Think about how the daily news commands your attention. Aside from engaging headlines, its eye-catching infographics run across our screens, providing stunning visuals to audiences all over the world. If you’ve ever felt compelled to create something similar, but have struggled to find the right learning environment or motivation, take a look at the story of Practicum Data Analysis graduate Atajan Abdyyev. He’s proof that self-motivation and a supportive, structured, and immersive environment can launch you into even the most awe-inspiring career.
Searching for the stream
When it comes to tech, you could say that Atajan's pretty experienced. Having spent several years involved in security and network support for an edtech app, he has explored the ins and outs of the IT industry. Nevertheless, Atajan had always strived for progress and improvement, and he soon realized that his job was no longer meeting his needs. "I noticed that I had gotten used to everything I was doing and acquired all the skills needed for that career. I didn't feel that interested anymore." It was time to move on and try something different.
But where to? Well, Atajan had an old passion patiently lingering in his heart: data analytics. This sphere had caught his attention in college. Back then, he had taken a class on data visualization and become instantly hooked. "I spent more time doing this class than the other ones, just because I liked it," he admits. He even tried learning data analytics by himself a while ago but couldn't find an environment that would help him stay on track. "There were programs with pre-recorded classes, but I couldn't finish more than three," he recalls. "I either forgot about them or slacked off. I just couldn't make myself go further." This time around, however, Atajan was really motivated to learn. "In 2020, there were a lot of healthcare-related data tables all over the news with the Covid stats," he says. "I think it affected me subconsciously." Data analytics could give him the opportunity to present information beautifully and succinctly. So, it was time to act.
Atajan searched for online classes where he could learn data analytics on his own, but again, he couldn't find any with a supportive environment. "There wasn't a program with an entire [learning] process and people who could answer my questions immediately. Also, there was no incentive [for me to do anything]." Going to college wasn't an option either: with the little free time his full-time job left him, taking on a commitment like that just wasn't feasible. Even when he came across an ad for the Practicum Data Analysis course, his expectations weren't high. Still, he decided to give it a go.
Adjusting to the waves
Despite his initial doubts, things at Practicum worked in his favor. With a project-based learning process that consisted of theory, coding practice, and assignments, Atajan could read and practice whenever he wanted. At the same time, set project deadlines kept him right on track. "I liked that there were real people and projects [at Practicum], and that you [had] to finish [projects] in a certain amount of time."
Moreover, it was the Practicum environment itself that encouraged him to keep going. All of his assignments were checked by professional code reviewers who gave him feedback and suggested improvements. Also, he could always talk to other students over Slack. If there was something he didn't understand, there was always someone available to help him, which was a pleasant surprise.
Of course, making time for both Practicum and his full-time job presented some challenges. "It was a bit stressful at first because I needed to complete the assignments [and work]," Atajan admits. “I had some late nights, but the more I did it, the more confident I became. I built a habit." He even developed his own learning system: every day, he gave himself a time limit to get everything done. If he couldn’t solve a problem by then, he either left it for the next day or posted his issues on Slack so other students or tutors could assist him. "I [would say], 'I tried this and that, but nothing worked, what do you think of it?'" Besides, overworking blocks inspiration, so he knew where to draw the line. “I tried to not stress too much," Atajan recalls. "When [assignments] took a lot of time with no result, I felt I needed to stop and switch to something else. But I gave myself time to rest on weekends, because if you don't, you start working around the clock."
However, it didn't always go that smoothly. "There was a period when I was really behind on my projects because I was moving," he says. But here Practicum supported him again. "The program admins let me put [my] learning on hold and resume it [with another] cohort."
A new role
When it came time to search for a new job, Atajan approached the hunt with a good understanding of what he wanted. Since he planned to enroll in a master's program, he was strictly on the lookout for part-time roles. “Different sorts of companies [reached out to me]. There were many good options, but I couldn't find one that was okay with me working part-time. But [eventually] I found [a company that was]. They [conduct] search engine optimization analysis and digital marketing, [helping] companies get to the top of Google's search results."
The company asked him to build a dashboard, a skill he had already mastered at Practicum. "I showed them the dashboard I did for one of my Practicum projects, and they liked it a lot." He also presented a project he had completed manually with Python. Luckily, this turned out to be something the company wanted to do in the future. As a result, Atajan secured a data analyst role, and is now working on adapting a tool for the company using Python. "I already finished the first part and my manager liked it. When I’m done, I think it will look great," he shares.
He plans to work with even more data in the future. "I would like to do projects that involve big masses of data, such as public healthcare or climate or public policy research. I like listening to the news and I'd love to be a part of it," Atajan smiles. "I'm curious about what's going on: like how much the ocean level has risen and what regions may be in danger. I'd be very interested in making [those] sort of infographics."
Beautiful infographics, indeed, is a moving force for Atajan, and he advises newbies to leverage it. "Whatever you're learning, try to immediately visualize [it]. Often people try to write before they’ve learned to speak. I think they should try doing a bit of both to see that [the result they aim for] is possible."
Great things are in store for you, Atajan! If his story has inspired you, check out our Data Analytics course today.