October 8, 2019

From econ to DS


Okay, so another question that I receive in my DMS almost all the time is

“how did you become a data scientist? you're an econ major!” .

Yes, I am an economist and I am proud. ( Cute, I know!)

Economics is a good general training program that wires your brain to think in terms of systems and teaches you about data. Check out econometric courses or advanced macro books, you will understand what I mean.

But, my journey to data science started when I was second or third year undergrad. I was dreaming about doing Ph.D. in economics because everyone around was saying that Ph.D. is super cool and being a researcher is somewhat proof that you are super smart. So, I decided to take as much math classes as I could to get into Ph.D. programs and also french, Because which girl doesn’t dream to be a sophisticated french woman in Paris?

So the third year of my undergrad, when I finally decided to take French classes, they put a priority for freshmen students and those freshmen took aaaaall the classes and no spots were left for me. I was annoyed, so I went to the head of the economics department to complain. I know I was thinking too much of myself at that time, I mean going to HEAD of ECONOMICS Department to COMPLAIN about FRENCH!

Anyway, 10 min into the conversation and he “mildly suggests” that French is not a very smart choice for me….


Dude, what are you talking about? I wanna be a sophisticated french woman? I don’t care I look Chinese I just wanna speak French and be pretty!


But my professor was a smart guy, he knows what he is talking about and he actually had good reasoning. You see, I was studying for free during my undergrad and I could take any class I want. So. he told me not to waste my free credits and learn something I would never be able to learn outside of school, things like ….TA DA DA …programming!

I always thought it’s nerdy and it’s only for boys, and I don’t know why I decided to give it a try.

And there I was going into my third year undergrad, Fall semester, and I was taking Probability, Linear Algebra, Calculus III, Econometrics I and Programming for Scientist and Engineers all in one take. The CSCI 151 Programming for Scientist and Engineers course turned out to be in C++ and the professor that I got was one of the funniest guys in the department and I ended up taking him because nobody else wanted to take him, but it worked out great for me.

I was also taking probability that I mentioned above, but I wasn’t very diligent and I ended up getting B+ in that class. That professor was tough and he didn’t want to give me a spot in the statistics class next semester, because I got B and not A. He said only A students could take his classes, but I liked the professor so much I didn’t care and kept asking him about the extra place, which he finally gave me and I ended up getting A in that class eventually. I think me being super annoying and diligent and getting almost always the best scores in stats class made him kinder to me. lol. *Insert montage of a hardworking nerdy Togzhan in the library*

But, somewhat in the beginning of the Spring semester, when I was acing my stats class and acing my another programming course CSCI 152 Performance and Data Structures, I stumbled upon this post


It was the first time I have ever read about machine learning, data science and AI and that NYU has masters that can teach me about it. I started digging more and more and I realized this is actually what I freaking would love to do for my living. Coincidentally, around the same time, my stats professor suggested me I should look up data mining and that I’d be good at it. This is where I freaked out of happiness because somebody way smarter than me with Ph.D. degree says that I can be good at smth as complicated as stats and data science. OMFG. I felt so seen.

well, after immense googling sessions I realized I need to improve my resume before applying to masters and that’s how I ended up doing research in computer vision with the above mentioned CS professor that nobody else wanted to take while taking more and more classes in stats and CS.

Eventually, these are all the classes I ended up taking:

Calculus I , II , III

Linear Algebra



Econometrics I

Econometrics II

Real Analysis

Statistical Programming

Programming for Scientist and Engineers

Performance and Data Structure

Database systems

Web programming

Looking back, those professors honestly changed my life. Stats professor helped me figure out what kind of things I would like to do with my stats knowledge, my CS professor agreed to take me as RA and my Econ professor would just be nice and give me good advises.

I am not that smart and super special, those guys helped me figure out what I wanna be when I grow up!

So, don’t expect much from me. haha :)

Lol, so this is how I became data scientist, by merely being lucky