.
Who is Marcy Misner?
Misner started her career as a print and broadcast journalist. She loved learning new things and talking to people but wanted a stable career with a higher salary. Switching gears entirely, she enrolled in culinary school because she always loved to cook. She worked her way up in the restaurant industry until she eventually became an executive chef.
While working in one of the restaurants, Misner found they used a software program that allowed them to look at analytics. They could see which dishes on the menu were doing well, and which recipes they should retire altogether. What they were practicing was data storytelling, and Misner realized she found it very interesting.
Her investigative/storytelling background from her journalism career and her interest in software and technology was a five-star recipe for a good data scientist.
ENTITY Academy Data Science Projects
The way the ENTITY Academy data science program is structured, students work with real data sets in every lesson as they learn to use industry-standard programming languages.
Misner mentioned taking a liking to SQL, a program that allows you to pull information from databases. She also enjoyed working with R to create graphs and see the numbers in a way where you can extract trends and meaning.
“I think that ENTITY offers a really good foundation for continuing to learn. They give you the basics for understanding, and then you’re able to do some research on your own and continue if you want,” she said.
Students spend the last six weeks of the program working on their final project. For this assignment, students pick their own data set and decide which tools they want to use to create their presentation. Misner said that she had an interest in real estate and flipping houses, so she looked at a data set for housing prices.
Misner then dove into the data, spending six weeks analyzing it. At the end of it, she had built a machine learning model to predict housing prices. Even now, despite having graduated, she still goes back to refine the project on her own time.
Coding as a New “Language”
Interestingly, Misner mentions data science is a good path for people interested in languages. She explained that coding is basically the same thing as learning how to read or speak in a new language, and there is a sense of “grace and forgiveness” you need to have as you practice.
“You wouldn’t expect to be fluent in Japanese or Thai or Spanish in three weeks; you would have to practice. It’s the same with code, the more you practice, the more fluent you become,” she said.
And Misner is right. The University of Washington published a study that found having an aptitude for language was a better predictor of a successful coder than math skills.
The lead author of the study, Chantel Prat, said, “Many barriers to programming, from prerequisite courses to stereotypes of what a good programmer looks like, are centered around the idea that programming relies heavily on math abilities, and that idea is not borne out in our data.”
Language-related fields like writing and communications have often been labeled as more “feminine” career paths as opposed to coding. Meanwhile, mathematical and science skills are seen as more “masculine.”
Prat goes on to say that because of the misconception that math skills are needed for programming, women with strong language skills are discouraged from pursuing this career path before they even realize it’s an option for them.
“Information about what it takes to be good at programming is critically missing in a field that has been notoriously slow in closing the gender gap,” Prat said.
Advice to Anyone Considering Starting the ENTITY Data Science Virtual Academy
Currently, Misner works for Woz U as an ENTITY data science mentor. She works with students to help them understand the curriculum. Since Misner was in their shoes not too long ago, she is able to use her first-hand experience as a student as well as her data science knowledge to provide support.
In terms of specific advice for future students, Misner noted a pattern among her female students. The main commonality between all of them was that they don’t always ask for help when they need it.
“Almost every single one is strong, independent, used to doing things on her own, so asking for help is hard,” she explained.
She admitted that she was guilty of this back when she was a student as well. There were times when she didn’t want to “bother” her mentor. But if she had reached out, she could have saved herself hours of frustration. Sometimes all she needed was a second pair of eyes to look at her code. She also suggested watching the video lessons more than once if need be to absorb the information.
The Reasons Marcy Chose ENTITY Academy
Out of all the data science programs Misner looked into, ENTITY stood out because it ticked a number of boxes for her. She explained that since she was coming into data science with zero tech experience, she wanted employment assistance and mentorship to guide her through the program.
She went on to explain that ENTITY was a good choice for aspiring female data scientists because, “They have the stated goal of getting more women into tech and they have the resources in place to help you succeed. I didn’t ever feel like I was going to fail when I was going through the program because there was always someone there.”