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LUCY X WANG

Senior data scientist, BuzzFeed

And - Speaker and writer

What you lack in years of relevant experience, you make up for with new perspectives.

What do you do?

I analyze data. I also harness it to train algorithms to perform intelligent(ish) tasks for humans. At BuzzFeed, I built a content feed ranker, a headline picker, and a social media curator.

Why did you choose this field?

"I was previously never sure of what I wanted to do."

In college I was undecided for as long as possible, trying pre-med, majoring in biology, then also majoring in anthropology later. I explored public health as a way to marry my varied interests, which compelled me to take up a minor in statistics towards the end of my undergrad. This was where I got my very first exposure to data science, and programming in general.

 

One of my homework assignments was to build a model that recognizes handwritten characters from images - a popular project for many data scientists-in-training who are just starting out. It blew my mind. By the time I graduated, I still didn't feel confident in pursuing data science since I felt my experience was so limited. That all changed when I attended a free data science event. Through meeting so many data scientists who all came from such diverse, and often unconventional backgrounds, I mustered the confidence to apply for graduate programs and jobs in this field. 

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

"I'm also happy to say that I'm not some sort of anomaly - stories like mine are very common."

Pivoting into an entirely new field after college. I never considered pursuing anything computational while I was younger - my high school only offered it as an elective and it was dominated by boys. Yet thanks to the revelation I had during my very roundabout college trajectory, I garnered the passion I needed to attain a master's degree in Computer Science, with a focus on Machine Learning, after having taken no prerequisites or Computer Science courses in undergrad. Sometimes I'm still in disbelief. I'm giving conference talks about AI and data science, while my pivot only happened a few years ago! 

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love having a very transferrable toolkit that can be applied to many different domains. Data is everywhere.

Best advice for the next generation

It's never too late to pivot.

Fave app

WeChat - because I get to observe my parents' social media obsession through it.