From Classmates to Coworkers: How Four Trilogy Boot Camp Grads Reunited on Our Academic Analytics Team

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A high school teacher, an econ major, a market analyst, and a math grad walk into a classroom. The punchline? Six months later, all four of them land jobs at the same company—ours.

After graduating together from Rutgers University Data Science Boot Camp in February 2018, Ronessa Acquesta, Harshil Patel, Paul Rizzuto, and Sharanya Banavar became full-time members of the Trilogy Education academic analytics team. Hired by their mentor, Trilogy Education Chief Academic Officer Ahmed Haque, they share an abiding passion for analytics and tech.

Four paths converge

Before boot camp, the four grads had few similarities.

Paul was working as a competitive researcher when he stumbled on a Twitter video of a coder attending Rutgers boot camp’s graduation. Suddenly, it hit him. He wasn’t interested in his day job.  “I really felt like I was at a dead end in my career at this point. I was ready for a change,” he said.

Ronessa could relate. A high school teacher, she missed her days doing more analytical work at a bank. After a decade, she left one classroom and entered another—this time as a student.

Both Sharanya and Harshil had new bachelor’s degrees from Rutgers—and neither knew what to do with their lives. Sharanya was interested in data, but had no coding experience. Harshil was pursuing finance, but didn’t like his options. So when their respective mothers told them about the Rutgers data program, they signed up.

An environment ripe for growth

Despite the four grads’ vastly different experiences, each entered the boot camp eager and ready to learn.

“I was in awe at the diversity of backgrounds in the classroom,” Paul said. “It was really a big benefit to not just learn the curriculum, but to learn from other students’ experiences.”

Leaning on each other, the grads worked through challenging lessons and praised the boot camp support system and teaching strategies for getting them through.

“I think the boot camp did a really good job of creating an engaging curriculum,” Sharanya said. “It more than just lectures. We would actually do activities in class and learn by actually coding.”

But the most important takeaway from the boot camp? Learning how to learn.

Honing soft skills to excel

For some, getting back on the learning horse was a little more difficult.

“It had been a while since I was in a classroom,” Paul said.” Learning the hard skills was one thing, but it was a huge adjustment to get back into the mindset of learning.”

Ronessa concurred. Though she’d spend over a decade in the classroom, there’s a huge difference between teaching and being taught.

“As a former teacher, I felt the TAs were exceptionally good at encouraging us to reflect on learning without you even realizing it,” she said. “They wouldn’t tell us what to do, they would ask ‘well what have you tried, what are you doing that maybe isn’t working,’ really guiding us along the way.”

With proper guidance, Paul, Sharanya, Ronessa, and Harshil all found their passion—and now, they help other students find theirs, too.

Putting the skills to the test

Finding a job at the end of boot camp is every student’s major goal. Microsoft, Bank of America, Shell—there are thousands of options for data science boot camp grads. But Paul, Sharanya, Ronessa, and Harshil felt drawn to the Trilogy Education Family, and decided to stay.

During the six-month program, all four did some part-time work tutoring and doing the odd data job. They also applied their new skills to class projects: analyzing hate speech on Twitter, predicting a person’s ideal beer, determining sentiment on every page of the Harry Potter series, and predicting the impact of earthquakes on environmental dumping grounds.

Ahmed Haque, their instructor, recognized hard work and the value of diverse experiences. “The powerful thing about each of these projects is that they didn’t just use their skills theoretically. They used them to answer real questions and create compelling data-driven stories along the way,” he said.

Eventually, Ahmed hired all four to work on Trilogy’s academic analytics team.

“One of the greatest moments a teacher can have is in seeing his students surpass him,” said Haque. “After six months in the classroom with these students, I saw them demonstrate creativity and technical wizardry far beyond my own. I was lucky to have them join the Trilogy family.“

Paul is now doing research and development, combining his past as a researcher and his new skill set in data to excel. Sharanya works closely with him and Harshil, focusing on analyzing data. Meanwhile, Ronessa works on perfecting the Trilogy data science curriculum—adapting lesson plans and developing learning materials to give students the positive experiences they themselves had.

On top of research, Harshil is also exploring new horizons, starting to learn and work on cybersecurity.

“The biggest thing I learned is that learning never ends,” Harshil said. “There’s so much to learn out there in data; it’s important to know that you’ll keep learning throughout your career.”

“In data, we face problems every day,” Sharanya said. “You don’t have to worry if you don’t have the skills at the beginning. If you keep researching, learning, and working hard, you’ll be able to succeed.”

Want to become part of the family? Reach out to Trilogy Education today.

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