Tech Talent: This Trained Scientist Finds Her Forte in Data Science

Jamila Bell has always been attracted to technology, but this scientist at heart wasn’t exactly sure how tech fit into her career journey. She continued to attend countess courses in programming, free meetups, and workshops to learn as much as she could, and once she came across data science, she knew that was her answer.

Bell enrolled in Thinkful’s Data Science Flex Course while working multiple jobs, a task that mirrors her inner hustle. She found the program challenging and rewarding through the eight months and saw that it fit with her knack for problem solving.

“As a formally-trained scientist, I’ve learned that sometimes the data works with you, and sometimes you need to formulate a different question,” says Bell. Below she shares more about what attracted her to data science and what she’s looking for in her next role.

What is your previous education?

I am a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biological Science.

Why the interest in the technology field?

I’ve always been interested in technology, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. I attended countless meetups, free tech workshops, and intro to programming courses in as many languages as I could find, from Python, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Java, and of course, HTML and CSS. From this exposure I realized I wanted to do more than build apps and websites.

I continued searching, and eventually found data science. It was everything I was looking for. Data science allows me to do work I enjoy and am enthusiastic about while fulfilling my passions for creativity, math, problem solving and programming.

What startup/tech projects have you worked on?

I worked on a project where I used regression models to predict wave height at beaches along the Lake Michigan waterfront. The data was collected via automated sensors. Prior to modeling the data, I standardized the dates and times, managed missing and duplicative data and created features based on correlations using a correlation matrix. I modeled the data using regression trees, linear regression and ridge regression models. Using random forest regression trees, I was able to predict wave height with 77 percent accuracy.

Additionally, I worked on a project where I analyzed telephone company customer data using classification models to predict customer churn. I standardized data types, managed missing and duplicative data and analyzed a correlation matrix. I created a pipeline to test multiple models and return the model with the best prediction accuracy. After creating interactions and running the data through a knn pipeline, I was able to predict customer churn with 87 percent accuracy.

I learned how visualizations are used to skew data and tell stories that fit a narrative, which makes me more conscious of how I utilize visualizations to tell the story of my data.

What tech or tools are essential to you as a developer?

My MacBook Pro, Python, Jupyter notebooks and Stack Overflow are some of my most essential tools. Additionally, Seaborn, Matplotlib, NumPy, Pandas and Scikit-learn libraries are essential tools for data analysis, visualization and modeling.

How do you stay informed and on top of emerging trends?

I look for resources that not only assist with my technical skills, but that also help me think about data in more creative ways. I’m currently reading Confident Data Skills by Kirill Eremenko. Storytelling With Data by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic is next on my list.

I am familiarizing myself with Tableau to improve the quality of my visualizations. I’m also learning Spark to increase my proficiency with working with big data. As I apply for jobs, I pay attention to which software programs businesses are using, which helps me stay current on my soft skills.

What are your best technical or creative skills?

One of my best technical skills is my love of puzzles and problem solving. Some of my favorite types of puzzles are Sudoku, crosswords, and pattern matching and recognition. I enjoy balancing inorganic chemistry equations. I also enjoy math, and am working through the mathematics of astronomy as well.

Problem solving forces me to think creatively and look for connections that may not be immediately apparent, while math and chemistry help me to work through problems in a logical order.

Are you interested in working for a startup, mid-sized company, or a corporate giant?

I am not limiting my opportunities based solely on company size. I am looking for a role within an organization where I can contribute as a valued member of a team.

Interested in looking at Jamila’s credentials? Here you go! GitHub and LinkedIn.