The C Gate in LaGuardia Airport has only one coffee shop in the morning. Twenty thousand people will crowd into Au Bon Pain and fight in a free-for-all for the right to a three dollar cup of coffee, brewed bi-hourly.
If you arrive early enough, you can get a chair with a built-in charger and stake your claim on prime waiting space. I knew which parts of the C Gate had the broken chargers, and I knew where to go to get as far away from the noise while still keeping my phone on full battery. It wasn't the best place to gather your thoughts, but that morning I felt that I had a lot to think about.
My work was as a traveling software trainer. Like many industries in our era, Commercial Real Estate was undergoing a revolution in terms of how data was impacting the decision making process. I was responsible for working with clients ranging from young college students to multi-decade veterans, explaining to them the tools and concepts behind our software, which set the standard for the industry in property valuation.
To our clients, learning the software meant that they had the tools they needed to develop projections that affected their bottom line. For me, the job was a real world lesson on the power that well organized data has in shaping the decision making process, particularly when there were millions or tens of millions of dollars involved.
The rise of Big Data is symbolic of a paradigm shift in our economy. It's largely invisible, difficult to organize, oftentimes stored in "the cloud", and it is quickly taking center stage in boardrooms across America as the untapped key to prosperity. Likewise, the ability to gather data is growing exponentially with emerging technologies. The power of data analytics was already paying my bills, and I didn't even know how it worked under the hood. How could I harness knowledge and mastery of data to pursue my interests?
I knew I needed to do more research.
I had a lot of questions to ask myself:
Who were the professionals that excited me the most? What were they doing that made them so interesting? What was so invigorating about the people that were answering questions that others hadn't bothered to ask? How do people use technology to grow their networks and solve seemingly unsolvable problems?
I had heard about the Flatiron School from several people, and I was aware of recommendations from the Houston Mayor's Office of Innovation. I felt that undertaking Data Science as a field would involve challenging myself in new ways, from understanding the relationships involved in programming syntax, to growing my knowledge on advanced statistical methods, to developing an ear for identifying the business problems that Python and other Data Science languages seek to solve. It was exciting to think about beginning a campaign of transformation from a strictly front end, client facing role to one where my current skills would supplement but not constitute my body of work.
Few people can accurately judge the road ahead. In the field of Data Science, however, you can be sure of a few things.
You can be sure that you won't face the same problems tomorrow as you do today.
You can be sure that there will be large numbers of opportunities to improve and optimize experiences not just for your organization, but also for your clients.
You can be sure that at times you will have to rely on methods that others have not tried before to solve business problems, whether these business problems are new or have been around forever.
And you can be sure that every industry and experience will provide added wisdom that will develop into the ability to create increasingly marketable tools.
A few weeks into my experience at the Flatiron School, where they have free Lattes and a scenic view of Downtown Houston, and where they have instructors who are eager to explain not only the code, but the business side of this growing field, it's been easier to put a real value proposition to my efforts here. The more code I practice, the more I am able to see the mixture of creativity and base efficiency that I hope mark the beginning of a future of providing 21st Century value.
I hope you will have as much fun, and take as much value, out of my blog as I have had in writing it.