Vicki Boykis - Econ Major Turned Machine Learning Engineer #68


Vicki Boykis is currently a machine learning engineer at Automattic as well as a published writer on topics in the data science space.

Vicki received a Bachelors degree in Economics from Penn State and her MBA from Temple. That’s right, she didn’t study computer science in university! She became curious in software engineering at her job at Comcast. She decided to learn on her own with a little help from her peers. Oh, and she took a few online courses from a community college!

Vicki has 10+ years’ experience in helping companies across a broad range of industries make their data actionable. Most recently, she has built machine learning data products in Python but she has also worked with R, Tableau, Spark (Scala and Python), and Hadoop.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading, running, and mentoring people new to the tech industry.

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Episode Summary

“Moving into the data science space was almost like a stroke of luck because I had no idea that it even existed.”

“I knew that if I did a Coursera course I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on it because I wouldn’t feel like there was enough at stake. But the community college program was for actual credits and you get an actual certificate. It felt a little more structured and a little more real to me.”

“For my MBA program what really helped me was taking accounting and finance classes. I started to understand that the people who manage companies and the people who are responsible for budgets think in terms of revenue and costs of projects and opportunity costs.”

—Vicki Boykis

Key Milestones

  1. How did Vicki get into economics and financial analysis?
  2. Vicki worked at Comcast in a business intelligence role. How did this role allow her to move into data science?
  3. In 2016, Vicki went to community college to take some computer science courses. What was it like going back to school after working for more than a few years?
  4. Data science engineer vs machine learning engineer
  5. How has having an Econ and MBA degree helped Vicki in her career?
  6. These days, Vicki is a manager of data science and engineering. Why did she choose to move into management?
  7. How does Vicki approach team building in data science?
  8. Vicki is also a writer an an author. In what ways has this helped her career?

Additional Resources

Vicki suggests anyone getting into tech should read Hacker News! -

Mike Gualtieri – Tech Analyst at Forrester (#38) - Previous episode mentioned