4 months ago I handed my notice in one of the boldest moves in my entire career. Not that I visualized myself as a get-a-job-for-the-rest-of-your-life kind of girl (at all), but I've always been very cautious, thinking a couple of moves ahead. About a year ago I was in a very nice and stable position at Equifax as an Analytics Consultant, mostly building bespoke Credit Score Models, and the feeling that I needed to make a change started growing on me: I was not challenged enough and I wasn't finding any way to motivate myself. I had to move on. I started my quest for a job, but Uruguay (where I live) is a really small country where Data Science positions are not that common, so the few thing that came out didn't lead anywhere. I decided I had to quit anyway to see if I could find my joy again and continue my journey to become a Data Scientist. And I did it.
The funny (and terrifying) thing was that I had no idea what to do next. Try to explain to your parents that you are trying to find yourself at the age of 33… not that easy! The only plan I had was to focus on sharpening my skills and embracing uncertainty (not that I had any alternative for the latter!).
I took a couple of weeks to cool off and then I started looking around to see what was going on in the R community. I've been using R since my University years, but I never got involved in the community. My strategy was to start following some interesting people on Twitter (I don't even remember how I knew who to follow) and R-Bloggers, and doing things that seemed somehow useful of fulfilling:
- helping translate to Spanish a comic introducing R for high school students
- discovering and applying for the NASA Datanauts 2017 program
- taking a Machine Learning class at the MS University program
- learning how to solve a Rubik's cube (wait, I just Googled it! and I have always wanted to learn how to do that, so don't judge…)
If I worked hard and followed my gut something would come up, and even if it didn't I would be trying things and having a great time.
Somehow I came across some R-Ladies’ tweets, and started taking an interest on them. It turned out a lot of these inspiring people I was following on Twitter were related to this organization, so it was definitely a big deal. That is exactly why I felt like I wouldn't have a place there: they would probably had everything worked out by then (which they had) and I didn't think I could have anything to contribute (this was my first mistake). Looking for a Uruguayan chapter to attend their meetups, I couldn't find any (told you, very little country). My second best shot was Argentina, a country 12 times bigger than mine and only a 3 hours ferry ride from home, but I couldn't find any chapters there either. So I stayed put (second bad judgement call). I've always been shy when it came to speaking my mind if I didn't know anyone, so I didn't have the courage to speak up and engage in that community.
On the first days of January they announced the R-Ladies Buenos Aires chapter (Argentina, yay!), a great way to start my I-have-no-idea-what-to-expect year! And this time I joined their Meetup account as one of the participants. I told them about my situation and in two days I was already co-organizing the Buenos Aires chapter with these two amazing ladies I had never met (now I was starting to get things right!). I was already feeling included and I immediately found things I could contribute with, no matter how little those things seemed.
Trying to figure out how I could help the Buenos Aires chapter, I realized I didn't know how things worked. And something new happened to me: I was not afraid to ask. It was the first time I was not afraid to say something wrong, to ask something obvious or simply to be ridiculed. I don't really know if this was a gender related effect, but these ladies were all so welcoming that I never felt out of place. More like the opposite!
I was already thinking about starting a blog, and the feeling that I was one of them certainly gave me the extra push I needed. As I'm not a native English speaker I had this additional preocupation. Before I announced my first blog post I had several R-Ladies’ suggestions. People I had never expected to contact me were giving me feedback, and they were like celebrities to me! By the time it was public I felt a lot more secure and relaxed to enjoy it :)
Things started to work out for me: I got accepted to join the NASA Datanauts 2017 Spring Class (turned out it was an R-Lady's tweet I saw that encouraged me to apply) and I even answered a few Stack Overflow questions! This was the exact kind of confidence boost I needed! I'm looking forward to getting an amazing job!
What I'm trying to say here is: whether there is a chapter in your city or not, no matter how shy you are, there is an amazing group of ladies ready to give you the support you need to reach your true potential. And some of them are probably in a situation similar to yours, so it is also a place for sharing experiences and not feeling lonely.
Are you still on the fence? You can:
- Mention me on Twitter
- E-mail email@example.com (or feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Follow us on Twitter: @RLadiesGlobal
Or if you are just curious you can visit: rladies.org