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Transition to Tech Sean7

The structural change to the oil and gas industry and the transition to a digital economy is having a huge impact on people’s livelihoods and their lives. Career paths have been turned upside down and people must learn new skills to find jobs. Sean MacDonald is one of those people.  In this series of posts during the 12-week course, Sean chronicles the experience of a mid-career professional balancing family obligations and an intense tech training course offered though OCIF recipient Lighthouse Labs.

Well, here it is the culmination of my upskilling pursuit.

Six months ago, I just had been laid off from an engineering job in the oil and gas sector. I had a young family that was about to get bigger. And I was about to embark on an intense tech-training course that was critical to my career-transition plans.

Actually, career-transition“hopes” might have been more accurate than “plans” at the time.  It was an anxious time, and I was more than a little nervous.

If you’ve been following my posts about studying data science and machine learning with Lighthouse Labs, you’ll know I had a few things on the go – completing the course, searching for a new job, and adding a new member to our family.

Spoiler alert: they all came to a dramatic close within one thrilling week!

First and foremost, my wife Cait and I welcome a new daughter, Neve, on Oct. 11 at 6:19 a.m. Our two older daughters Claire, 5, and Rose, 3, were so excited when we brought her home and have been very helpful with their new big sister duties.

Neve is still getting used to her new home and getting her daytimes and night times straightened out (one hopes). As you can imagine, it is wonderful she’s finally here.

MacDonald Family photo

The MacDonald family welcomed their newest member in October

Three days before her arrival, I officially finished my Lighthouse Labs program delivering my capstone project presentation via Demo Day. It was a ton of fun. Friends, family, prospective employers and the public tuned in to see the data science and web development cohorts showcase their work.

The topic I chose was Sentiment Analysis in Sports. I took historical text data from Reddit over the last 10 years and applied machine learning functions to show trends to theoretically assist Major League Baseball clubs with marketing and customer engagement.

I was able to plot when fans were happiest, when they were most miserable and the resulting sentiment trends during each season. (Hello Blue Jays! If you need someone. I’m here). The course was challenging from day one and I am proud of what I accomplished. Ours was the first data science cohort to graduate the Lighthouse Labs program, and everyone delivered incredibly strong bodies of work to demonstrate the power of machine learning.

Two days before my final presentation, I also enthusiastically accepted a job as a Cloud Administrator with a Calgary construction management software company. (Sorry Jays). I went through three rounds of interviews and had a take-home project to complete, a deep dive into Amazon Warehouse Solutions, that presented to the company.

I presented in-person to company management with all the COVID-19 protocols. We talked a lot about culture, goals, and overall fit. I feel optimistic about my new foray into the tech sector. In many ways, the culture of excellence and the focused desire to be productive mirrors my experiences in petroleum engineering. My new role encompasses a whole new set of tasks and challenges, and I’m really looking forward to it. 

Take-home projects were new to me as I started interviewing in this field. It is my understanding these types of projects are somewhat common for tech companies to establish a base level of competencies from candidates. I’ve learned through job fairs, and talking with companies, they are more concerned with your skills than your schooling.

If someone who is self-taught, or educated through less traditional channels, can complete the desired task, they are not out of the running due to lack of formal education.

Even though I didn’t have the direct education related to the position, I was able to demonstrate the skills the company needed. Lighthouse Labs gave me a strong technical basis that actually extended beyond data science. It gave me confidence I can learn new things quickly, thoroughly, and can speak to what I know.

I have spoken with colleagues and friends about their jobs. It seems no matter what your education is, the vast majority of your learning is on the job. I appreciate this company took a chance on me, looked past what I maybe appeared to be  on a piece of paper and focused on what I could do and how I’d fit in on their team.

The last six months have been a strange time, complete with peaks and valleys. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to dive into educational pursuits which have broadened my knowledge set, my career options, and my network. It’s been great connecting with people to tell this story and show how  a career transition is possible.

This is the end of Sean's 12- week journey from being laid off to diversifying his skill set for the technology sector. You can read the full series here. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.  

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