Get inspired by Emma’s empowering story of switching to a new career in data science while on maternity leave! | Coursera Blog

Meet Emma, a data scientist and mother who successfully switched careers from technical sales to data science—while pregnant with her first child. She completed the IBM Data Science Professional Certificate while on maternity leave, seeing it as an opportunity to continue her personal learning and career growth even while caring for a newborn. As she was completing the program, Emma interviewed for and received a data science internship. This turned into a paid part-time role. Now, she continues to pursue her passion for problem-solving as a data scientist and working mother. Read Emma’s full story of resilience, intellectual curiosity, and empowerment below!

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My name is Emma, and I work as a data scientist at Recurring Insights, a platform that helps nonprofits gather and visualize data. I haven’t always worked in data science. In fact, I have a background in zoology, and before I got my current role, I was working in sales for scientific equipment.

After I got pregnant with my first child, I started trying to imagine how I’d manage the travel requirements of my sales job with a small child. I decided—possibly recklessly—that I wanted to learn something new while I was on maternity leave so that I could change careers and work from home. It sounds like a really good idea before you have a baby, but then you have the baby, and you realize that actually it’s harder than having a regular job!  

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I started working on the IBM Data Science Professional Certificate anyway, and I really loved it. It was really interesting, and really easy to learn. I had never really thought of myself as a data-oriented person, but the way that the program was taught was easy to understand. Even in my sales role, the problem-solving was the part I really enjoyed, which is what data science is all about: finding the data, asking the right questions, and using the data to answer. Once I realized that data science just really clicked with my personality and interests, I was even more excited about potentially pursuing it for my career.

By enrolling in this program, I was able to get real, practical experience with lots of in-course projects. Later, when I interviewed with the team at Recurring Insights for my first data science role, I felt really comfortable answering all of the questions that they had because of the foundation I’d built in the IBM Data Science Professional Certificate program. I got the internship with Recurring Insights, then moved to a part-time data science position—which was exactly the outcome I was hoping for!

I remember reading a lot of articles about how to get into data science, and whether you needed to do a master’s, and at the time, I felt unsure about whether I’d be able to enter the field. I didn’t have a master’s, and I wasn’t in a position to enroll in that kind of program. However, as it turned out, having the credential on my LinkedIn profile made all the difference. I was contacted by a recruiter who helped me get my current role in data science. It’s really about the necessary skills, and being able to demonstrate that you can do the work. That’s what I achieved by completing this program and earning my credential.

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As if learning new skills and changing careers while caring for my first child wasn’t challenging enough, I started my internship in early 2020, so I had to build my new career in the middle of a pandemic! But, earning my IBM Data Science Professional Certificate made me feel really confident about my ability to continue learning for my new career. 

I think it is really important to be able to take time for yourself while you transition to becoming a parent. Taking the IBM program was very much a way for me to focus on my pre-baby self and my career goals in the midst of this big life change. It was quite scary, thinking, “Can I change careers now?” But the course gave me enough confidence to proceed. The IBM program is an accessible way to learn new job skills, especially for women who are looking to change their careers.


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