Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, tech jobs were projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now that even more of our lives have shifted online, technology is more essential than ever. And so are jobs in this field, with opportunities on the rise for scientists and engineers with specialized tech backgrounds.
These three professionals—a software engineer, a data scientist, and a cybersecurity analyst—pivoted their careers after completing programs at Flatiron School or SecureSet Academy (Flatiron School's sister school), and are loving “going to work” in a whole new way.
From Building Pipelines to Building Client Solutions
Justin Avioli graduated from Texas A&M in 2010 with a degree in mechanical engineering, which he defines as “the science of how things move.” He laughs, “If it’s not stationary, we have to deal with it!” He landed a job in the gas pipeline industry in Houston.
It was important and necessary work, but as Avioli advanced in his field, he got further and further away from actually building things—the part of mechanical engineering that he’d loved. When he found out in 2019 that his business unit was being sold, he knew it was time for a change. “I wanted to take building stuff and meld it with a technology angle—I’ve seen technology make big impacts,” he says. “So that was the impetus to pivot my career.”
After Avioli finished the software engineering program, he was ready for a new opportunity—and a new home. He left Houston for New York City and found a job in tech services this winter with a mobile data platform company, mParticle. Avioli works with prominent clients like Spotify, Starbucks, and AirBnB to troubleshoot user problems. And since COVID-19 has moved so much of life to the digital sphere, there are new ones popping up every day.
“The pandemic is shifting the way a lot of people do stuff,” he says. “There are a lot of companies out there trying things that they wouldn’t in the past because it’s a different environment right now.” And the biggest change for Avioli personally? “I used to look forward to a paycheck. Now I look forward to going to work.”
A Love of Mathematics Leads From Marketing to Data Science
Shuyu Wu worked in digital marketing for creative agencies in China after earning her master’s in marketing and strategy from Warwick Business School in 2014. In 2019, she moved to London with her husband and was ready for a change. She’d always loved math and was intrigued by the field of data science—using data to draw insights and solve problems.
An eager learner, Wu had taken a few online courses on data science, but they left her wanting more. “When you do self-learning, you choose the topics you want to learn,” she explains. But Wu realized that in order to make a true career pivot, she would need proper training. She found Flatiron School’s data science program in London and promptly enrolled. “I started with mathematics, statistics, all the fundamentals for being a data scientist,” she says. “It was hard to find a program that provides everything, but Flatiron forced me to learn comprehensively.”
Wu appreciated the small-group focus and feedback that Flatiron offered. At the end of each module of learning, Wu and one or two other classmates would partner for a small-group project, which she also found useful as a teaching tool, and as training for her next career.
She began interviewing for jobs halfway into the program, and a month after finishing the training, Wu secured a position at the digital events services startup Eve as a data scientist and machine learning engineer. “They were impressed with how much knowledge I had after just three months at Flatiron,” she says. Wu’s team is building a database for future events, and currently she’s researching if there are any interesting factors around event cancellation due to COVID-19. “The pandemic has forced the industry to look at things in entirely new ways,” Wu says. “It’s a huge challenge, but I definitely made the right choice.”
Tackling New Threats in the World of Technology
Before 2019, Bobby Ceniceros analyzed intelligence data to mitigate terrorist activity on social media. It was demanding, and it required a lot of time on the road. After he got married, he wanted to switch to a job that didn’t involve so much travel.
Ceniceros assessed his primary interests: data science and cybersecurity. The latter, he discovered, “leveraged my background, taking bits and pieces of data in a mosaic way.” He realized he needed additional training. After doing some research, Ceniceros enrolled in the 12-week HUNT cybersecurity analytics course with SecureSet Academy —using security detection analytics to hunt for hidden threats to cybersecurity. After three months of “getting my butt kicked,” learning how to utilize applications to search for threats to digital environments, Ceniceros was ready to pivot his career.
He’d begun looking for a new opportunity while studying, with strong support from the school. “I got a thorough understanding of what the career field looks like, and the opportunity to network with different companies, to speak to them on their terms, with their terminology,” Ceniceros says. And his coursework served as a master class in interview prep: “Three months of different scenarios of solving problems really gave me the confidence to sit and interview at a strategic level, to really think about how I would go about problem-solving.”
In April, Ceniceros accepted a position as a senior analyst at cybersecurity firm FireEye, where he focuses on threat intelligence—“identifying threat actors or hacktivists” to companies’ software systems.
“There are new vulnerabilities in security, thanks to a disparate workforce,” Ceniceros says, nodding to many people’s new normal of working from home. “CTOs are looking for ways to best defend their systems, even more so now.”