Home > Uncategorized > Holy crap, you guys rock

Holy crap, you guys rock

September 9, 2015

Yesterday I wrote a post complaining that I didn’t know how to find an awesome job. The thing is, most advertised data science jobs either make rich people richer (finance) or make poor people poorer (ad tech) [1]

Well, I asked for advice, and you guys seriously delivered. I am so very lucky to have such amazing commenters and friends, and as a small token of my gratitude I want to compile some of the advice I got.

  1. A lot of you encouraged me to try to first figure out what I want to do and then convince a company doing that to give me a job. Great idea! Someone even sent me articles with useful advice on how to do that, here and here.
  2. Someone suggest I look for independent contract work by searching this list. Great idea.
  3. I got a few people writing to me to encourage me to consider teaming up with the Data Science for Social Good crowd. Maybe I should start a New York chapter?
  4. Someone had a friend who made a huge list her favorite toys and then wrote to the companies that made them telling them she’d be great as an employee, and it totally worked. “Toys” can be taken to be a general term, of course.
  5. Someone encouraged me to consider the environment and the team I’d be working with rather than the job I’d be doing. Trouble is I tried that, it didn’t work. But it might work for someone else.
  6. A bunch of people mentioned working for non-profits as data people. Non-profits have their challenges to work with but they seem to need the help. Hopefully I’ll have a guest post soon on this issue.
  7. Many people wrote to me with ideas for specific jobs I should apply for. I will, thanks!
  8. Also, a few people just wrote saying I’d be fine and they had hope for me. Those were really nice emails.
  9. Finally, quite a few other data scientists wrote saying they, too, want to make the world a better place and are frustrated by the lack of obvious chances to do this. Obviously I’m not alone.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for their advice and encouragement. I’ll keep you updated.

1. In fact I consider it my go-to example of how “the market” fails, if you think the market is supposed to offer profitable opportunities to do stuff that is worthwhile and/or important for society. It’s kind of the opposite, but maybe – hopefully – I’m defining the market too narrowly, i.e. by searching for data science jobs on LinkedIn.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 9, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Joining the crowd late, but for me the best option would be to have your own company /startup.
    This path would of course entail a lot more thinking, planning and hard work, but it is the option offering the greatest rewards, as you would be able to (try to) do exactly what you want to 🙂
    Plus I think ours is a great age to try this, especially in the data science / big data / ML space.

    PS: This is not necessarily that different from point 1) in your post

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  2. Lillian
    September 9, 2015 at 9:49 am

    On #9, I’d love to hear from others what we can do to support each other as we continue to search for our role in making the world a better place (through data, math, etc.). My primary thought has been around doing volunteer work for an org, but that is hard to squeeze in with a full-time job.

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  3. September 9, 2015 at 10:13 am

    How much pay will you sacrifice by working for the good side? What about getting a high paying job at one of these evil places and then donating enough money to one of the good places to hire a replacement? All the good you would have done at the good place will still be done, and so long as your replacement is equally skilled, they will be no worse off. Further, as an insider, you can still advocate for what’s right inside the megacorp/finance company.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/nicholas-kristof-the-trader-who-donates-half-his-pay.html

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    • g
      September 9, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      I have a lot of sympathy with this idea, but I’m not sure how workable it is in Cathy’s case.

      Imagine you’re a hedge fundie or investment banker looking at a job application from Cathy. You pop her name into Google and see what comes out. Well, she considers the finance industry evil, and when she worked at a hedge fund before she found it so horrible she quit after a few years. Aren’t you immediately going to conclude that if you hire her the chances are that either you or she or both will regret it?

      (My impression from what I’ve read here is that Cathy’s very skeptical of the sort of consequentialist calculation you sketched. I think she’d be profoundly miserable doing such work, even if she were persuaded that her donations provided more net utility to the world than her work took away from it. But my mind-reading abilities are limited so I’ll stop trying to tell you what our host thinks on her own blog; she can speak for herself!)

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  4. Aaron
    September 9, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Jobs are overrated.

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    • Guest2
      September 9, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      Yes, and disappearing fast, thanks to the computer revolution.

      http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf

      Analyses such as this one show why theorists are predicting 50% unemployment in the near future. See, for example, Does Capitalism Have a Future? (Oxford 2013).

      Apparently, the main strategy of policy makers is to extend the credential queue indefinitely so that students remain in what Ivar Berg calls “aging vats” for most of their lives. Fiscal support for this invisible welfare system amounts to a “hidden Keynesian” pump of transfer payments (2013:51f), one supported by every constituency because cultural myths about education are so widely accepted and believed. Even Ivan Illich was unable to cut beneath the layer of ideology that protects the unlimited, multi-dimensional expansion of education.

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  5. Becky Jaffe
    September 9, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Since you mentioned working at a non-profit as a possibility, have you tried Opportunity Knocks? They advertise non-profit jobs specifically. http://www.opportunityknocks.org/jobs/by/state/NY/New-York

    Idealist.org is another resource for finding values-driven employment. http://www.idealist.org/

    Good luck, MathBabe!

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  6. Auros
    September 11, 2015 at 4:00 am

    It seems to me that one of the places where data science has a huge potential to do good, currently, is designing better ways of comprehensively tracking and sifting through medical data. This runs the gamut from doing better at pulling together different related studies and figuring out which ones are most important to try to replicate, to figuring out the sources of adverse events (e.g. are some deceased patients getting mis-diagnosed early in the history of their treatment, and is such mis-diagnosis systematic, in a way that could let us correct the errors?), to identifying rare side effects or interactions of drugs.

    Like most big-data problems, there are major privacy concerns here — I’d rather have somebody like you involved in building systems like this, than most other people I know who have the skills.

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  7. September 16, 2015 at 1:01 am

    Great post! Also check out the Data for Good job opportunities I described in my “Definitive Guide for Doing Data Science for Good” (http://blog.datalook.io/definitive-guide-data-science-good/).

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