Hometown: Winston-Salem, NC
Office Location: Chicago, IL
University: Northwestern University
Major: PhD, Earth and Planetary Science
Start Date: June 2021
Starting Role: Data Science Development Program
Describe your role.
I'm a data engineer who works with data scientists who are developing price and promotion optimization models. My team builds data pipelines that generate data for the models, and we’re also building a rest API service to run the models and deliver results to Kroger.
What was your experience like in the Development Program?
I had a great experience! I joined the Data Science Development Program in June 2021 so my experience was mostly virtual, but I had lots of opportunities to get to know everyone in the Program throughout the summer. Everyone in my cohort was a lot of fun – we had lots of virtual hangouts to socialize and play games together. The training was amazing and covered a lot of topics, including the tech stack we worked with, approaches in machine learning, storytelling, and Kroger. After we completed our 10 weeks of training, we got to try out projects on different teams in the Project Pool. I really appreciated how much checking in there was throughout the Program to see how we were doing and what parts of the work we enjoyed the most. It was great knowing that this would be factored into my placement on a team that was the right fit for me.
How do you believe the 84.51° Development Program compares to other comparable Programs?
I think the length of time of the 84.51° Program is just right – we spent the first 10 weeks on training and working on our case study projects, and the next 8 weeks on our project pool rotations. This gave us enough time to cover a lot of training material and really put it to practice before being placed on our final teams. This also gives us enough time to figure out what area of the business we’re most interested in so we can provide that feedback to help determine where we fit best. It’s a fun and welcoming environment to enter after graduating and you make a lot of friends in your cohort that you’ll continue to work with after the Program. It’s great to see familiar faces from my cohort when I go to the office or go to virtual meetings. Overall, I felt very supported throughout the Program and set up for success when I started on my new team.
How do you believe the Development Program equipped you for success at 84.51°?
We received lots of great training for all experience levels, so everyone was well-rounded and equipped with the skills needed to be successful by the end of the Program. It was great to be able to work on a case study project for practice before jumping into the project pool and working on real projects. Having that mentorship during the project pool was really valuable for getting a sense of what it would be like on our new teams. We were encouraged to network throughout the Program which was really helpful for knowing who to reach out to for help when we need it. We also did a really great group project investigating the company org chart and learning about different areas of the business that was helpful to understand the breadth of work that goes on at 84.51°.
What did you learn from the Development Program that you have transferred into your current role?
Although I switched functions straight out of the Development Program into engineering, I think my data science training was really valuable for my current role. There’s so much collaboration day to day between engineers on our team and data scientists on other teams, and I think it really helps to have some knowledge of data science to better communicate. A lot of the work we do is taking existing code written by data scientists and incorporating it into our automated data pipelines. This means we have to understand and modify their code, so I benefited from having lots of training in Spark, Hadoop, and Databricks while in the Development Program. I also learned a lot about storytelling in the Program, and that’s a skill I use regularly when I’m presenting the work we do to our stakeholders.
Is there anything you wish you had known about the Development Program prior to enrolling?
There’s a lot of overlap in skills and day-to-day work between data science and data engineering. I think for this reason a lot of people make the switch from engineering to data science or vice versa. It would have been helpful to know this going into the Program so I could keep an open mind not just about what type of role I wanted to play as a data scientist, but also what kind of role I could play as an engineer. Ultimately, I ended up in engineering which I’m really happy about even though it wasn’t the plan when I came into the Data Science Development Program!
What has been the most memorable experience or favorite project you’ve worked on?
I really enjoyed a one-day hackathon we had in the Chicago office recently. A group of us got together and built an API. We ordered Chipotle and wrote our ideas out on a whiteboard, and then pulled together a proof of concept project in an afternoon. Then we celebrated with drinks and pizza after! It was great to have the time to hang out and work on a cool side project for a day.
Did you go through the internship Program at 84.51° prior to graduating? If so, what was that experience like?
I went through the data science internship Program during Summer 2020 – it was also virtual due to the pandemic but it was an awesome experience! I had a really great mentor who guided me through my project to learn about shopper behavior using clickstream data from the Kroger website. The data I worked with and the modeling I used was all totally new to me, but I had great support throughout the Program and I was really proud of the results. I loved the work and the company culture, and I was ecstatic when I got my offer to join full time in the Development Program!
What advice would you give students who are interested in working in the engineering industry?
You don’t necessarily need a background in computer science to become an engineer! I studied Earth science before joining 84.51°, and a lot of my relevant skills came from computational biology and biostatistics. These non-traditional skills are transferable and give you a unique perspective that can bring value to the company!
What’s your favorite part about working at 84.51°? Do you have a favorite benefit or perk that is offered?
There’s a lot to love about working at 84.51°, especially the work-life balance. My favorite benefit is the amount of paid time off we get. It’s great to be able to see my friends and family as often as I do! I was also impressed that 84.51° offered special paid sick time for COVID so employees can be safe and recover. I have to say I also really love the gym at the Chicago office. It’s only accessible to employees in the building so it’s never crowded. The memberships are really affordable, and it’s so convenient to be able to hit the gym in the morning and then take the elevator up to my desk at work!
What do you like to do in your free time outside of work hours?
I like to go roller skating with my friends around the neighborhood, take skate classes, and go to open skate nights in a historic hotel downtown! I also love the Chicago Botanic Garden – they have awesome holiday events like Night of 1000 Jack-o’-lanterns that brings in artists from all over the city to carve really intricate art into giant pumpkins. I also play a lot of video games like Stardew Valley, and I’m working on making my own video game in Unity. The gym at the 84.51° Chicago office is amazing and I got a personal trainer, so I’ve been learning weightlifting twice a week. Aside from that I spend time with my kitties at home, and I love going out to bars and restaurants around town. Chicago a great city with tons to do!