How this Immigrant from Africa with No Experience Cracked a Data Scientist position @ IBM

What was your motivation to move to the USA?

My motivation to move to the US was ambition-driven and future-oriented. I came from a humble background in Nigeria where I faced several challenges ranging from inadequate access to opportunities, lack of role models, not having enough jobs in my country, and not knowing anyone who would give me a break and help me succeed.

How did you decide what education/career to pursue as an immigrant?

Deciding on an education/career path requires a lot of reflection, research, personal assessment and also identifying one’s passion, purpose, interest, and goal.

What are the top strategies that worked for you to secure an internship?

1. START EARLY

My top strategy was to start early! When I mean early, I mean start doing your research now! Don’t wait until you are at the end of your program before you start. I knew I wanted a career in Data Science. The first thing I did was to research steps to secure a Data Science internship.

  • How do your current skills match the industry you are considering?
  • Do you have soft skills or technical skills that are transferable to the new career you want to pivot in?

2. UPSKILL, UPSKILL, UPSKILL

I knew I was lacking Data Science skills so I spent a whole summer learning all I could. You need to take responsibility for your own development. I also sought out opportunities that would challenge me to grow my technical skills and was not afraid to leave my comfort zone. While I waited to get a full-time job in Nigeria, I spent time developing employable skills through volunteering and short-term jobs which were transferable to subsequent positions I applied for in the US.

3. LINKEDIN TO THE RESCUE!

I can’t stress that enough. Reach out to people on LinkedIn who are on the current track you want to be in, ask questions, and don’t be afraid of rejection!

4. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

Attend Career fairs and student programs where you can network with your peers, industry professionals, and recruiters alike. Some of the referrals, interviews and job offers I received were from reaching out on LinkedIn after attending career fairs and networking events.

5. MENTORSHIP IS KEY

Find mentors and provide value to them as well. Just as my mentors have helped me with advice, career strategy, referrals, etc., I have also connected them with opportunities, people, and insights. Most times, I was just being curious and interested in their ideas, thoughts, and vision.

What advice would you give your younger self today?

Stop worrying too much! Everything is eventually working out. I am more than my circumstances and I believe in myself and my abilities today more than ever!

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