Allow me to introduce Agustina Perez Iriarte, one of our seventeen boot camp graduates from the di-Academy. I met Agustina at our summer coding camp, and I sat down with her to discuss her time before the boot camp, her time during it, and her plans afterward. Having arrived in Brussels last February, Agustina is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Though she had studied literature, her first job out of college required that she learned to code. “I really had to do a lot coding at the job, and I realized that I was good and I was enjoying it” she said, “so maybe this is the kind of job I’d like to do.” She began some training on web programming and web design, receiving two certifications from the Universidad Tecnolólogica de Buenos Aires.
In 2010, Agustina began working for American Express in Argentina. Her boss was interested in doing more work with data, and she volunteered for the job. Though not as a data scientist, for the next four years she worked with data, and she was eventually drawn to data science as a career. “I knew I wanted to do some work with data,” she told me, “and I wanted to do something creative, and I think that data science has the two mixed.”
A natural autodidact, Agustina found MOOCs to be central to developing her technical skills, finding the courses of Andrew Ng and Peter Norvig particularly influential. “I think that I’m mostly self-taught,” she told me. “I’m curious, so whenever I start learning something, I feel that I have a gap and I need to learn something more. And I jump into that, and then I find a gap there and I need to learn something more. I never stop learning.”
Agustina met her husband, Jonathan, in Argentina. After completing his degree in physics, he wanted to take a few months to travel, so he left for South America for three months to do volunteer work in exchange for food and housing. Jonathan began his trip in Equator, however, he loves tango, and couldn’t think of a better place to end his trip than the dance’s birthplace. Two weeks before the end of his trip he arrived in Buenos Aires. Sharing his passion, Agustina met Jonathan dancing tango.
Jonathan is Belgian, and he works as a data scientist for Carrefour. Agustina learned about the di-Academy’s boot camp when he mentioned to her that the company was looking for future employees to send to the boot camp. The more she learned about it, the more interested she became, as he explained to her the goal of the program was to combine academic knowledge with real business cases. Her work on MOOCs had given her lots of theoretical knowledge about data science, but what she found lacking in the material she had learned was the practical aspects. “You don’t have the real experience,” she said, “You’re working with prepared data on real known cases, and I wanted to know what the real story is when you work there.” The community aspect of the boot camp was also central to her interest. “Whenever I worked on MOOCS, I was the only one passionate about data, I didn’t have people that shared the same interests as I did. So I said okay, a group of freaks like me all joined together by the same passion,” she told me, “I’m in.”
Two freaks in their natural habitat
During the first week of the boot camp, the founder of the European Data Innovation Hub and the Brussels Data Science Community, Philippe Van Impe approached her, and asked her what what type of job she was looking for. After showing her startups.be’s website, he asked if she would be interested in working with them. She agreed, and two days later had an interview with Karen Boers, the director of the group. “She’s one passionate woman.” Agustina said, “She spoke for forty minutes nonstop about what they do, and I was extremely convinced I wanted to be part of that.” Her internship mostly consisted in helping startups.be manage their data, cleaning it and restructuring it, and performing analysis, all to get a better picture of what’s going on with startups in Belgium. “I like being part of the start-up environment,” she said. “As a data scientist, normally you think that one way is to work for a big company that has resources, but we discovered with a little company, with a start-up, you have the same resources and the motivation to really have a say, because you’re not part of the ten-data-scientist team. There’s one person there just to try to make the most of it.”
Since the boot camp graduation on December 20th, Agustina has finished her three-month internship, and those of us here at the di-Academy were thrilled to find out that Agustina is in the process of signing a contract with startups.be to join their team full-time.