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Transition to Tech Sean6

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.

This week’s entry truly reflects the changing of the season. “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)” by the classic American rock band The Byrds recently came on my playlist and it struck me how Pete Seeger and Roger McGuinn (by way of The Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes) arranged such a catchy folk rock melody to a repeated and rearranged text.

Those first few bars are so recognizable that I couldn’t help but wonder if, at that moment, the universe wanted me to stop and really consider the message behind the lyrics.

Of course, as I write this, I acknowledge that I am in a reflective mood. My eldest daughter made her way to her first day of kindergarten last month. The end of August was a very exciting time for our family.

My wife Cait purchased fun new face masks for the girls, allowing both to choose their special design (a kitty wearing glasses, and a pink unicorn, to be exact). We chatted with our fledgling kindergartener about the importance of hand washing, putting her mask on and taking it off by herself, listening to her teacher learning new things and having fun making new friends. When we dropped her off and she ran joyfully into the school to begin her new adventure, Cait and I looked at each other and laughed in bewilderment. How is our newborn baby suddenly five years old and in school? Impossible. 

Predictably, our three-year-old daughter, and soon to be middle child, was unimpressed with this development. She indignantly stated in a tiny but mighty voice that she too should be able to go to the “big school” because, “Look Daddy I am tall too.” Thinking about that happy day brings about a sense of gratitude that I was available to be fully present and there with my family. 

With the completion of my Project Management Professional classes, I foolishly thought I would feel the absence of one of my deliverables. But I quickly found myself utilizing my day to devote more to Lighthouse Labs.

We have been increasingly engaging with our mentors on technical interviews. There is no preparation, which is a unique experience. We log on at our designated time, and a mentor will start the interview process by asking specific technical questions to determine our ability to speak confidently and accurately about our data science and machine learning skills.

The first interview I did was about 15 minutes in length, and included questions such as, “Describe what a normal distribution is?”, “How do you evaluate a classification model? ”and “If the accuracy on your training data is good, but the accuracy on the test data is poor, what is happening?”

I answered each question as thoroughly as possible, with no notes or time to overthink.

It’s fascinating how the pace of Lighthouse Lab has impacted my reaction time, so to speak. We do so much in class, and then repeat and practice in our homework that I am finding myself able to speak to technical questions quickly. 

My first round of feedback was positive, but I was advised to use more specific technical keywords. Not only is answering correctly important, but I need to phrase my answers in a way that is speaking the data scientist language, so that potential interviewers from technical teams can quickly determine my level of competency.

Again, hearkening back on my technical background as an oil and gas engineer, I appreciate the value of being able to talk the talk and to walk the walk, and this is no different. 

With just weeks left in the Lighthouse Labs course, I feel the winds of change coming once again and this season of education coming to a close. With our final projects looming, there is a sense of urgency to learn as much as I can and take advantage of this educational opportunity. Because, as The Byrds’ song goes, it is “a time to plant, a time to reap.” 

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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