Taking a Step Back In Order to Advance into the Future
Haroon Ahmad could see the future—and accountants weren’t part of the picture.
After earning his master’s degree in accounting and starting work in the field, Haroon began to wonder how sustainable his chosen career really was. His job in the auditing department of a major accounting firm in San Francisco had him working closely with venture capital funds investing in tech start-ups—giving him a firsthand look at how much the world is changing.
“I started to think about how artificial intelligence and machine learning would impact the accounting industry down the line,” Haroon said. “I had a strong conviction that eventually a machine would be able to do my job faster and better than I ever could.”
What’s more, the job just wasn’t all that interesting.
“I don’t like to use the ‘B’ word, but jobs that involve those repetitive types of tasks, like accounting, can be a little bit boring,” he said.
These convictions were the catalyst for Haroon’s jump from the world of public accounting to data science. He left his job and moved home to Atlanta, where he enrolled in the Georgia Tech Data Science and Analytics Boot Camp.
Two steps back, three steps forward
Heading back to the classroom after getting a graduate degree and working in his field for three years wasn’t in line with Haroon’s original plan for his future. However, he was confident that in the end, it would be worth it.
“I knew I’d be much happier and in a better place, even if I had some growing pains while getting there,” he said. “Taking two steps back was okay, as long as they were followed by three steps forward.”
The data analytics program curriculum meshed well with Haroon’s accounting background, which made the transition easier. He found that his previous knowledge went a long way toward helping him master the material. And when he had questions, there was plenty of support available.
“The instructor and the TAs were very patient. I could always ask them anything, during office hours or over Slack,” he said.
A challenge he was ready to meet
The boot camp met three times a week, and during the six months the course ran, Haroon dedicated himself to data science completely. The pace of the course was fast, and there was a lot of material to learn.
“I immersed myself as much as I could and treated it like a full-time job,” he said. “It can be very challenging. There’s no right answer to any problem—there’s how you want to do it and how other people are doing it. You have to piece it together and figure it out.”
Haroon was up for the challenge—and he’s dedicated to helping others meet the challenge, too. In fact, he’s now a TA at the boot camp himself.
The human side of tech
Haroon’s favorite part of his own boot camp was working in groups, so it’s no surprise that he enjoys helping new learners get a grip on the coursework.
“It’s been a lot of fun seeing them grow,” he said. “Boot camp is extremely technical, but there’s a human side to it, too.”
He recalls “great conversations” he had during his time at boot camp, especially with the career services staff—and he encourages all learners to take advantage of this invaluable resource.
“They talked about company culture, communication, how to handle conflict in the workplace—all those soft skills that might have otherwise gone unnoticed,” he said.
Just the tip of the iceberg
The biggest soft skill Haroon learned at boot camp was how to ask the right questions—something he shares with the cohort he works with now.
“Instead of coming to me frustrated, I want them to show me what steps they’ve taken,” he said. “Those communication skills are so important. They need to be able to explain their process, to help me help them. That’s something my experience at Trilogy taught me.”
Despite completing boot camp and serving as a TA himself, Haroon isn’t finished learning yet. His experiences with accounting have taught him the importance of constantly upskilling to remain competitive in the job market.
“People might hope to know everything by the end of class, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “You’re never going to stop learning, because everything is changing so fast. You can’t rest on what you know.”
Ultimately, boot camp gave Haroon skills that will enable him to keep on learning for the rest of his life—and he no longer sees any limit to what his future might hold.