Below I try to highlight what I believe helped shape me and helped equip me for the Information Technology field. This is the actual path I took and I cannot guarantee I would have made it to where I am today, if skipped anything written below.

Lower Education

Highlights of my time from Elementary school all the way up to High school.

Earlier years

  • I am a very independent person, here is a story.
    • My dad told me that when I was still living in colombia, I was working on a math problem (I can’t remember what the exact problem was). He told me I figured it out on my own. My dad was very happy and gave me a hug. He was a math teacher and I am happy he was proud of me.

Elementary

  • It took me around 2.5 years to learn the English language through the ESL (English as a Second Language) program.
  • I started to loose my eye sight in the 1st grade (to this day, I still blame the Nintendo for my loss of vision).
  • I did not talk in school up until the second grade.
  • Around the 2nd or 3rd grade, I scored very high (I do not remember the score) in a math test. This was the first memory that showed me I was good at math.
  • I learned in the 3rd grade to study. I kept failing quizzes and I think the teacher encouraged us to study. It was in third grade that I started to learn to memorize and test myself on the material I was studying.

Info

This was an aha moment for me: I needed to be taught how to study.

  • I was not that good at the English language and even if I made an effort, getting A’s in the English subject was not a reality for me.
  • I remember finishing my work early and then getting in trouble for playing with what ever I had handy by my desk.
  • I wanted to be in the “gifted” program for smart kids. They were treated much better than the regular kids. I convinced the teacher to let me take the test to get in. I took the test but failed. I remember the test was hard and I did not get in.
  • I was introduced to the computer in 5th grade (yes it was a MAC). I enjoyed playing number munchers.

Middle School

  • I joined a typing class in which I really did not learn to type very well. I did enjoy playing all those computer games we had access to.

High School

  • I continued to do well in Math courses and not so well in any other subject.
  • I did take Calculus in High School but later found out that I did not really learn much.
  • I took a computer class and learned a bit of basic and Visual Basic 6
  • I ended up with a GPA high enough to score top 20% of my class. I believe it was around a 3.0, which is a B. This allowed me to go to Community College for free.
  • For the record, the HSCT (Highschool Competency Exam) was not that hard. This was an exam everyone had to pass in order to graduate from High School. The bar was very low.
  • About 10% of my peers dropped out of High School.

Higher Education

Community College

  • Some called Community College the 13th grade, but personally the level of education and the difficulty was much greater than what I experienced in High School.
  • At least another 10% of my High School classmates dropped out the first semester of Community College and decide to simply get a job.
    • The reason was simple, they did not have enough skills to keep up with the pace.
  • To my shock, I was told I needed to go back to Algebra. After I protested that I needed to start in Calculus 1, the math counselor asked me to solve a basic derivative and I had no idea how to do this. I had to concede since I realized I was not fully prepared to take on College level Calculus.
  • I took Algebra, Pre-Calculus, Geometry, and Statistics. I did good on all my math courses, but to be honest, Geometry was difficult for me.
  • For the other subjects, same story here. I did OK but not that great with them.
  • I got a job as a math tutor in the Math lab at the Community College
    • Looking back the skills I learned here have been so valuable. I got paid $5.15/hour, but even if I did this for free, it would have been worth it
      • I am very good at interacting with all kinds of persons on a 1-on-1 basis. Old, young, low skilled, high skilled, men or women, persons in high positions in a company or persons in the lowest positions in a company.
      • I learned to teach
      • I learned how to explain complex/complicated topics to someone who has no idea about them
      • I got even better at math
  • I continued doing well in all my other math courses: Calculus 1, 2, and 3. My last math course was named differential equations.

University

Professional Experience

Highlights of all my employment history after graduating from the University of Florida with a BS in Industrial Engineering and a minor in Business.

First Job - B2B Sales (~$55k per year)

  • To my surprise, having a Bachelors degree in Engineering was not enough to get a job. I interviewed about 3 to 4 places and did not get chosen (I did not interview well). I remember a few of the companies (Sears, Target, Gov’t, CSX) I conducted interviews for.
  • My first job only lasted around 6 months and it was in Business to Business sales. I sold cleaning products.
    • I got some experience in sales, but to be honest, I was not that great.

Second Job - Evaluator (~$15/hour)

  • I moved to Orlando, Florida and got a seasonal job grading standardized tests for the state of Indiana. I asked them to let me grade the math exams, but they decided to let me grade English papers. Imagine the pain I went through. I told them I am not good at English, but that did not matter to them.
  • I learned how they ensured us “graders” actually read and graded the exams as best as we could.
    • They would randomly send us a “fake” exam to grade (we would not be aware of it). If we gave it a bad grade, they would call us to their desk and they would help us understand where we messed up. This is a fantastic idea I have kept till this day. I have added this to my Mental Models section.

Third Job - Data Analyst (~$31k per year)

  • My first job in IT, I worked for the marketing department of a company that bought and sold textbooks in large volumes.
  • Main tools used where Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access
  • I was trusted with over 2.5 million worth of Textbooks on a monthly basis (I am still impressed)
  • I was able to use what I learned in UF to automate a manual task.
    • Manual Task: Compile flat data files into Excel, Prepare the data, and finally make selling decisions for the company one textbook at a time
      • I used Microsoft Access for the heavy data munging tasks and Excel was used to decide how many textbooks and to which wholesaler to sell the books to.
      • This process took anywhere from 1 hour to 2.5 hours and only two persons had the ability to actually do the task
    • Linear Programming - I used the Excel solver to make the selling decisions for me. Each row in the spreadsheet was an independent LP problem, where I was trying to maximize the profit for the company I worked for.
    • I only automated the selling decision piece of the process since at this time I had limited skills
      • I did not have a lot of experience reading files from various sources (flat files, databases)
      • I did not really have enough programming experience to replicate the work done by Microsoft Access and its various queries
        • This is interesting to me as I technically had experience in: basic, Visual Basic 6, C++, and PHP. I did have some programming experience but I was clueless on how to ingest data and prepare it.
      • I did cut down this portion of the manual process from one hour to about 18 seconds. In addition to the time savings, I was able to train staff that normally would not be qualified to perform this task since all they had to do is run an Excel macro.
        • Pro Tip: Coworkers told me not to automate my work because this would mean I am not needed anymore. This is not true. Automation allowed me to hand the task over to other people in the team and move on to new tasks. Rinse and repeat
  • It was at this job that I started to convert checklists provided to me to actual instructions. These checklist were used to help team members perform a task, but I realized that they were missing too much information. I learned that to write good instructions, you need to not skip a step in the process. This then allows you to train other employees and of course it allows you to automate the process.
  • It was at this job that I started to learn other technologies on the job.
    • The process: I would finish my duties as fast as possible, hopefully before lunch, and then I will work on my personal projects. Note I was only able to do this after I got a handle on my current job duties. This has historically taking me about one year.
    • In this job I was learning:
      • PHP - I was web scrapping Ebay with straight PHP and tracking prices for several products
      • Microsoft .net - I was trying to learn web programming in general. I think I was trying to make a game that resembled the company I was working for. I was essentially trying to simulate a company selling a product where the market had various buyers that all had different amounts and process they are willing to buy for.
      • Microsoft Access - I was also trying to create a process that predicted book prices based on historical data I had available. This was probably one of the first projects that I had to learn how to pull data from various sources, put it in a structured format and finally analyze the data. I also had to understand some business logic like lead time. I looked for patterns in textbook categories, in the frequency of editions, in the age of the book. I then tested my logic against historical data to vet my buying algorithm.
        • I ended up using this logic which boiled down to, what books will hold the most value over time so my company can make the most money, and used it to create lists of books that I would recommend the company to buy.
    • Automating tasks
      • Compiling data from various sources
      • Preparing data either via Access queries or Excel commands
    • Automating decisions normally made by humans
      • Using basic if then logic to make decisions
      • Using techniques I learned in school for making decisions
        • Linear Programming
        • Probability
          • Examples
            • Most of the textbook that change editions frequently are risky
            • Textbooks past 2 years are risky
            • Textbooks about Microeconomics are always in demand, buy more of these
          • After I analyzed the data and identified patterns like the ones above, I then was able to create simple programming logic to let the computer make smarter buying/selling decisions.
      • looking for patterns in data
        • This helped me create logic that I can program in order to help the computer make decisions
  • As an aside:
    • I was frustrated I had learned so much math, statistics, and it seemed like most of this math did not help me solve business problems in the real world.
    • I was also frustrated that all the knowledge I learned in school did not help me generate any money. I don’t mean getting a job, I mean starting a business and providing a service.

Fourth Job (~$45k per year)

  • I worked for a reporting team that mainly serviced to the Finance Department
  • The main technologies used where:
  • This was a fantastic opportunity for me because it was here that I learned how to write in sql
    • Simple SELECT, GROUP BY, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE
    • I was able to learn how to create temp tables, populate them, manipulate them
    • I learned how to use variables, loops, and if/then statements
  • I realized that sql for the most part replaced Excel/Macros and Access
    • We still needed Excel to deliver the reports
    • Microsoft Access was obsolete at this point of my career
  • I realized that I learned a bit faster than most of my peers
    • I ended up helping my coworkers all of the time since I was ahead of them
    • I knew all the issues they were facing since I already faced them and solved them
    • I enjoyed helping coworkers as that made me even smarter and it made it easier to be liked since I was constantly helping others
  • I quickly started to perform my old routine here. After a year, I had learned the job and I can do most of my tasks needed for the day by lunch time. Afterwards, I started to continue my learning journey.
  • Projects I completed at this job:
  • I did a lot of practice in compiling data by querying the database
    • I was trying to look for patterns in why customers where leaving the company
      • I suggested that when customers promotion ends, they automatically get put in a plan that is significantly higher and this price shock might be making some of them leave.
      • I did not have control of making changes from my analysis, so I started practicing getting my analysis and putting it in a Word document to present it to my team and higher up folks.

Fifth job - Solopreneur ($80k per year)

  • I moved to the west coast and became a 1099 employee for my old employer
    • I technically had to open an LLC, sign a contract, and I was on my own.
  • I also started to tutor 1-on-1, primarily just Pandas
    • (remote) Bill from Eastern Grain in North Carolina
    • (in person) Tony Williams in California
    • (in person) Khatereh in California, San Jose
    • (remote) Wunderman in California
    • I charged Bill 40/hr
  • Since I worked for my old employer, the technology stacked there stayed the same
  • I started to work on my personal website www.hedaro.com
  • I read the Pandas book Python for Data Analysis by Wes McKinney
    • I read this book many times over and that also included the online documentation
    • As you can imagine, I got really good with this library
  • I was also heavily working on my Web Programming skills and made many dashboards experimenting with the data from my old employer
    • The backend server was always tornado and I mainly stuck with dc.js and leaflet.js for all my visualizations. Any other front end custom logic was either accomplished via javascript or jquery. Basic html/css elements in any webpage where completely done via bootstrap.
      • I eventually tried to convince my old employer to start using them but they decided to use tableau instead. This was a smart move on their part.
  • While I was transitioning out of the 1099 world, I felt the need to create tutorials for all of the technology I learned and this was the Nexus of the material I started to sell on the internet.
    • Data Analysis and Business Modeling with Excel 2013
      • The publisher reached out to me and I ended up getting paid $2,800
      • The book took me 1 month to write and 9 months to edit with the Publisher
    • I decided to write a few more books via Amazon KDP
      • SQL 101 - a very basic cheat sheet. I will admit this book is pretty bare bones.
      • Try Python - for beginners: Book 1 - This was a quick tutorial on how to use the IPython Notebook which is now called the Jupyter Notebook.
      • Try Python - for Excel Developers: Book 1 - This was another quick tutorial on how to go from Microsoft Excel to pandas.
      • Try Python - for beginners: Book 2 - This was another short tutorial on how to get anaconda installed locally and a few common commands to install and manage the python distribution.
      • Python Web Development: Heroku - Book 1 - Another short tutorial that shows the reader how to get a python web application up and running using Heroku.
      • Overall, I enjoyed the process to create the books but I did not spend nearly enough time on them. They lacked content and I really needed to flesh out the material much more than I did. I need to at some point, redeem myself.

Sixth job - Data Analyst (~$85k per year)

  • I am now back as a W2 employee and working in the Gov’t contracting world
  • My technology stack at this position:
  • The good news is that I quickly learned pl sql and even though the coding environment in Microsoft was a lot better, Oracle is just fine.
  • There were some opportunities to analyze data and present data via reports but I did not have a lot of opportunities to automate any decision making.
    • I was able to use CDF (Cumulative Distribution Function) to analyze a table queue
    • I was able to use a moving average to predict when we will finish a task. This number was delivered a weekly to superiors and it had a lot of eyes in it.
      • I also learned that telling my coworkers I am using CDFs, moving averages, and using the median is a big No No. Most folks do not understand the lingo, you will confuse people, you will be asked to explain yourself multiple times, and unfortunately your numbers will not be trusted.
        • Pro tip:
          • When using the median, label it has the average. Trust me on this one.
          • When using any special technique/method/tool in your data analysis, don’t mentioned any of it. Just say “I analyzed the data” and explain your findings and recommendations based on those findings. You are not here to impress folks. Have super simple and clear communication.
  • My main task was to identify and correct duplicate data and I got real good at it.
  • Windows Powershell became my friend as it was the only tool I was able to use to Automate manual tasks
    • I was able to query the database, prepare data, and save the results in Microsoft Excel.
    • I was able to automate tasks that my team was not able to do manually
  • At some point, I was able to get the standard python distribution installed locally
    • I created a tkinter tool that performed the entire data gathering and preparing steps. The tool did not make the final decision on whether the two identities were duplicates but it did save the team a lot of manual labor.
    • I created a lot of scripts that talked to the database and prepared data for the team
  • I continued to document tasks
    • In order to teach others and hand over tasks
    • In order to have a process and improve the process over time
    • In order to see if there were potential ways to automate some of the steps in the process
  • Most of my Data Analysis skills were used to create proposals that were delivered via Word documents
    • Research was done via sql queries and the data was compiled via Microsoft Excel
    • I then look for patterns, for issues, for improvements
    • I then craft my Word document and present the idea to my superiors
  • It was at this job that I got the opportunity to manage a team of 5 team members.
    • I learned that I can teach
    • I learned that I need to have a process for everything
    • I learned that most people do not think like me
    • I learned that having people skills (soft skills) is very important
    • I learned that you cannot manage a team and also be a worker. You have to pick one or you will fail at both roles.
    • I learned that office politics has to be expected and not taken lightly
    • I learned that I have a lot of room to grow in this area

Seventh Job - Senior Data Steward (~$120k per year)

  • I actually joined a team that at least in name, fits me quite well, I am now part of the automation team.
  • The technology stack:
    • python - I am still stuck using the standard library
    • Windows Powershell - Used a lot to automate the set up of tools and environment variables
    • pl sql - Going to the database is not a daily task for me, but I have access to it when I need it
    • jenkins - The CI CD tool we use to test applications and generate reports
    • java - All the tests are written in junit
    • groovy - The language used mainly for jenkins
    • gitlab - Version control
    • Microsoft OneNote - This is the best alternative to Obsidian at work
    • Microsoft Teams - This is how we mainly communicate
  • I am also manage a team of 5 team members
  • The big win for me is picking up a new technology, jenkins
    • The backend uses Rancher Kubernetes and I am responsible for maintaining the pod configuration files.
    • I also maintain all the pipelines and shared libraries
    • jenkins reminds me a lot of all my Web Programming work as there are a lot of moving parts.
  • I have not had the opportunity to use any Data Analysis skills but I can see how a tool like jenkins can be used to create a pipeline that handles a lot of the steps to read, prepare, analyze, and display the data.
  • I continue to create documentation for all my tasks and train team members as often as possible
  • I am now creating exams at work to test team members skill level via Microsoft Forms

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