Life can move pretty fast. One day, you’re in a good job, on the right career track, and you feel confident about your future. The next, you’ve lost your job, and questioning what to do. Moments like this can feel like a setback, but if you have the right mindset, they become opportunity. Being forced out of your comfort zone can give you a new perspective. For some, it means finding a new career in a whole new field. For others, it means realizing why you loved your old career in the first place. That’s what happened to Mads Nyborg, from Copenhagen, Denmark. Losing his data role in market research ended up being the very best thing for his data analysis career. We spoke to Mads to find out why.
Good to talk with you Mads. Can you start by telling us a little about your background?
I originally studied political science at undergraduate and graduate level. In Denmark, that means a five-year program where you only study political science the whole time. As I studied, I realized pretty quickly that I enjoyed the analytical parts most—the statistics, the methodology. When I graduated, I did a few years working in political science, with the central administration of Denmark, and then with a market research firm.
Is that where your interest in data really started to develop?
The data analysis side of it was certainly what I liked most. The job was mainly focused on structured data—data where you go out, collect it, then analyze it. The longer I worked there, the more interested I was in going deeper into data. I started doing some basic reading on programming with Python. There was a moment while I was working on a statistical project for a client when I realized that, if I knew how to program, I could basically get the computer to do all the work for me. That made me want to learn more. But it also coincided with when my career turned away from data, so it was a number of years until I found the drive to study programming.
You turned away from data?
I think you could say I took a detour. I actually lost my job at the market research company, and this made me question whether I was on the path I truly wanted to be on. So I found a new role, at the organization I work at now—in the Danish healthcare sector—but working with construction budgets and medical IT. It amounted to taking two years off from analytics. I was in a different work area, and my career track had management responsibility, not analytics, on the horizon.
So why did you decide to enroll in your Nanodegree program?
The longer I spent outside of analytics, the more I realized I missed it. I had a team leader role with more responsibility, but I found that wasn’t the most interesting thing for me. I found I like data more than I like people management! I decided I’d embrace my previous interest in programming and look for ways to gain those skills. I spent a while considering Udacity’s Introduction to Programming Nanodegree program, as well as the Data Analyst Nanodegree program. Ultimately the Data Analyst program—with its obvious analytics focus—suited me most for what I wanted to do with programming.
And your studies helped you find a new data role even before you graduated?
The last thing I worked on at my previous job was helping implement a new IT system. It involved using some of the skills I’d learned with Udacity. There were challenges with the datasets we were using, so I had a meeting with the project manager of our organization’s business intelligence team to discuss possible solutions. I started explaining what I’d been doing with Udacity, how I had started because programming piqued my interest. I was really just trying to help solve the issues we were having. But after the meeting, the manager got in touch, told me about a data role on her team, and invited me to apply.
That’s amazing! Were you surprised by the invitation?
I was. I really hadn’t been fishing for a job! And I’d actually seen the notice for the role already, but decided not to apply because I didn’t think I ticked all the boxes for their ideal candidate. But it seemed I actually did! I applied for the role, and interviewed with a few people in the department.
“They asked about what I’d done with Udacity, and I told them how it had helped me hone my approach to programming and how I looked at data. And then they offered me the job!”
That’s great! Will you be using your new skills from your program in this role?
I’ve only recently started, and right now there isn’t a whole load of programming involved. It’s more focused on business intelligence, using the SQL skills I learned. But there’s going to be more programming going forward. Machine learning, for example, is something the organization is looking at. And Python is one of the tools they may start to use. So there’s lots of really great opportunities on the horizon that I feel ready to take advantage of!
Do you have any tips for new Udacity students for how to approach their own studies?
The program is definitely more demanding than I thought it would be. But that’s a good thing—it challenged me to push myself. But it does mean I needed a routine for studying. I have a young family; my wife and I recently bought a new home; I’m often busy at work. So there is nearly always something demanding my attention!
My best advice is that you make it a rule to do something—anything!—in the program every day. Even if it’s a quick look at a video or a quiz, you should at least engage with some part of your studies on a daily basis.
Thanks for sharing your story Mads. And congratulations on your new job! It’s great to hear that you’ve engineered a happy return to the world of analytics. And we’re glad to hear that, in your Nanodegree program, you found the educational approach that fitted in with your busy life. Your dedication to your studying has meant you’ve been able to increase your employability and keep your data skills relevant while managing your many other responsibilities. Congratulations!