Statistician Turned Data Scientist: How Ivy Tiongco Upskilled and Landed a Data Analyst Role Supporting the CDC

Statistician Ivy Tiongco had been working in the nonprofit world for more than 12 years as a database manager for USS Midway Museum. But after all that time, despite her valuable contributions to the organization, she knew something wasn’t adding up in her career. Her undergraduate degree in biology, Master’s degree in statistics, and brief experience working in biotech were puzzle pieces that left her with an unclear path and uncertainty as to what could come next.

“I strayed from my statistics background and there weren’t opportunities for growth anymore. I knew I wanted to pursue roles in the world of tech, but I needed to continue learning first,” she said. Determined to transition out of nonprofit work, Ivy started researching educational opportunities. However, she soon discovered an unexpected path forward.

“When I found The Data Science [and Visualization] Boot Camp at UC San Diego Extension, I had never even heard of data science. I thought about enrolling for months but didn’t pull the trigger until a few weeks before the deadline.” 

Juggling a full-time job, family, and a packed course load was a lot to think about — but Ivy ultimately felt confident the opportunities would outweigh the challenges. 

Balancing employment, education, and family

Ivy began the boot camp in January of 2020, prior to the onset of COVID-19.

“I was attending class in-person and loving it but it was certainly challenging. I was working full-time, commuting to class after work, and often missing bedtime with my kids,” she said. 

Her determination to continue learning meant sacrificing family time, but when classes shifted to a fully online model due to the pandemic, Ivy’s schedule became much more flexible. “It opened up time in my day. I didn’t have to commute or miss out on time with my kids anymore,” she explained. 

Leaning into remote learning 

While online learning improved her schedule in a personal capacity, it also offered unique advantages for collaboration in a professional setting.

“My cohort was already a collaborative group. It helped that we had met in person before switching online, because we already established connections. Working together felt natural,” she explained. 

Zoom meetings and breakout rooms also allowed for more individualized attention from instructors and TAs. “It felt like we had more one-on-one time, with ample opportunities to ask questions and clarify concepts,” she said. 

Leaning on her peers and instructors, Ivy excelled in the program and felt renewed confidence in herself and her choice. 

Entering the job market at the height of the pandemic

After completing the boot camp in July of 2020, Ivy assumed she would find a new career opportunity quickly. But despite her competitive resume, the stalled pandemic job market threw Ivy for a loop. 

“My inability to find a job took a toll on my mental health. I felt stuck,” Ivy said. 

Though temporarily disheartened, she persevered and eventually landed a job at Helix, a DNA testing company, in December of 2020. As a lab data analyst, Ivy wasn’t utilizing as many of her new skills as she’d hoped, but it finally felt like her career was on the right track. 

Despite a difficult year, Ivy was hired as a data analyst, supporting the CDC. Her new position required the programming language R, as well as Jupyter Notebook and Python — skills made possible by her education at the boot camp. 

In this role, Ivy supports major program initiatives for the CDC’s Division of Health Informatics and Surveillance. Her knowledge of biology, statistics, and now data science intersect perfectly to support this essential organization during a global health crisis. 

A word to the wise

“Without this opportunity, I would still probably be stuck in the nonprofit world,” Ivy said. 

Her ability to leverage her existing skills and apply new data science knowledge culminated in the ideal opportunity, even when the job market was at its lowest point. 

“This boot camp gave me the confidence to continue growing mid-career. I learned that it’s never too late to make a change or improve your skills, especially in the tech world where everything is constantly in flux.”

Ready to change your career? Explore UC San Diego Extension Boot Camps in coding, data science and visualization, and cybersecurity today.

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