From sitting-at-home mom to Data Scientist
Staff Pick

From sitting-at-home mom to Data Scientist

For the first time, I share my career story. My journey of a thousand miles began with a single step. And I braced myself to make this step.

Published May 4, 2024
While preparing to give my latest talk on Bedrock agents for AWS Community Day Nordics, I suddenly thought that 5 years ago I would have never believed this to happen to me. Invitation to do a technical talk in English! It is hard to believe now, but back then I wasn't technical, wasn't fluent in English, had no full-time job and nobody knew me. How did all this happen?
...I was born in the early 90s when my country experienced a very tough economic situation. My father was a breadwinner, his salary back then was $25 per month. When my parents used to buy a banana as a treat for me, they cut it to pieces so I could eat it for more days. I was for them a hope for a better future. They tried to give me their love, support, and care. And also they invested in my education and taught me how to learn and do my best.
For a long time, I tried to not disappoint my parents: I finished school with distinction and entered the most prestigious university in my country. My major was in management and economics, I also studied French, Italian, and Chinese. I felt a real passion for languages and was trying to find my professional path. At the same time, I started to feel that my education was just a set of different subjects poorly connected to a real-world experience.
Darya in a Chinese park
My love to languages brought me to various places...
After graduation, I found myself completely lost. I was looking for a job where I could learn and grow, a job I would be interested in doing on daily basis. I became a manager at a translation agency. But the job was not very related to languages and I didn't see where to grow. Employees were treated badly; I quit with no idea what to do next.
For several years I did some part-time jobs in writing and translation, but my main occupation became my family, home, and (later) kids. My husband tried to build a business and our income wasn't stable. Sitting at home, I felt that many bright moments related to education, career, and achievements stayed in the past for me. For sure, it was warm and rewarding to see my children grow. But I wanted to do more than this. I wanted to build a career, learn, grow, have an impact, and apply my skills and knowledge. I had no clue how to do it. Among my friends, nobody did such a pivot after a long sitting-at-home break...
Family of three in Christmas decorations
Although I was happy with my family, I wanted to grow professionally
One person who supported me in this was my husband. I started to think about what areas could bring me back my passion and willingness to grow and study. When it comes to languages, I always admired their logic and structure. So what if combine languages and something more formal like logic or math? That's how I learned about Natural Language Processing. And that's how I learned about Data Science.
Here, the fun part began. I remember signing up for an udemy course hoping that one course would make me a Data Scientist. It was way more complicated: I had to take numerous online courses, pass an internship, online school, participate in Kaggle competitions, read books, and watch videos... It was a long journey!
There were temptations not to carry on or to turn to 'a fast happy path'. I remember that one online school aggressively advertised and 'guaranteed' a Data Scientist position in 9 months and $1000. I didn't have much budget for my studies, so I looked for free options based on recommendations and reviews.
'Build a career in Data Science' book
I built my techinical skills piece by piece
In 2020 after violence escalated in Belarus, our family left for Ukraine. I continued studying, and applying for jobs; I got many rejections and deeply regretted them. It was my biggest challenge: after going so far in my learning, I had to brace myself to apply once and once again. I kept trying and finally got my first Data Scientist job. That was when I learned about AWS - one of my projects had infrastructure on AWS, and I decided to learn more. I ended up with an AWS Machine Learning certification - it took me several months to do courses, hands-on practice, and read questions.
After the war started in Ukraine, we left for Poland, my husband lost his business. However, I managed to get a new Data Scientist position to increase our family income. I was happy to allow him to pursue his dream: pivot his career and become a coach/mental health therapist.
I remember someone saying "Once you break into tech, things can develop rapidly". This was true in my case: I became an AWS community builder, grew my LinkedIn to 6.5k followers, became 4x AWS certified, and received the All Builders welcome grant to attend Re:Invent. I found a great passion for sharing my knowledge, so I started to write blog posts and articles and also started to do public talks. Recently, I became an AWS Authorized instructor, I hope it will help me to share my knowledge even more.
What helped me in this journey? My husband's huge support and love, my parents' love and care, and my kids' cheerful faces when they have a happy satisfied mom.
From a housewife to a Data Scientist at a global corporation, from fears about not being able to feed my children to a family breadwinner. Breaking into tech once was a dream, attending Re:Invent was a dream. And I will keep dreaming! Because it all starts with a dream. And then, nothing is impossible!
Darya at the Re:Invent 2023
Attending Re:Invent once was a dream...
My takeaways from the journey I made so far:
  1. There is no 'magic pill' to learn Data Science. Even the best program from the best institution will leave you with a lot of things to learn and research on your own.
  2. Be curious and strive for more. The field is evolving rapidly, so it's better to stay up-to-date.
  3. Failures are inevitable. They are part of our learning. Every rejection brings you closer to success.
  4. People are amazing! Build your supportive network and don't be afraid to share ideas with others.
  5. Know your 'why'. It will help you to go through difficulties. My 'why' was the ability to apply my potential and to support my family.
  6. Consider your time and efforts as an asset. Once you invest them in studying and developing, it will pay off.
  7. Take care of your mental health. Don't be too hard on yourself. Go for walks, travel, and relax.
Resources I find useful:
  1. Data Science career path: Build a career in Data Science
  2. Statistics and algorithms: StatQuest channel
  3. Machine Learning: MLU (Machine Learning University), courses from DeepLearning.ai