3 Key Career Decisions for Junior Data Scientists | by Matt Chapman | Nov, 2023

A roadmap to avoiding the “default path” and finding fulfilment in work

Image by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash

Because Data Science is still a relatively new field, it can be tough to know what your career might look like in 10 years’ time.

A survey by Kaggle found that people working in Data Science typically spend 1–2 hours per week looking for a new job. But what should we be looking for?

Of course, there’s value to be had in simply ‘going with the flow’ and not making firm plans. But I think the risk with this approach is that you unintentionally end up on what Paul Millerd calls “the default path,” and you start thinking that your only option is to move up the ladder (Junior DS → DS → Senior DS → Lead DS → Head of DS → … → Supreme Lieutenant Commander of DS → … etc.).

In this article, I’m going to outline three key questions which should help bring clarity to your thinking about your career. If you’re a new or aspiring Data Scientist, this’ll help you think a bit more strategically about your future career and what you actually want to do (rather than just doing what everyone else does).

For Matheus Facure, the decision to leave management and return to being an individual contributor (IC) was a very deliberate one.

Matheus began his Data Science career as an IC at a large fintech firm, and within 3 years had been promoted to a Manager:

The company was growing so fast that almost every IC from my cohort was forced to take on management positions.

While he learned a lot whilst being a manager, Matheus ultimately decided that it wasn’t for him (at least, not yet):

I couldn’t stop pondering on [sic] all the things I didn’t learn as an IC. Three years is very little time to become even moderately good at Data Science […] Even if I am to become a manager again in the future, I feel like I would be a much better one if I had the proper time to first mature as an IC.

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