I attended The Data Incubator during Spring 2017. I earned a data science position with a hiring partner in the San Francisco financial district within three weeks of graduating. Below I enumerate the many aspects of The Data Incubator I found valuable.... Read More
Starting at the semi-finalist level, applicants are provided strategies for resume writing. With some careful thought, I was able to portray seemingly bland parts of my academic background as eye-catching resume bullet points. Time is also dedicated in the first days of the program for polishing resumes yet again before final submission to the employer-facing online resume book.
Professional head shot:
Prior to the program, Fellows and Scholars are advised to get a professional head shot. I had never done this before (or really had been aware of such services), but I realized it was an important part of going all in. While this can be expensive, Fellows who successfully join a partner company are reimbursed for the head shot (I was).
Structured curriculum and weekly miniprojects:
The data science curriculum includes lectures, daily coding challenges, and miniprojects. Weekly lectures are accompanied by IPython notebooks mixing text exposition with runnable code. There is a lot of lecture material to master every week, and persevering here helps with interviews and the miniprojects. The notebooks encapsulate the advanced features of scikit-learn, SQL, and big data tools (Hadoop, Spark), and they make for indispensable reference material after the program. The miniprojects are essentially problem sets and provide hands-on experience with these tools.
The capstone project:
This is meant to be an application of data science to a publicly available (or scrapable) data set that is ultimately presented as a web application. It is adisable to have a rough draft, or at least a strong start, on the project before beginning the program, so start thinking about this before applying. There are several upshots to doing well on the capstone: 1) You have a recent data project to talk about in interviews that is more substantive than any of the individual miniprojects, 2) Practice building a web app (e.g., with Flask) for deployment on cloud services (e.g., Heroku), 3) Practice pitching your project in weekly video updates; for these videos, I learned how to edit video/sound with Openshot and to splice in images and screen capture footage of my project.
Soft skills lectures and interview practice:
Soft skills lectures provide coaching for resume writing, onsite interviews, and salary negotiations. Weekly interview practice covers computer science and statistics problems of varying difficulty, both on pen/paper and in front of a whiteboard.
The Data Incubator is an extremely worthwhile experience. The components of the program outlined above have a snowball-like cumulative effect at turning academics into viable industry job candidate, commensurate with the effort they put into preparation before and during the program.