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S4E3: Learning Data Science as a Beginner With Alice Zhao

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Alice Zhao is a senior data scientist at Metis, where she teaches 12-week data science bootcamps around the country, from Seattle to Chicago. During her free time, Alice writes about analytics and pop culture on her blog, A Dash of Data.

Although data science is the focus of her professional life now, Alice didn't get her start in data or computer science at all. After earning her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at Northwestern, she realized that her interests didn't lie in that field. When data analytics caught her attention, she returned to Northwestern to get her M.S. in Analytics–and is now passionate about passing those skills to others.

In our conversation, Alice shares what earning a master's degree in data analytics entails, how data can be used to tell stories and uncover fun connections, and where beginners should start when they're first looking to enter the field of data science.

Key takeaways:

  • People often think because ‘data’ is in the title ‘data scientist’, you should start with the data–but in reality, the data step comes last. Start with the big-picture problem or question you want to answer, think through it, and then figure out what kind of data you'll need to answer that question.
  • Storytelling is a huge part of data science. When you're putting together a data science project or report, think of the story you want to tell. The best data scientists are able to frame and contextualize their data in a way that's easily understood by a non-technical audience.
  • Start with a goal or project in mind. Then, figure out which tools to solve that problem or achieve that goal, and start by learning those.
  • Look for small wins to level up your skills, whether that's watching YouTube videos or learning new Excel formulas.

Links and mentions from the episode:

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