From Conservationist to Data Engineer in 17 Months

How I Went From Assistant Ecologist to Data Engineer in 17 Months

04/21/2023
5 minutes

Learning to code so that you can land a job in tech can feel daunting. That’s why we’re sharing inspiring stories from Codecademy’s community — to show how people like you (yes, you!) can embark on a learning journey and end up with a totally new career. We hope these stories serve as a reminder that there’s no single path to a more fulfilling work life.

Today’s story is from Louise Jones, a 25-year-old Data Engineer and Kent County Council’s Energy Projects Support Officer, living in Canterbury, England. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“I’ve always been interested in nature since I was quite young, and I studied wildlife conservation in university. I briefly coded at uni when we did a statistics module, and it was awful. We had about two weeks to learn it, and they threw us in at the deep end with statistical stuff. I just thought, This is not this is not my thing

Then during Covid-19 lockdown, I was working, but I was bored. I had so much free time, and I really like learning and studying. I was googling and found Codecademy, and I started with front-end development, then I was looking at back-end and the game development side of it. From November 2021 onwards, I’ve just been non-stop coding. 

Learn something new for free

I knew that I wasn’t confident with math, but just because you’re not confident in something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not good at it. There was a book that I read that kind of gave me the push to go for a data science boot camp, called A Mind For Numbers, which is by this lady called Barbara Oakley. She studied literature, then went to the U.S. Army and did an engineering course — but she hated it, and thought she wasn’t good at it. She just figured out that the way she was learning wasn’t right for her. I was just like, You know what, I am capable, too.

I really want to stay in conservation and environment, but continue with tech. I’d love to do a job which involves species distribution modeling or something dinosaur and fossil-related would be great! I may aim for a masters in the future where I can utilize my coding with research*. One of my main goals this year is to complete more personal projects to add to my portfolio.”

* Building a project around a subject that you’re passionate about is an awesome way to gain experience and keep you motivated as you learn to code. Check out our projects library to find hands-on projects you can use for practice or your portfolio.

How I made time to learn

“While at uni, I got a job doing wildlife surveys, but the hours were so unsociable. I was surveying bats, so I was going out at like two in the morning and then coming back at seven. Now I work from home, so it’s flexible — that’s why I was able to travel for a month and live out of a van* with my partner and dog. I was literally driving, working in the day, trying to finish exams at night, and then driving again. We bought a MiFi router for the van, and had always-on data. We went to a national park in Wales and we were in the mountains. It was amazing. I think everyone should try it.

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I’m doing a data science bootcamp with CodeOp part-time in the evenings, because I work full-time for the Kent City Council in renewable energy projects. We’re trying to make the council net-zero with solar panels, heat pumps, and things like that. I have certain roles that I have to do throughout the day. It’s easy for me to utilize coding in my spare time and still be helpful towards work. 

With the data science bootcamp that I’m doing now, we can bring our own data. We have loads of solar data at work, so I’m planning on using some of the data for a project. I did my solo data science project for the boot camp on fossil records, and my group project on rare species in Scotland. I really enjoy it.”

* Curious how Louise managed to code and work while living the #VanLife? Follow Louise on Instagram @cosy.codes to see amazing photos from her travels.

How I saved up money to switch careers

“I got a discount for the bootcamp by paying up-front. I had to ask my mom for help to pay for it, so now I’m on a ‘parent payment plan.’ Otherwise, I save a little bit, and when I’ve got enough to pay in installments or whatever, then I just pay it. I’m in the mindset where I know I’ll make more in the future, so I don’t mind being a little bit poor now, and then having it pay off in a few years.”

How long it took me to land a job

“I feel like, because I graduated uni quite a lot later than all my friends, I have extra pressure. I figure the next few years are going to be like my cramming time. I found my thing later in life than I would have hoped, but at least I found it.

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I finished my data science bootcamp in March, and I’m doing the Codecademy path alongside that as well. My job with the council is on 18-month contracts, and mine is due to finish in May. They usually end up renewing people. It should line up where I’ll be able to start applying to jobs soon. Hopefully by mid-year, I’ll be doing something tech related.” 

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“My advice would be to just try a few languages and see what you like. When you’ve picked something — whether it’s front-end, back-end, or game programming — try and stick with it. I probably could have made more progress if I stuck with a language sooner. That’s why I like doing the data science boot camp alongside the Data Scientist: Machine Learning Specialist path, because I’ve got structure. 

Refresh the fundamentals all the time, because it’s so easy to not code for like two weeks and then you come back to it like, Oh my god, I don’t know. Even when you think you’ve mastered the basics, you probably haven’t mastered the basics.”

Learn like Louise

5 courses

Not sure where to start? Check out our personality quiz! We’ll help you find the best programming language to learn based on your strengths and interests.

Want to share your Codecademy learner story? Drop us a line here. And don’t forget to join the discussions in our community.

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