New Yorker Edward Podojil’s path from musician to teacher to data scientist is as intriguing as his kooky data rituals.
By Natasha Awasthi (Product Manager & Writer)
Trained as a musician and educator, Edward Podojil is a founding member of the Data Science team at Homejoy, New York. The Data Scientist, who also moonlights as an instructor, explained why: “I am self-taught. While people who are interested can figure this stuff on their own, I wanted to give them an easier path to success.”
We plotted the Manhattan resident’s non-linear trail that led to his love for “data and education.” He also offered lessons he gathered along the way.
How does someone with degrees in Music from UConn and Education from U.C. Davis get captivated by Data Science?
Edward: I started my career in 2008 as a high school Percussion Director and English Teacher. I enjoyed working through student data to understand what made them tick and what conditions improved their ability to learn.
Three years later, at my first tech job, I munged data for Business Intelligence tools to make important business decisions. When I saw what was possible in analytics with automation, I got hooked.
You are actively interviewing for a Lead Data Scientist at Homejoy. Would you share your pet interview question?
Edward: I like to probe interviewees on their favorite machine learning algorithm: explain it to me as a fellow Data Scientist, and then explain it to me as if I'm the CEO. I love hearing how people convey information to audiences with different needs.
What makes someone a rock star Data Scientist?
Edward: Data Science isn't just predictions and correlations, it's telling a story. Mastering your statistics and coding is incredibly significant. But you can’t be a person who sits in a dark corner and doesn’t communicate.
Advice to hopefuls:
Edward: Start a blog and publish your work. Powerful communication comes with practice.
Tell us about experts in the field you follow.
Are there moments when you are especially psyched about the field?
Edward: I love messing with really dirty and large data, particularly if I haven’t looked at it before. To quickly become acquainted with the intricacies and design of a new set, and to portray insights in an intelligent fashion, is fundamental to this job.
Tell us about kooky rituals – at work or play – that keep your skills sharp?
Edward: I'm into self-quantification. I track assorted things in my personal life: did I go for a run today, how did I prepare my coffee and did I enjoy it, how quickly do I respond to emails. I'm enjoying Google Fit on my phone too.
Every week or so, I explore all the data I've collected to identify trends: what motivates me to run, what type of coffee beans do I like. The development of intuition and problem solving skills in this context are applicable at my day at work.
At Homejoy, one of my favorite things we do as a team is include fun facts in our weekly updates. It encourages us to take time to explore and have fun.
When you get stuck, what resources do you go to?
Edward: Digging into the academia is a great way to wrap my head around new ideas or approaches to the same problem.
Tell us about your fantasy project.
Edward: It's hockey season right now. I'd love to crunch numbers behind line changes or figure out the conditions for when goalies and the defense give up most goals. I’m also intrigued by Data Journalism.
Women 2.0 readers: What's your fantasy tech project?
Photo credit: Natasha Awasthi
About the guest blogger: Natasha Awasthi is a New York-based product manager and writer. She artfully untangles messy problems by discovering unexpected patterns–in behavior, processes and technology. A self proclaimed Jedi-in-training, she writes, speaks and teaches about channeling the force and embracing creativity. She has a MBA from Wharton. She's also a data monster. If you press her to prove it, then she may dredge up her master’s degree in statistics — which is buried in a suitcase under a bed at her parent’s home in India, where she is from. Find her on Twitter at @natashaawasthi.