In this series, WeWork’s director of digital community selects a WeWork member to get to know better, sharing her fun findings with the rest of the community.
As chief data scientist at Metis, what do you do?
Metis is a premier data science training company. We have four pillars: data science bootcamps, corporate training, professional development, and online courses. We teach people the basics of data science in a 12-week immersive bootcamp. After they graduate, we help them get jobs in the industry. We also run trainings for corporations.
I oversee curriculum development for all these different areas of Metis, including thought leadership, by managing our team of 18 senior data scientists. They create content and speak at conferences about the trends they see. I also manage the content and the creation of new courses.
We also host professional development courses in the evenings at WeWork for working professionals in one particular aspect of data science, such as visualization and big data tools.
How do you get interested in physics?
Growing up in Mexico City, I was discouraged from pursuing a career in science and physics. I was told that I could not do it, and should not, because I was a girl. But without telling my parents and teachers, I applied to schools in the U.S. in my early 20s, and I received a full scholarship to Brandeis University.
Thanks to a mentor, I was able change my major from philosophy to physics. He believed in me and told me I could do it. I went from being a woman who had no confidence in doing math and physics, to being admitted to the Ph.D. program in physics at Stanford. And I became the first Mexican woman to graduate from the physics Ph.D. program at Stanford, studying under a Nobel Prize winner.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I don’t know where my initial inspiration came from. It’s more from being an extremely curious person and not the accepting the answers I was told. I always wanted to find out the ultimate truth about how things worked. That fire inside of me, that curiosity, is the essence behind data science. Just as I received help, I feel it’s my responsibility to mentor other young women who are attracted to a career in science or technology but for some reason, either social or financial, feel like they cannot achieve their dreams.
In addition to your work at Metis, you host the Discovery Channel’s Outrageous Acts of Science. What’s that like?
We basically analyze hundreds of YouTube and online videos of people doing amazing and seemingly impossible things. As a group of scientists, we explain how can these videos happen without people getting seriously injured.
Some of the most successful videos are of people doing things in their backyards, so-called “citizen science.” These are experiments where they jump on a large balloon filled with water, filmed in super-slow motion, and at some point, the balloon just explodes, rips in half, and you see the beautiful particles of water going all over the place. It shows you how these physical reactions happen.
There are also very sophisticated videos, like a guy who uses a motorcycle to surf in the ocean. The audience has to tell if it’s real or fake. Our job as scientists is to examine the laws of physics, science, or chemistry to decide if they are real or false. But it’s up to viewers to guess that too.
What’s the last great book you read?
One of my favorite books that I keep re-reading is by a physicist named Richard Feynman. And it’s called The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. You don’t have to be a physicist to appreciate it. He talks about his life, and his travels. It’s not about physics, per se, but about an incredible character.
I love the environment. It’s such a diverse place. There are companies in all kinds of fields, and I get to interact with lots of different people. We run our bootcamp out of NoMad, renting one of the large classrooms on the third floor, and we host talks. Everyone is so helpful and warm.
Also, as a new mom, now I appreciate that we have a mother’s room there where I can go. The facilities are wonderful and really make you feel welcome and part of the ecosystem.
Any great advice for other female professionals?
Yes. Don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams cannot become a reality.