The Art of Doing More: How Diana Popa Put in the Work to Become a Data Expert

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Shortly after earning her undergraduate degree in August 2019, Diana Popa became a Consumer Insights Analyst. She enjoyed the role, but knew only working with data in Excel limited her experience to the tip of a very large iceberg. Diana knew she wanted to do more.

“The data I was working with wasn’t very voluminous and much of it was already cleaned up,” said Diana. “I wanted to work with more raw data and come to my own conclusions through analysis.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, it was the perfect time for Diana to continue her training. She was under a limited-term contract and wanted to re-enter the workforce with a new set of skills. Her desire to build her knowledge and learn new tools led her to enroll in the UofT SCS Data Analytics Boot Camp

Tools, tutoring, and self teaching 

Diana found the boot camp well organized, with instructors and assistant instructors who were remarkably prepared to answer questions. The sheer amount of resources, and the overall format of the boot camp, gave Diana a beneficial virtual learning experience.

“I liked having challenges that were due each week because it created a schedule and provided structure,” said Diana. “When it comes to online courses, many are self taught at your own pace. I was in search of a course that felt like a classroom environment despite being online.”

In order to put the skills she was learning to the test, Diana completed various projects throughout the boot camp — and some were easier than others.

“The projects that stood out to me the most were the ones using machine learning,” said Diana. “I thought they were really fascinating, but those projects were also the ones I had the most difficulty with because it was a fairly advanced topic.”

She felt supported, even while learning the most complex topics, and took advantage of assistant instructor office hours held every weekend. Students were also advised to attempt to learn on their own, which Diana found helpful.

“Something the instructor encouraged was ‘Google-fu.’ It essentially means using Google or other search engines to quickly find useful information from the internet that can help you solve a problem on your own. That’s one of the greatest concepts we were taught throughout the boot camp,” said Diana.

Among other concepts Diana enjoyed learning were Python and Jupyter Notebook, which she uses in her current role. These tools are perfect for handling large reports and visualizing the data. 

“One of my greatest concerns going into this boot camp was knowing my contracted position would soon come to an end. I wanted to be prepared to work with larger amounts of data for a future role, and the boot camp gave me the ability to do that,” said Diana. 

Becoming a more marketable marketer 

Diana began her job search at the start of the pandemic so she could get in some interview practice — and learn more about the current needs of the industry. During that process, she gained useful insight into market expectations, preparing her well for the post-boot camp job market.

“Nowadays, in such a competitive job market, it seems an undergraduate degree is not enough to stand out, depending on the position you want. You might need an additional certificate or some sort of specialization,” said Diana. “For analysis, to be able to stand out against other candidates on paper, you need to be able to differentiate yourself.” 

Just before her boot camp completion, Diana landed a job as a Marketing Insights Analyst for Well.ca, a Canadian ecommerce retailer specializing in health, beauty, baby, and other wellness categories. Happily on the job now, she runs reports, tracks KPIs, works to improve those KPIs, and tackles occasional ad hoc projects. She’s always been interested in examining consumer behavior to figure out why people are buying what they’re buying, and her new role allows her to explore that.

“Seeing market trends existing in our own data is very fascinating to me,” said Diana. “I also wanted to work for a company that stands for something, and has good morals and values that align with mine.”

Eventually, Diana wants to oversee more strategic business planning recommendations to focus more on the “So what?” of data analysis. 

“You’re dealing with such large amounts of data and being able to determine how to use that data to improve the business is fascinating,” said Diana. “Drawing insights in the form of a narrative that concludes the findings in the data is rewarding and something I want to do more of.”

Interested in exploring a career in technology? Check out UofT SCS Boot Camps in data analytics, coding, UX/UI, and more. 

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