After Alexandre Campino finished undergraduate and graduate studies in aerospace engineering, he took a leap into the unknown and moved to Southern California from his native Portugal. He started looking for an aerospace role, but despite two years of trying, he was unable to break into the US aerospace industry, and was forced to concede that the field appeared closed to him.
It was a tough realization, but Alexandre found a way to turn the obstacle into opportunity. He went back to the drawing board and broadened his job search. He thought hard about the skills he already had, and he looked for industries and roles where his engineering experience would be an asset. That’s when he discovered data science. He saw job opportunities in data everywhere he looked, so he was sure it was a sector in demand. Better yet, it was an industry that had immediate appeal because it used many of the data skills he’d learned throughout his graduate studies.
So Alexandre got busy—he looked at the job requirements of data roles he wanted, and set about building his skill set to meet them. Today, he is a graduate of Udacity’s Data Analyst Nanodegree program, and he’s working in a data role at an internet company he proudly says is “the best company to work for in the country!”
Can you tell us about how your transition from aerospace to data first started?
When I finished my Master’s, I had the opportunity to relocate to the United States. It was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. But when I got here, I started looking for jobs in the aerospace sector and discovered quickly how hard the industry was to get into. From the recruiters and hiring managers I spoke to, I learned that most aerospace jobs in the US are linked to the government, so they require security clearance—top level security clearance—which I couldn’t get because I’m not a US citizen. So it really didn’t matter that I had the right background for the roles! I tried many different companies and organizations, but the response was always the same and I really struggled to find anything, even after looking for almost two years.
So what did you do?
It was really frustrating, but I got to a point where I really needed to find something. So I had to reevaluate what else I could do with my skills and background, and what else I was interested in. I started looking at the wider job market, searching for different jobs in different industries that were being advertised. I saw a lot of companies were looking for roles in data science and business intelligence—really new fields that were clearly growing. That data focus really appealed to me.
Wasn’t data a big change for you, after focusing on engineering for so long?
Actually, during all my studies, I’d really enjoyed the computer science and data aspects of my programs. You could say it was a passion for me. So when I saw there were roles in that field, I started looking at a few different training options because I could see there were job requirements I didn’t meet. That’s when I found Udacity. The Data Analyst Nanodegree program exactly matched what I needed to know—it covered Python, Tableau, and R. It was just so suited for the industry I was trying to get into, which was the main reason I chose to enroll. And I’m glad I did—I really liked the interactive format of the classes, and the short videos. It was really good at keeping me engaged!
So after you graduated, how did you find your new position?
I saw the job description on LinkedIn, thought it sounded really interesting, and that I had all the skills to meet their requirements.
“I followed the career advice I’d received from Udacity and, rather than just applying, I went looking for the recruiter online and reached out directly. Within five minutes, I got a call back!”
That’s incredible! What was the recruitment process like after that?
It was crazy quick! The situation escalated so that within the span of a week, I went from finding the job advertisement to being in the final interview for the role! I did a few phone interviews, then I was invited in to meet with the team. It was a crazy ride!
Did they test your knowledge during the interview?
Well I think they already knew all about Udacity, so they pretty much assumed that my Nanodegree program meant I knew the technical part. But they did want to know if I could apply that knowledge. In the final interview in-house they asked about my technical understanding. They basically showed me all the things they wanted to get done, and then asked questions to find out if I had the knowledge and skills to do those tasks. It sounds tough, but I felt really well prepared for that—my Udacity experience meant I had all the skills they needed, I had a portfolio I could refer to, and I could answer all their questions.
And are you enjoying your new role?
I love it. I’ve been here now about three months and I think, honestly, it’s the best company to work for in the country. I love my work every day. I don’t even mind when it’s Sunday and I have to go to work the next day. I’m just really looking forward to the work and being in the office. They demand a lot from you, but they also offer so many opportunities to grow and do amazing work with them.
Have you had chance to put the skills you gained in your Nanodegree program to the test at work?
Absolutely! I use my Python skills everyday. I was actually using it right before we spoke. And I use Tableau, the visualization tool for data, on a daily basis. The team regularly needs various data visualizations, and before I was recruited, there weren’t any Tableau experts. So I came in at a great time! I’ve already helped build three or four dashboards that are super useful for the whole team.
You had a really positive mindset about your challenges finding an aerospace job. How do you feel about that time in your life now?
I think the aerospace job search was really challenging and tough at times. But now I view that whole period as giving me the opportunity to be really resourceful and look for other areas to apply my skills. What I’ve managed to achieve is really beyond the dream scenario I had when I originally signed up for the Nanodegree program. I thought I might be able to give my career a little push, perhaps get a start in something. But what I do is absolutely amazing and goes far beyond what I thought I could have achieved. I am really happy with where I am right now.
That’s such a great attitude to have Alexandre! With such a positive reaction to the challenge of finding a job, it’s no surprise that you’ve been able to find success at a great company. The resourcefulness you talk about is a great way to describe being open to reevaluating what you want to do, and then going out and getting the skills you need to do take that new path. Congratulations!