From Scrubs to SQL: Chris Lichliter’s Unconventional Path to Data Science
As the lead anesthesia technician in a Level I Trauma Center at Baylor University Medical Center, Chris Lichliter spent his workdays assisting anesthesia providers during transplant and trauma surgeries. His leadership supported a successful eight-person team — but the high-pressure environment was taking a toll.
“The work was so physically and emotionally demanding. I wanted a less taxing job and more control over my day-to-day decisions at work,” he explained.
In an effort to transition out of the medical world, Chris started reevaluating his interests. A longtime subscriber to The Economist, he was fascinated by data visualization as it relates to data journalism.
Eager to understand the fundamentals of data science beyond reading his favorite publication, Chris enrolled in the SMU Data Science Boot Camp.
Getting up to speed
Despite his limited knowledge of programming and statistics, Chris found immediate success in asking the right questions.
“The boot camp emphasized the importance of asking effective questions. In data science, you are often given broad data with very little information. I learned quickly that better questions lead to better analysis,” he explained.
For Chris, it wasn’t enough to learn how to use a new programming tool or language — he was determined to understand the reasoning behind it as well.
His commitment to continuing education was challenging in addition to a full-time job. Although boot camp was part-time, Chris was still investing 20 hours or more every week.
“I wanted to take full advantage of the optional opportunities for improvement in order to make the most of this experience,” he said.
Building new industry relationships
The boot camp offered Chris an entry point into the tech industry, helping him build relationships with fellow newcomers as well as more experienced upskillers. Over Slack, Chris got to know his cohort well.
“There was a surprising amount of connectivity during class, despite the fact that you’re sharing a Zoom room with over 20 people,” he said.
This community offered support with the challenging course load — not to mention the reality of a global pandemic.
“You really got to know people’s personalities by signing on weekly,” said Chris. “When we were doing mundane data cleaning tasks, there were opportunities for conversation and banter. It was great to be a part of a community.”
Diving into data at Lone Wolf Technologies
Supported by his cohort and new Python, front-end web visualization and fundamental statistics skills, Chris landed a new job at Lone Wolf Technologies, an end-to-end technology firm for real estate agents and brokers.
“I work with data from our back office and transaction management software, so it’s entirely new to me,” he said. “I don’t have any domain knowledge in real estate, but I do have the skills to work with data, ask effective questions, and in turn learn about the real estate industry.”
A promising future, filled with the right questions
If Chris hadn’t stopped to ask himself what he wanted out of his career, he may never have enrolled in the boot camp and landed a new data analyst role. While the future is always uncertain, Chris will surely continue following his curiosity and asking the right questions.
“In data analysis, you aren’t necessarily looking for answers, but you’re looking for the next question to ask. Each insight is a stepping stone to the next question and the next. That foundation is essential to data science and life.”
Looking to pivot in your career? Explore SMU Boot Camps in coding, data science, fintech, and cybersecurity.