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Engineering Your Future: Learn About EPAM’s Emerging Engineers Lab with Ariani Herrera

In our second feature article of our Emerging Engineers Lab series, meet Ariani Herrera, Junior Data Scientist at EPAM, who discusses her career move from finance to technology and provides some perspective on being a woman in the tech industry.  

EPAM’s Emerging Engineers Lab (EEL) is a 10-week paid training program based in the US, where participants work alongside industry experts and receive an education tailored to their career interests. At the end of the program, participants are reviewed by their mentor, project lead and a client to become full-time employees.  

Here’s what Ariani had to say: 

You began your career in the finance industry but switched into a data science role. What prompted you to make the transition?  

Data science is an innovative field that touches every human’s life. This discipline not only involves analyzing data but improving it to gain valuable insights. I was an applied math major in undergrad and have always enjoyed utilizing mathematics to solve problems. The more I learned about data science’s innovative impact on the world through statistics, mathematics and computer science, I realized data science was the career path for me. I started taking online classes and utilizing Kaggle to practice my skills. When I realized I could do something involving my passion for mathematics that could potentially have an impact on the world, I did everything I could to break into the data science industry. 

How has EPAM’s Emerging Engineers Lab guided you through the transition from finance to the technology industry?  

EPAM’s Emerging Engineers Lab was instrumental to my transition into the technology industry.  The cutting-edge topics covered and its applications to real life business problems helped me apply data science in a meaningful way. The mentors and technology experts at EPAM were crucial in guiding me and enhancing my data science knowledge. All my questions were answered, and my mentors always encouraged me to reach out if I needed them. This level of support and knowledge, combined with working hard, can take you extremely far. The tasks and topics I learned about enabled me to hit the ground running and become an effective member of my team as soon as I partnered with a client.  

When you first started your career in the technology industry, what were some obstacles you had to overcome? What were some of your greatest successes? 

Changing jobs or careers will always involve obstacles, whether its learning to navigate a new company or learning a completely new skillset. As a data scientist, there are many other skills you need to learn and utilize every day. I initially lacked knowledge of various technologies, however I took the opportunity to learn more about these technologies so I could be more effective in my new role. Taking time outside of work to increase my knowledge on these cutting-edge topics has been instrumental to my success. A strong foundation in mathematics and statistics has helped me understand how to draw valuable insights from data. Despite being new at this job, the extra time I spent building my skills, as well as my background, have been extremely effective in using data science to help our customer’s bottom line. I am extremely proud of my work so far and have already received positive feedback from the client.  

What are some of the things you do to stay up-to-date on current industry trends and practices in the tech space? 

Data science is constantly evolving due to its bottom-line impact across all industries around the world. It is extremely important to stay on top of new algorithms, research and breakthroughs in the industry.  One of the most amazing things about the data science industry is that people are constantly willing to share their code. Github and Kaggle are amazing resources. I follow various data scientists on YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, as many experts post articles and extremely informative links. I am constantly looking at academic papers and industry research. Many companies make their libraries available to the public, so it’s important to constantly search and read what’s being released to the public. Knowledge of these new industry trends and practices help you become a competitive data scientist.   

Why did you ultimately choose the EEL with EPAM to begin your career in software engineering? 

Participating in the Emerging Engineers Lab with EPAM gave me what I needed to jumpstart my career. The role was exciting to me because of the breadth of the projects I could work on and the diverse sectors where EPAM works. At EPAM, I was surrounded by subject matter experts who gave me the support I needed throughout the program. My mentors were there for me every step of the way and helped me to see the big picture and think about things from a business perspective. Prior to working with my current client, I already felt like I was contributing to the project because they were there for me from day one. The Emerging Engineers Lab gave me a fresh start and great opportunity. From the first day, I was given the support I needed from my mentors to feel that anything is possible. At EPAM, I had the rights tools, support and drive to know that I could really grow my career here. 

How has EPAM empowered you to embrace being a woman in tech? 

EPAM has provided every element of support needed for my success. They provided me with access to highly skilled data science professionals that offered support and mentorship. My managers are always available whenever I have a question or need guidance. Even for areas outside of data science, such as human resource questions, I had designated people to walk me through the company’s policies. Having this level of support enables you to stay focused on enhancing your skills and industry knowledge.  

What advice can you give to aspiring women technologists who are just starting out in their careers? 

The foundation of being a good data scientist is having strong technical skills particularly in mathematics and statistics. I would tell women to stay on top of these technical skills and read a lot about the data science industry. It’s important to leverage other successful women in the industry to ask them about their daily activities and use that to grow personally and professionally. Employers are usually impressed when you can demonstrate how you have applied your data science knowledge on a personal project. Being able to speak about your thought process and intuition behind your decision-making will go a long way.  

When you’re not at work, what do you enjoy doing? 

I really love fitness, particularly yoga. I practice four to five times a week. I enjoy cooking and watching cooking shows, and then afterwards attempting to recreate recipes and make them my own. I have been to 25 countries, so I truly enjoying traveling the world, learning about new cultures and broadening my horizons to look at the world from new perspectives. 

What does being an EPAMer mean to you?  

The opportunity to be part of EPAM has meant everything to me. I spent years in finance always knowing it was not for me. I knew I wanted to use my technical background to do more analytical and meaningful work. EPAM not only provided me with the opportunity to fulfill my passion, but also provided an amazing support system for me to ensure my success along the way. I couldn’t be happier with my coworkers and superiors. Any time I have expressed the desire to learn more or needed guidance, EPAM’s community has always gone above and beyond. I am thankful to be part of this organization and community of intelligent engineers. Becoming a part of EPAM’s community has been more than a job – it’s been the jumpstart to a meaningful career.