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Transition to Tech Sean3

The structural change to the oil and gas industry and the transition to a digital economy is having a huge impact on people’s livelihoods and their lives. Career paths have been turned upside down and people must learn new skills to find jobs. Sean MacDonald is one of those people.  In this series of posts during the 12-week course, Sean chronicles the experience of a mid-career professional balancing family obligations and an intense tech training course offered though OCIF recipient Lighthouse Labs.

Having just completed the first two weeks of the Lighthouse Labs Data Science Bootcamp, I can now say I have a far greater appreciation of the famous instructions from Samuel L. Jackson “to hold on to your butts”  in Jurassic Park. It’s intense, surreal and, at times, a little scary.

Bootcamp has more than lived up its name. It’s the definition of intense. The amount of knowledge I have already learned and put into practice has been incredible. I’ve already completed two mini projects to apply our learnings to real world scenarios. 

I mentioned surreal. I’ve used open application programming interfaces (API calls) to plan trips around London using Transport London modes of transportation to make the quickest journey.

I created a program that takes any location, returns the Top 10 nearby attractions from Yelp and Foursquare, and plots a sequence using Google maps to visit each location most efficiently.  Being able to pull in data, manipulate it to do what I want, and returning something useful has been increasingly satisfying and has me constantly thinking of future applications … beyond when to take the Bakerloo tube line across London. 

Each day I’m feeling more confident in my abilities.

In the coming weeks, we will be moving on to data preparation and cleaning.  I am somewhat familiar with some of the processes through my past experience but I’m looking forward to a formal lesson and how I can do it better.

The learning curve has been steep but rewarding. At times it does feel drinking from the firehose, and this certainly isn’t my first time feeling this way. But based on past experiences, it is during this time where I am able to grow my skills most significantly.  

Upon reflection, this same somewhat uncomfortable feeling has been there  with every worthwhile challenge that I have encountered, whether it was my first year in engineering at university, new roles in my career, new projects I have managed, or new stages in my personal life.  

I tend to approach challenges optimistically with confidence in my abilities, but also acknowledge that no person is an island.  The mentors at Lighthouse Labs have been an incredible resource by ensuring that I’m on the right track and offering guidance when I’m struggling.  The personal connection is important. Throughout my career, I have found that networks of friends, family and work colleagues motivated me and I’ve learned from people who have experienced life changes and challenges of their own.  

I continue filling out applications to re-enter the workforce. To be frank, it can be a demoralizing experience.  It’s daunting to see the relatively small number of jobs available given the large talent pool. It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is during this time. 

When negative feelings disrupt my day, I consciously remind myself that I am moving forward every time I apply for a job, show up for class, and complete an assignment. It’s not always easy and It doesn’t take the sting out of rejection emails, but a positive attitude is necessary for weathering these setbacks.

The challenges right now are significant, and many of us know the feeling of not having enough hours in the day to give full attention to everything.  My wife, Cait, has a quote-of-the-day desktop calendar and shares the pertinent quotes with me.  On June 15 - the same day I formally accepted and started the Lighthouse Labs program - she gave me the particularly fitting sentiment that I have on my workspace and look to whenever I’m feeling tired, down or overwhelmed.

“Tough times don’t last long, but tough people do.” - Darryl Kile, major league baseball player.  

Follow Sean on his 12- week journey from being laid off to diversifying his skill set for the technology sector. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.  

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