We had the pleasure of talking to Kristen Kehrer who is a data science instructor, LinkedIn Top Voice 2018 in Data Science and Analytics, and a mother.
In this conversation, Kristen talks about her journey, how to get started in Data Science, and how to stay engaged and active in this field.
SDD: Kristen, you are not only an experienced data scientist but is also a data science teacher and founder of Data Moves Me. Can you tell us a bit about how you first got interested in this field and your journey so far?
Kristen: The journey started when I began pursuing a BS in Mathematics in 2001, however “Data Science” was not a term at the time, and I had no idea this is where I’d end up. But my bachelor’s degree was definitely the start of the journey. After receiving a Master’s Degree in Applied Statistics I started working with data in the industry. I prefer a change in scenery every couple of years, so I had changed jobs a couple times to grow my career and have new experiences. When it came time to have children, I knew I’d want as much flexibility as possible, so I started searching for remote roles, these were hard to find. So I built up a social media presence on LinkedIn (In 2018 I was #8 Top Voice in Data Science & Analytics on LinkedIn), created a website and blog, and started building my own company to give myself the remote flexibility I was looking for. Working for myself, I have a tremendous amount of flexibility.
SDD: There are many data enthusiasts in our community who are also moms. Currently, you are co-authoring the book Mothers of Data Science with Kate Strachnyi. What inspired you to write this book?
Kristen: I wanted to hear the experiences of other women in data navigating their careers. I had my own personal experience, but I wanted to hear from a diverse group of ladies about their personal experiences. Were others turning down opportunities to speak or travel because of their children? How were others making it work? It is not a cakewalk to balance having children and a career, and this was a fantastic opportunity to chat with women who I admire and hear about their experience.
SDD: There are several women in our community who are just starting out their journey with Data Science with online courses. As an instructor do you have any advice that will help them stay engaged in the field and apply their knowledge from these courses on real-world problems?
Kristen: The field is so diverse that “one size fits all” advice is hard. Even while still in school,, I’d suggest adding project code that you’re proud of to your Github and start building out your portfolio. Things will be easier to find later if you commit (pun intended) to using GitHub as a central repository for your projects. I also highly suggest learning SQL, not all data science programs focus on it or teach it, but SQL is on over 55% of “Data Scientist” job requirements in the US. In most companies, you will access data for analysis in a database, so if you don’t know SQL I highly suggest you learn it. I do have a small free course here: https://datamovesme.com/2019/12/30/free-sql-for-data-science-course/
SDD: For those children who have an aptitude for technology, what are your thoughts on ways in which we can incorporate data science, ML, and AI in our current education system?
Kristen: I’d love to see statistics concepts introduced earlier and in a more fun and accessible way. Statistics were only taught to Juniors or Seniors in my school and it was something that most students do not take, only the more advanced math students would take this course. I think it should be taught in a way that is accessible to much more of the secondary education population. This is important, understanding when certain calculations aren’t accurate would benefit society. We’re all consuming numbers through various media daily, and the public should be armed to read and discern these numbers properly and ask critical questions of the material they consume.
SDD: What inspires you every day?
Kristen: I’m inspired by so many things. I love the data science community and that I get the opportunity to learn from others on a daily basis by just showing up and being part of the conversation. Many a project has been inspired by seeing all the wonderful visualizations and analysis that others are doing.
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