Anna-Clare Milazzo, Ph.D

Data Scientist | Sentry Data Systems

Interviews and Editing by: Alexandra Bortnick

Interview: November 2015
Transition: June 2015

1. Please list your previous department at UC San Diego and provide a brief description of the research you conducted?

I was a postdoc in the department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and tested a new camera system for cryo electron transmission microscopy of biological macromolecules.

2. Please describe your current job profile?

My current role as a data scientist is a position that requires wearing many hats. Discovering actionable insights from large, diverse data sets for internal teams and external clients is one of the main responsibilities of this role. This requires working with stakeholders to make sure the right questions are being asked and that the data are sufficient to answer them. Along with building models and performing analyses, preparing and combining data from multiple sources is also a component to data science work.

3. What made you decide to transition into your current position?

A combination of having experience working with diverse data from scientific research and passion for using data to ferret out valuable insights made data science an attractive career path. This role also allows me to use skills I developed while pursuing scientific research to have a significant impact in another arena.

4. Apart from the research you conducted, do you feel like anything in particular has helped you acquire your current position?

During a subsequent postdoc at Stanford, I participated in an extracurricular consulting club where we practiced solving business case studies and in a business volunteer project with the Stanford Office of Technology Licensing. These activities gave me greater familiarity with common business problems and needs. In addition, I participated in the Insight Data Science Fellowship program. Insight did an excellent job with preparing me to make the transition from academia to industry and gave me the opportunity to interact with an outstanding community of data scientists.

5. Please list some of the most striking similarities and differences between your postdoc and current position?

The most striking similarities between my postdoc and my current position data is working with data to ask the right questions, test hypotheses, and discover insights. The main difference is the focus of the work. In scientific research, we are generally pursuing knowledge for the sake of itself and to get at universal truths. Data science is more focused on finding insights that will have an impact on business decisions and the conditions that go into models often change much more rapidly over time.

6. What do you feel is the most important advice you can give to a current UCSD postdoc in order for them to obtain a position such as yours?

I would suggest taking one of the many free online data science courses and creating a portfolio data science project geared towards a problem or question that is of interest to her/him. In particular, the portfolio project is a great way to see if this would be enjoyable work. I would also highly recommend applying for and participating in the Insight Data Science Fellowship program.

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