Why I Want to Transition to a Career in Data Science

Monday, December 11, 2023

Hey there! In this blog post, I want to share with you why I have decided to pursue a career change and work in a data science role in climate.

My journey so far

I have always loved maps and data. I started my career as a GIS Analyst at various environmental consulting firms. This experience gave me a solid foundation in working with geospatial data and applying analytical and programming skills to solve problems and optimize workflows.

But I wanted to do more. I was inspired by Google Maps and how it visualized maps and data in amazing ways. I decided to learn web development and took evening classes at the University of Washington Extension. I learned Javascript, HTML and CSS, the building blocks of the web.

I was lucky to get a job as a frontend developer at the Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF) at UC Berkeley. It was a dream come true for me. I got to work on climate data and tools, something I cared deeply about. I learned from and worked with my small but amazing GIF team, climate researchers at UC, government agencies like the California Energy Commission and California’s Office of Planning and Research, and contribute to California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.

One of the main projects I was involved in was Cal-Adapt, a web platform that provides access to peer-reviewed climate data and tools for California. I designed and developed user interfaces, interactive visualizations, and web applications using Figma, Mapbox, D3, Svelte & IBM’s Carbon Design System. I was proud of my work and how it helped people understand and adapt to climate change.

My interest in Data Science

One of the most challenging and rewarding projects I worked on was the Extreme Precipitation Events. It is a tool that shows broadly how rain patterns could change in California due to climate change. There is no single definition of what extreme precipitation means. Precipitation events can be extreme in their duration, maximum precipitation rate, total volume of precipitation delivered, or a combination of these three factors. Often, extreme precipitation events are identified based on their return period. I did a deep dive into climate science publications to understand the different methods and metrics used to measure extreme precipitation. I used Python to analyze the data and prototype visualizations in Jupyter Notebooks. This was the spark that ignited my interest in data science.

I wanted to learn more about how to work with data and took an online course on data science from UC Berkeley. It was called Data 8: The Foundations of Data Science. It taught me how to analyze real world datasets using inferential and computational thinking. The skills and concepts I learned were very useful for designing other Cal-Adapt tools, such as the Local Climate Change Snapshot Tool and the Extreme Weather Tool.

After 9 years at the GIF, I decided to take a break and learn more about machine learning and deep learning. I took courses offered by DeepLearning.AI and learning from Andrew Ng helped me grasp the foundational concepts and the math behind the cutting-edge techniques that are transforming data science. I am currently working on some personal projects to get a deeper understanding of machine learning applications, e.g.:

  • Analyzing and visualizing Stack Exchange posts on Gardening and Landscaping using Google’s vertexAI, pandas, and plotly.
  • Experimenting with different models to detect and convert tables in old documents to json data

More on these projects in future posts!

Future goals

I love working with data and I am passionate about using my skills and experience to work on reducing and responding to climate change. I am particularly interested in the application of machine learning to tackle challenges and opportunities in the global energy transition and carbon removal technolgoies.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog post and learned more about me and my data science journey. I would love to hear from you and get your feedback or questions (connect with me on Twitter or email at shruti dot mukhtyar at gmail.com). Thank you for your time and attention.😊