Learning How to Learn Again: What Happened When a Former Educator Entered the Data Science Classroom
For more than 12 years, Jamie Lyne Thorpe commanded the classroom: teaching math and science to learners ranging from second grade all the way to the senior level in high school. Her next career move involved analyzing data to consult teachers, superintendents, and school districts on how to better serve learners.
Eventually, Jamie realized that she wanted to do more with data. In order to do this, she needed to master new skills. After conducting her own research, she took a leap of faith and decided to enroll in Georgia Tech Data Science and Analytics Boot Camp. Here’s what happened next.
Turning the tables: from teacher to learner
As a teacher, Jamie understood the classroom inside and out. Equipped with a master’s degree in early childhood education and years of experience as an education consultant, she was an expert in the field. But in many ways, the boot camp was unlike any classroom Jamie had ever been in.
Three nights a week, on top of her full-time job as a consultant, Jamie came to class prepared. Embracing her role as a learner, she was always raising her hand with questions. There was no doubt that classes were challenging: the course moved quickly, and the learning curve was steeper than any Jamie had ever encountered.
“I took advantage of all the resources that were available through the program. I worked with a tutor, went to office hours, and organized a study group full of fellow learners — who are still close friends to this day,” Jamie said. “I also put in a lot of time, studying 20 to 30 hours a week on my own.”
It wasn’t easy, but with her experience empowering learners of all ages, Jamie was confident that she was capable of tackling the material in her classes and continued to use all the resources available to her.
Rising to it: stepping up to the challenge
Both of the programming languages VBA and Python were new to Jamie at the beginning of the boot camp — and there were times when she felt defeated.
After a conversation with her instructor, Devang Gandhi, Jamie learned that the concepts she felt she was struggling with weren’t just challenging for her, they were challenging for everyone; and she was actually picking them up at an impressive pace. Talking to Devang was reassuring and motivating for Jamie, and with this encouragement, Jamie found that the lessons started to click with greater ease.
“From my experience as an educator, I’m aware of how I learn best,” Jamie said. “In the boot camp, I knew not to be afraid of speaking up if I didn’t understand something — because that’s the best way to learn.” By speaking up and making connections with other learners, tutors, TAs, and her instructor, Jamie rose to the challenge.
Gaining technical savvy: learning new skills and building products
Boot camp isn’t all assignments — there’s also quite a bit of real-world experience involved in building projects. As Jamie mastered new extensions and coding languages, she worked on group projects that combined real issues with technical, data-driven solutions.
One of Jamie’s projects explored the issue of gun violence in the United States. Her team built an app for a hypothetical politician who could use it to process information and data on gun violence. Jamie’s team proudly tackled a sensitive topic with creativity and skill, and the experience gave her a preview of how the tools she was gaining in the classroom translated into real, impactful results.
It’s one thing to learn a skill — but it’s another to set it into motion and use it to build something that’s functional and responsive. Jamie was motivated by seeing where the skills she learned in class could take her.
Looking ahead: setting her sights on the horizon
When it came to the job search, Jamie was always two steps ahead. Months before formal recruiting began, Jamie proactively connected with her Career Director for guidance. After nearly 15 interviews, Jamie found herself with four job offers and ultimately took a position as a Senior Consultant at Deloitte.
“My decision-making process was driven by my end goals,” Jamie said. “I wanted to be somewhere I could grow alongside the best and the brightest, with the ability to learn all of these new technologies.”
At the end of the boot camp, Jamie was nominated and selected to speak on behalf of her class. She once again found herself in front of a group of learners — but instead of presenting as an instructor, she was a peer, a leader, and an expert data analyst with new tools.
“This program not only pushed me, but it also taught me more about myself,” Jamie said. “It also helped me feel comfortable with being uncomfortable and break free from my perfectionism. I think that was really important.”