How I Went from a Journalist to a Data Scientist

How I Went from a Journalist to a Data ScientistA journey of self-growthYao YangBlockedUnblockFollowFollowingMay 18Where shall I start?I guess I’ll start with the most recent.

I am currently a research data scientist at Accenture AI Labs, we do ML research and we prototype them.

We actually do a bunch of cool stuff, from automatically generating labels for training data, causal inference analysis on a distributed system, to remove bias in data and models.

I read papers, I do math, and I code.

Before that, I was at Stanford doing a master’s degree in statistics, where I got a full scholarship to attend.

Even before that, I was a journalist for three years, the only interaction I would have with computers is to use chrome for searching and Word to type articles (if you are ever interested in articles I wrote before, I’ll post later).

I never think I am a great data scientist, there are still a lot of things I need to learn, but I am trying to be a good one.

When I tell people about my experience, most people are surprised — “how did you make such a big change?”, they would ask me.

I don’t really have a good answer for it, as a matter of fact, I never really thought of the choices I made as an intention of being on a particular path.

In this journey, what drives me forward is just curiosity.

Me interviewing in Southwest China Sichuan Province about hydropower development, 2013What makes me become a journalist is because of curiosity, too.

Witnessing dramatic societal changes in the course of growing up in China, I am fascinated by how people’s perceptions, actions are shaped by policies.

I was never trained to be a journalist, however, I want to do it for the time.

The picture to the left is me in a reporting trip in Southwest China, interviewing people whose lives are drastically changed by excessive hydropower plant development.

I found great satisfaction as a journalist, in a sense that it helped shape my perspective of societies.

I chose to understand the world via my own lens — solid research, communicating with people from different perspectives, and numbers.

I was also frustrated — I can write stories, but cannot change anything, especially in my home country.

I want to build things that can have a real impact.

In 2015, I got a full scholarship to go to the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies at Stanford.

I started coding for the first time.

One experience really changed my path: I was doing research work with a professor to develop an algorithm to automatically detect posts about collective actions on social media before they got censored.

I was fascinated by it!.As a journalist, I was always frustrated at how posts got deleted but never thought I can use algorithms to capture them.

This experience is like discovering a new continent, a direction with endless possibilities.

I want to do more things like this.

I want to learn more.

Then I started this path towards data science — I took a lot of stats, machine learning, and computer science classes.

With a high enough GPA, I was accepted to transfer to the stats department.

There are a few things I want to share with you, things I learned in this journey that helped me.

Have the right motivation.

I would say the right motivation makes a person go further.

I don’t think I even know there are jobs called “data scientist” when I started.

What motivated me is my curiosity, interest in learning and building things.

Believe in yourself.

Don’t use your past to define yourself.

When I first started this journey, I was so intimated by all the smart people around me, I know nothing.

But you know what?.No one knows everything, and people are always willing to help.

Believe that you can do whatever you set your mind on.

Be proud of who you are.

One mistake I made when I started job searching is to hide my journalism experience.

I would have a “(Selected) Work Experience” section in my resume and don’t mention my journalism experience as I believe that it will dilute my technical direction.

Thinking back I think it’s silly.

Everyone has unique experiences which they can bring value to.

I guess I’ll stop here.

This post is more of a personal growth journey.

If you are interested, I can write another one with more details on the technical side — what you need to learn, what skills you should have, and how to learn those things.

Till the next time!.. More details

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