Breaking into the field of Data Science with Jessica Yu


At Verikai, we consider our team culture a top priority, and a huge part of building an inclusive and innovative culture is the value we place on diversity. So today, we sat down with our very talented Data Scientist, Jessica Yu, to discuss her unique journey into the competitive world of data science and some key advice she has for entering a male-dominated field of work.

Read the full blog below to learn more about Jessica and what a career in data science entails. 

Where are you originally from?

I was born in Jinan, China, and moved to the U.S. when I was four years old to a suburb in New Jersey. I later moved to the Bay Area for college, where I decided to stay after graduating. I lived in San Francisco for a year before moving to my current home in Seattle, where I’ve been enjoying all the nearby hiking spots and good coffee!

What did you study in college, and does it apply to what you’re doing today?

I studied Business Administration and Statistics at UC Berkeley. Knowing the basics of finance and statistics helped me find my first job as a finance analyst after graduating, where I had the opportunity to apply some of my data skills. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to dive deeper into data science, so I leaned on the knowledge I gained from school and the experience I gained in my first job to make the shift toward data science.

Are any of your data science skills self-taught?

I’ve picked up most of my data science skills at work. Each time I work on a new project, I encounter data-related questions and challenges that push me to learn something new. Google has been by my side through each of these projects, and I’ve also taken some online courses to teach myself new skills, including a new programming language. However, it’d be remiss of me to not acknowledge my teammates on the data science team! I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and grown greatly by working with them.

What attracted you to the world of data science?

I was drawn to data science by the impact it allows you to have on challenging, real-world problems. Working in data science, I’m constantly translating business problems into questions that can be answered with data. There’s plenty of room for creativity and, at the same time, a sense of structure in using precise, quantitative methods.

Do you have advice for someone entering data science?

Take advantage of all the great online resources and courses out there on data science and get some hands-on experience applying what you’ve learned. It can be challenging to become a data scientist right away, so try looking for data analyst roles that will give you the exposure and experience you’ll need to become a data scientist.

Here are some online resources I found to be helpful:

What important qualities do you think a data scientist needs?

Patience and resourcefulness are important qualities – working with data can present various challenges that you’ll need to work around, and you’ll often have to test multiple approaches before finding a solution. Many problems will require you to think creatively and pull together different resources to come up with the best solution.

What advice do you have for women entering a male-dominated field?

Try reaching out to other women in your field of interest – for me, that meant joining a virtual networking group for women, where I found a mentor also working in data science. I’ve also found it helpful to watch vlogs made by women in data science. Some of my favorites are ‘day in the life of a data scientist’ vlogs, which give me a window into what it’s like being a female data scientist across different industries. TLDR: leverage your online resources and have conversations with women in your field to hear about their insights and experiences.

What do you think is the key to success working at a startup?

Being at a startup gives you a unique opportunity to learn rapidly and take on more responsibility than you normally might be provided. It requires you to constantly step outside of your comfort zone, where the key is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable!

What tips do you have for maintaining a good work-life balance?

Define what a good work-life balance looks like for you, and then find a workplace that helps you achieve that balance. For me, it means having the time to exercise, prepare healthy meals at home, and take care of my puppy! Working remotely at Verikai, where we prioritize our culture, gives me the flexibility and extra time to do all of this.

What are the benefits of working on a smaller team?

When I first joined, we didn’t have much of a data science ‘team’ – it was just me and my manager. A year and a half later, we’re at four people and growing! Being a part of this small team has pushed me to become more independent and resourceful when it comes to problem-solving, and I’ve been able to take on more ownership of projects as a result of being just one out of a small number of teammates.

To learn more about Jessica, connect with her on LinkedIn!

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