3-year milestone: Reflections on the odyssey

August 7th 2017, the day I landed in San Francisco, California. I remember being so scared that I considered taking the next flight back without even getting out of the airport. It’s not that I didn’t want to be there, I just never expected to be and the very manifestation of something that I was too scared to even dream, petrified me.

“What if I fail?”, “I’m never going to make it past the first semester”, “It’s too late (I’m too old) to start a career”- these are just some of the things I told myself. I was gearing up for a Masters (hopefully PhD) in Data Science & Artificial Intelligence with no CS or Math background and this realization, that I had to build something from zero, was daunting. The only thing under my control was the amount and quality of work that I put in.

Upon enrolling in an ‘R and Big Data’ course my first semester, which was a big mistake might I add, I was convinced that I should have just stayed at home. But I wasn’t at home, besides I wanted to be here. My quest to do something worthwhile and meaningful had led me to beautiful California, in the heart of Silicon Valley and I could not let it go to waste. The regret of wasting this opportunity would be far far worse than failure, so I pulled up my socks and got into planning and analyzing mode.

I went from half a page of a resume in 2017 that I put together for campus employment, to my current resume which doesn’t even fit in two pages without minimizing the font. Even though I’m just getting started I’m very grateful and content with the journey that I had and I thought I’d make a list of things I’ve accomplished in the past three years, personally and professionally, that I never ever thought I would do. Just writing this blog itself feels surreal, am I really doing this? It’s amazing how life works out sometimes. From a home-maker to a wannabe data scientist to a data analyst to almost a data scientist, wow!

Things I did that I didn’t know I could do:

  • Left home to pursue an education.
  • Accidentally became the first girl and the first person in the family to do that.
  • Enrolled in Math and CS heavy courses.
  • Failed at them.
  • Gathered myself together and worked recursively to eliminate weaknesses.
  • Enrolled again and passed.
  • Learned to live independently.
  • Learned networking skills.
  • Got my first job on campus.
  • Discovered mindfulness and its many benefits.
  • Gave a speech about Rohingya refugee crisis (and cried profusely during it).
  • Went to my first AI related meet-up.
  • Volunteered at YCore for a senior center.
  • Graduated with an Associate Degree in Computer Science.
  • Graduated with an Associated Degree in Math.
  • Graduated with a Certificate in Data Analytics and Visualization from UC Berkeley Extension.
  • Graduated the Udacity Deep Learning Nanodegree program.
  • Decided to specialize in Natural Language Processing.
  • Enrolled in an NLP program with Udacity (graduating in a couple of weeks god-willing)
  • Discovered Richard Feynman along the way.
  • Discovered at least a dozen other people who inspire and help me EVERYDAY!!

The not-so-good aspects:

  • Did not do well in C++.
  • Did not get the target score in GRE.
  • Got rejected by the three grad schools I applied to.
  • Fell for a vicious scam and lost half the savings for grad school.
  • Did not explore the pacific coast as much as I should have.
  • Still need to work on social skills.
  • Need to work on Statistics.

Now that I’m at the end of this post, I feel this looks more like a page from my journal but I guess that was the point. To reflect and share that zero is a good place to start and hard work and a little faith will help you make your way forward.

Thank you for your time.

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