Everyone's professional journey follows a different path, and I'm no exception as the Senior Director of Data Science here at Unacast. As we continue to grow our tech team, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share the story of how I got started in tech, what led me to Unacast and what we expect when someone new joins us.
When I was just nine years old, I fell in love with technology when we got a PC in our house. My favorite thing to do was to create webpages and simple games - to me, there was never any option other than a degree in technology when I finally "grew up". Along my journey through university, I was lucky to have the support of so many of my peers and professors, and I learned a lot about embracing new challenges. That mentality has stayed with me throughout my career, and it's one of the things that drew me to Unacast. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first time I heard about Unacast was late 2016. My first impression? Well, I assumed it was like any other stereotypical startup - a bunch of twenty-something guys who worked really long hours and knew all these programming languages and tech that I didn’t. Awhile later I was considering a switch from BI and Data Warehousing into Data Science, and came across an ad for a Data Scientist position at Unacast. The description said: “You will deploy code on your first day on the job."
Even though I had experienced success and felt confident where I was, this seemed like too big of a step. Working on a brand new platform, in an unknown industry, I didn’t think I would produce anything but questions on my first day. It wasn’t until about a year ago, when I was contacted by one of the founders asking me if I would consider the very position that I had ruled myself out for, that things started happening. The interview process was thorough. I met a lot of amazing people, and yes, many of them were guys in their twenties who knew many programming languages that I didn’t, but there were also women and a wider range of ages and expertise. Most importantly, it felt like I had something to bring to the table. So last fall I joined the team, and got a great welcome. I asked a LOT of questions on my first day (and month), I struggled with typing ~ on my new Mac (still do), but after just a couple of weeks I helped discover an important bug using just my old fashioned SQL-skills. I have since advanced to lead both our data division and one of the product teams.
My voice is heard in discussions about architecture, strategy and products, and I genuinely enjoy being at work every day, feeling challenged but not incapable. If someone had told that 16-year old geek girl who took the train into the big city to go shopping at Karl Johan that she would be leading a data science unit in a front-running tech company in the top floor of the same building a decade (or two...) later, she would have laughed at you.
Unacast works in a very narrow field; we use a cloud platform that has a limited (but growing) market share in Norway, and both the type of data and the volumes are unique. As a result, we can never expect new hires, graduates or even experienced candidates, to have experience specifically with what we are doing.
What we need are smart people who are willing to learn. Within the data division we need people who are interested in and have a talent for quantitative challenges. Any kind of data background is a good foundation, even with more traditional tools from classical industries. Learning specific tools is done on the job, it is not really rocket science. Many new colleagues have started after me, all very talented people with so much to bring to the table. However, I’m confident in saying that nobody has produced much more than a great deal of questions on their first day - which is all right, since first-day code deployment isn't a requirement these days.
As I mentioned earlier, we are looking to grow our team - and if you think the next step in your journey may be Unacast, we'd love to hear from you.