comment by [deleted] ·
2016-04-09T23:47:17.743Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I was one of the students in the first cohort of Signal Data Science. I had a very positive experience with the program--so much so that I decided to turn down looking for $100k+ data science jobs in the Bay Area to join Signal as an assistant instructor, because I believe in what Jonah and Robert are doing and want others to have the same extraordinary experience that I did. Now that I'm working for Signal, what I say about the program should be taken with a grain of salt, but I feel that it's important to share my experience.
To put my reflections in context: Coming into this program, I was very disillusioned with structured education, having had extremely negative experiences in university. (I found the coursework overly structured, onerous, and intellectually unstimulating.) However, prior to the beginning of Signal, I had positive opinions of both Jonah and Robert (they were both friends of friends), so I decided that it might be worth giving the program a try. Within the very first week of instruction, I was already amazed by the speed at which I was learning new material, the ease with which I was picking up R, and how effortless and enjoyable the whole experience was--in stark contrast to all of my previous experiences with structured education.
I was very impressed by both the breadth and the depth of the knowledge of the instructor and the TA (Jonah Sinick and Sam Eisenstat). Although I had done multiple research internships in college, all of which contained at least some tangential relation to data science and statistical techniques and three of which were highly quantitative in nature, they were able to offer me new insights even in areas where I had domain-specific knowledge and training (e.g. in the field of cognitive genomics). They were always available to help me when I got stuck and always acted congenially and professionally. Also, they were able to point me in a number of very fruitful directions for projects and further study, which I pursued to great benefit.
I also benefited greatly from the voluntary pair-programming structure of the program. At the beginning, I wasn't confident in my knowledge of R, but I was paired up with someone who had substantial past experience programming in R. In that single day, I learned more R than I did spending hours working through the R labs in Introduction to Statistical Learning. Afterward, I was similarly able to transmit my newfound expertise to other students, and finally, when I got started on my own projects and on days when I preferred to work independently, I was free to work by myself.
Lastly, there were interview and resume prep sessions every weekend with Robert, which helped me immensely. I still recall how, on the very first Saturday, we started out doing nontechnical interview prep: I stammered in my responses to the example questions and gave uncertain, incomplete responses. I was a total mess. And I still recall how, after an entire intense afternoon of practice (both with other students and with instructors), I was able to answer nontechnical interview questions confidently and fluently, as if I had been practicing these replies for years. I was astounded by the progress I had made in just five or six hours--and I can say the same about all of the Saturday interview prep sessions. It's very clear to me that Robert is an expert in interviewing and the complex dynamics of the job search.
As for the logistics of the program, I was generally happy with how Signal handled things. In particular, the bootcamp was willing to find housing to accommodate students, which is a service that no other bootcamp provides for its students--meaning that I didn't have to worry at all about trying to figure out where I would be living in Berkeley even though I was flying in from Seattle. To be sure, there were certain fixed costs that were unavoidable on account of the cohort being the first cohort, ever, of Signal Data Science, e.g. having to put together furniture for the house like beds and tables--but it was pretty clear to me going in that there was going to be stuff like that which just had to be taken care of. On balance, after considering the opportunity cost of finding and managing housing for students as well as the time saved on my own end, I definitely got an amazing deal on the rent. Of course, living in the same house with other motivated and intelligent students came with its own social and intellectual benefits as well. :-)
Overall, I would enthusiastically recommend the program to a friend. In fact, I have already been doing so to many people I know--because I want my friends to have the same amazing time here that I had!
Replies from: Soothsilver, Vaniver
↑ comment by Soothsilver ·
2016-04-12T21:19:06.817Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I know you are now an employee of Signal but, well, this comment reads so much like an advert that I had trouble focusing on what you say.
You were "disillusioned with traditional education" and once you tried out this new program, you were "amazed at the speed with which you were learning" and "astounded by progress you had made in just a few hours", in boldface, no less! And that's before we got to the redundancy and hyperboles.
I know I should be trying to be #LessWrongMoreNice, but your review really should be taken with a grain of salt.
↑ comment by Vaniver ·
2016-04-10T00:45:41.342Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I decided to turn down looking for $100k+ data science jobs in the Bay Area to join Signal as an assistant instructor
I think looking for jobs as a data scientist would be a valuable experience for you, and "I turned down an offer from ____" and "I decided to not look" send very different signals. There's almost a month between now and the start of your next cohort; that should be plenty of time to see how far you'd get through the funnel.
Replies from: None
↑ comment by [deleted] ·
2016-04-10T01:04:48.442Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Thanks a lot for your reply--I really appreciate it. I agree completely that it would be a very valuable experience for me, and I'd like to get experience with interviewing. I was hoping to do it in this one-month interstitial period, but it's been quite busy for me: there's a lot of stuff that has to be done like building the website, recruiting for future cohorts, curriculum design, and so on and so forth. "I didn't look" might be a worse signal than "I turned down an offer from __", but at the moment I don't have much of a choice in which one I get to send.
Well, there is the case of a genetics data-science-ish startup extending me all but a formal offer last summer, and it would be possible for me to get back in touch with them, I suppose, but that was mostly due to the technical strength I demonstrated in an internship and not due to success in the traditional Bay Area tech company interview -> offer pipeline.