Thomas “TJ” Ossola has been a professional glass blower for 25 years.
“I got a job working at a glass blowing studio right after high school, and my career sort of fell into place from there,” TJ said. “I liked glass blowing, and everyone that was important to me told me to keep doing it — so I did.”
TJ’s passion for glasswork allowed him to travel the world while learning from and collaborating with renowned artists, designers, and architects from the United States, Europe, Australia, and all the way to Japan, India, and China. His art has been exhibited in galleries in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and across the United States. And, he has helped lead demonstrations, classes, and art installations around the world as well.
Eventually, TJ moved back to his home state of Colorado and began working as a glass blower full time, while also teaching classes at a local glass studio. However, there came a point when TJ realized he had accomplished all the goals he’d once set out to achieve in glass blowing — and he was ready for a new challenge.
With that, TJ began looking into new career opportunities, which ultimately led him to University of Denver Data Analytics Boot Camp.
Transitioning to virtual learning
When TJ first entertained the idea of pursuing a career in data analytics, he thought he would go the self-education route rather than enroll in a structured program. Looking back, however, he’s grateful to have chosen the boot camp.
That’s not to say the experience was all smooth sailing, though. Since TJ spent his undergraduate years studying in person, the transition to virtual learning was challenging for him.
Finding balance was also challenging at first. While attending classes, TJ held a full-time position as a project manager and blew glass at night — sometimes staying up until 3 a.m. working. “I averaged about 20 hours a week studying, on top of attending classes,” TJ said. “It was quite the long haul.”
Despite the late nights and occasional struggles, TJ was able to get the support he needed after voicing his concerns to his instructor.
“At first, it was really hard to get into the groove of working and taking classes,” TJ said. “Luckily, the staff was quite special. They supported me through the boot camp, and I was able to build good bonds and friendships that extended beyond class.”
Analyzing data — and snow
Through group projects, TJ was able to demonstrate his newfound analytical skills while collaborating with classmates. For their machine learning project, TJ and his team developed a snow predictor designed to generate a prediction of daily snowfall for 115 stations throughout Colorado.
“Our instructor told us that weather is the hardest thing to predict,” TJ said. “So, that made us want to work on this even more.” This project forced TJ to think about what he was trying to accomplish and how he could push past challenges to make it happen.
“My instructor and TA were very helpful, especially towards the end of the boot camp,” TJ said. “I was really stressed at times, but they were very involved and checked in with me to see the progress I was making. They were great.”
Sharpening his skill set
As the boot camp went on, TJ not only enhanced his data skills, but also brushed up on his typing and communication skills.
He also honed in on his ability to find and debug errors. “That was something I had always brushed over in earlier weeks,” TJ said. “I had to work really hard to focus on becoming better at that.”
TJ came out of the boot camp a much better problem solver, too. Before the boot camp, he would often find himself wondering how his peers reached analytical conclusions. “I heard people talk all the time, and would think: ‘Where are you getting that? How is that coming to you?’” he said. “My analytical skills really grew through the boot camp. Now, I feel a lot more confident in thinking through problems and getting answers.”
Landing a new role
When TJ started applying for tech jobs, he was interested in working for a company with a great culture. At first, finding a new job proved to be difficult; however, TJ remained unfazed since he knew that making a career pivot was an inherently challenging process.
“Once you’re in, you’re in,” TJ said. “It’s just the ‘getting in’ part that was a little tricky.”
Fortunately, the boot camp’s Career Services staff was there to help TJ fine-tune his resume and prepare for interviews, while also answering any questions TJ had throughout the job search process.
Soon enough, TJ landed an exciting new role as an informatics analyst at Aspen Valley Hospital. Reflecting on his decision to enroll in the data analytics boot camp, TJ is proud of how far he’s come and looks forward to his career in tech.
“Before the boot camp, I was at the top of my field with nowhere to go. Now, I’m at the bottom and love that I have a long way to go,” TJ said. “ It’s a great change of pace, and I’m really enjoying it so far.”
Interested in jump-starting an exciting new career? Check out University of Denver Boot Camps in data analytics, cybersecurity, coding, UX/UI, digital marketing, technology project management, and product management.