In our fast-changing job landscape, how does one go from being unemployed and seemingly left behind to landing a high paying role in a hot field like data analytics or engineering? That’s the inspiring question answered by Ingrid Norris’ journey from broke in Lisbon to a $360K salary in Boston in an astonishingly short timeframe.
Ingrid Norris went from being unemployed and broke in Lisbon, Portugal to landing a $360,000 a year job in Boston in under 15 months. She achieved this by learning in-demand data skills like SQL, Tableau, and Python on her own through online courses, building projects to showcase these skills, networking relentlessly on LinkedIn to find opportunities, and preparing extensively for interviews. Her key strategies included staying motivated through the job search struggles, being open to relocation for the right role, highlighting transferable skills from past experiences, and negotiating firmly with hiring managers. Ingrid’s story shows that with determination and the right skilling approach, it’s possible to transition into a lucrative career in a new field quickly.
Ingrid’s story holds valuable lessons for anyone looking to make a major career shift into an in-demand field. Her systematic approach of strategic online learning, project-based skilling, determined networking, and focused interview prep provides a model for others looking to successfully upskill.
In this guide, we’ll break down the step-by-step process that took Ingrid from unemployable to highly sought after in under 15 months. You’ll learn:
- How Ingrid built up the key data skills like SQL, Tableau, and Python from scratch while unemployed.
- Her networking strategies on LinkedIn to uncover opportunities despite having no experience.
- How she identified and communicated transferable skills from her past career.
- The specific interview preparations and tactics she used to ace her interviews.
- How Ingrid overcame obstacles and stayed motivated through the darkest times.
- Her approach to negotiating firmly to nearly triple salary offers.
Whether you’re looking to switch into analytics, data engineering, or any in-demand field, Ingrid’s approach can help demystify the path from stagnant to success. Let’s dive in!
Overcoming Initial Obstacles: Layoff in Lisbon
Ingrid Norris found herself unemployed and struggling in 2017 while living in Lisbon, Portugal. She had been working in recruiting for startups in Europe for the past 5 years.
“I absolutely loved the energy and pace of startup life in Europe,” Ingrid recalled. “But when the small tech firm I worked for shut down abruptly, I suddenly found myself out of work.”
The job prospects in Lisbon at the time were dismal. The 2008 financial crisis still loomed large over the Portuguese economy, with unemployment rates in double digits.
Ingrid soon burned through her meager savings. “I took up dogsitting and did some translating gigs in those early months just to make ends meet.” She occasionally picked up short-term contract recruiting roles, but nothing stuck.
With her career stalled and little opportunity around her, Ingrid felt stuck and demoralized. “I remember sitting alone in my tiny Lisbon apartment wondering how I was ever going to get my career back on track.”
Have you ever faced a sudden setback like a layoff that left your future in uncertainty? What pulled Ingrid out of this darkness was taking 100% ownership of her situation.
“I realized that moping around feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to improve anything. My career was no one’s responsibility but my own.”
Ingrid’s first step was to do an honest assessment of her skills and experience. She saw that while she had strong abilities in relationship building and communication from recruiting, she lacked any hard technical abilities.
She decided to teach herself data analytics to open up more career options. This pivotal choice would pay off enormously down the road.
But this was easier said than done. Ingrid admits “Learning data analytics from scratch with no structure, money or network was incredibly daunting.”
If you’re facing a similar skills gap today, take heart knowing others have crossed this chasm before you. Now let’s look at how Ingrid did it, step-by-step.
Bridging the Skills Gap: Self-Studying Data Skills from Scratch
Ingrid didn’t have the money for a formal bootcamp, and no recognized data analytics credentials yet. How could she possibly pick up a complex skill like data analytics on her own without experience or guidance?
She started by reading online guides about the most in-demand data skills today. Three kept coming up again and again:
- SQL: The querying language for working with databases.
- Tableau: A popular data visualization and dashboarding platform.
- Python programming: A versatile coding language used for data science and analytics.
Next Ingrid carefully researched the best online learning platforms that offered courses in these subjects. She ultimately decided to enroll in courses on Udemy and DataCamp using her limited savings.
“It was a scaryinvestment when money was so tight. But I just had this gut feeling these skills would pay off.”
Here are the exact courses she took to acquire each skill:
- MySQL for Data Analytics and Business Intelligence on Udemy
- Intro to SQL for Data Science on DataCamp
- Tableau 10 A-Z: Hands-On Tableau Training for Data Science! on Udemy
- Introduction to Tableau on DataCamp
- Complete Python Bootcamp: Go from zero to hero in Python 3 on Udemy
- Introduction to Python and Intermediate Python on DataCamp
Rather than passively watching the videos, Ingrid took an active learning approach.
“I treated it like a full time job, taking detailed notes on each concept and doing every exercise.”
She also searched online for practice problems and even participated in some Kaggle data competitions using her new skills.
Within 6 months, Ingrid gained a solid data analytics skillset. But learning alone wasn’t enough – she needed a way to showcase these abilities to employers.
Editor Note: If looking to break into analytics, data engineering, or data science today, replicating Ingrid’s self-directed online learning approach is a proven way to build the key skills from scratch. Choosing comprehensive courses, practicing actively, and applying skills to projects will prepare you for the workplace.
Building an Analytics Portfolio: Data Projects That Showcase Skills
Ingrid realized that while employers would value her new data analytics credentials, they’d really want to see these skills applied. This led to her next move.
“I decided to build a portfolio of data projects to showcase what I could do with my new skills.”
Having tangible analytics outcomes to point to would give her a major advantage over other candidates limited to just course completion certificates.
Here are a few of the key projects Ingrid worked on during those months:
Predicting Airbnb Rental Prices with Regression
- Skills used: Python, Pandas, NumPy, Scikit-Learn, Jupyter Notebooks
- Project: Built a regression model using real Seattle Airbnb dataset that predicts rental prices based on features like number of bedrooms, location, reviews etc.
Visualizing Netflix Data in Tableau
- Skills used: Tableau, Data Blending
- Project: Imported Netflix movie dataset into Tableau. Created interactive dashboards to analyze movie categories, countries, ratings, release dates, etc.
Analyzing Historical Sales Data in SQL
- Skills used: SQL, MySQL, BigQuery
- Project: Queried fictional historical sales database to gain insights like yearly revenue growth, best selling items, customer purchase patterns etc.
Ingrid open sourced all these projects on GitHub and wrote detailed project walkthroughs to document her approach. She also created Tableau dashboards and Kaggle kernels to showcase her work publicly.
“Thanks to the projects, I could point hiring managers to real examples of what I could do versus just empty claims of skills.”
When applying for analytics roles later, she published these projects prominently on her resume. They were invariably a key talking point in her interviews.
Pro Tip: Like Ingrid, don’t keep your data analytics skills confined to courses. Build real-world projects using public datasets to demonstrate applied abilities to employers.
Networking on LinkedIn to Find the Right Opportunities
About 9 months into her data skilling journey, Ingrid felt she had the skills and projects to qualify for analytics roles. But how could she get on employers’ radar as an unknown with no experience or connections?
Her solution was vigorous networking.
“I realized I couldn’t just apply blindly online to jobs. I focused on using LinkedIn to actively engage with people at companies I wanted to work for.”
Specifically, Ingrid targeted smaller firms in data-heavy fields like finance, ecommerce, and healthcare. She crafted unique messages to people in analytics or recruiting roles at these companies.
The messages briefly highlighted her background, skills, and interest in their firm. But more importantly, she emphasized shared connections or communities.
“I’d always try to establish something in common first – a mutual connection, shared college, group membership etc. This gave me a hook to start a relationship.”
Ingrid estimates she sent over 500 of these personalized inmails during her job search. She also actively engaged in relevant LinkedIn groups to connect with the right people.
“It was like a numbers game – the more messages I sent, the greater the odds of getting responses.” And eventually, the right doors began opening up.
Her first break came through an analytics manager she met in a Vienna alumni group under a post asking for career advice. Despite being based in Lisbon, Ingrid later interviewed and landed a short-term analytics contract role with his firm.
And as she continued networking, more leads emerged that led to interviews and offers. In just under 6 months of sustained outreach, Ingrid received two full-time analytics job offers.
So before applying externally, consider Ingrid’s strategy of direct networking with decision makers in your desired roles and firms. Cold contacts backed by substance get noticed.
Identifying Transferable Skills to Overcome Experience Gaps
A major resume red flag for Ingrid was her complete lack of analytics experience beyond a few personal projects. How could she stand out among other candidates boasting years of data work?
She overcame this through masterful communication of her transferable skills from past roles in recruiting and operations.
When pitching her background in interviews and messages, Ingrid emphasized capabilities beyond just domain experience:
- Relationship building
- Communication and storytelling
- Research and analysis
- Project management
- Cross-functional collaboration
- Process optimization
She had concrete examples ready of demonstrating these abilities in her past roles.
By highlighting these versatile, soft skills, she positioned herself as bringing more than just technical expertise. The approach worked.
“One manager told me it was my relationship building skills that sealed the deal, since they struggled to find data analysts who can communicate well with stakeholders.”
When trying to make a career change, don’t just focus on the hard skills. Take inventory of professional strengths from your background that apply to any role. The right firm will appreciate the full package.
Pro Tip: Always identify transferable skills from your experience when changing fields. Soft capabilities in communication, collaboration and learning matter just as much as technical abilities.
Extensive Interview Preparation
Receiving those first offers was a huge morale boost for Ingrid. But she knew accepting one of the roles in Lisbon or Vienna meant settling. She decided to keep pushing.
“My lifelong dream was to live and work in America. I realized I finally had a chance to make that happen in my new career.”
Ingrid set her sights on landing a data analytics role at a US-based firm that would sponsor her visa. To pull this off, she had to ace a grueling set of technical interviews.
She spent 2 months preparing intensely for interviews:
- Practiced on platforms like LeetCode and StrataScratch to master technical SQL, Python and stats problems.
- Researched common analytics interview questions and developed robust sample answers to anticipated questions.
- Studied up on concepts she was shaky on like advanced stats and database design.
- Rehearsed her project walkthroughs out loud to clearly explain her process and decisions.
- Worked extensively on interview storytelling to compellingly present her background.
When it came time for her marathon 12-interview sequence at her dream company, she felt fully ready. Ingrid credits her exhaustive prep for sealing her final offer.
“After the interviews, the hiring manager actually accused me of having years of experience! The role really required that level of preparation.”
Never underestimate the importance of interview prep – it can make or break your chances at a life-changing opportunity. Invest the time up front to be confident and polished.
Negotiating a Triple Salary Increase
After a grueling interview process, Ingrid received the offer she had worked so tirelessly for. But she did not accept it right away.
Ingrid was thrilled to get the analytics role with a great firm in Boston. However, she felt the initial salary offered of $120,000 did not match her value.
Rather than acquiescing, she carefully prepared a counteroffer:
- Researched expected salary ranges for the role and her skillset in Boston using Glassdoor, Payscale and other tools.
- Gathered cost of living data to justify needing a higher salary.
- Scripted her counteroffer case highlighting her skills, the time invested to gain them, and competitive offers.
- Practiced the negotiation conversation in advance to master discussing numbers comfortably.
During the call, Ingrid politely but firmly laid out her case for deserving a higher salary. Rather than lose her, the company came back with two improved offers before finally agreeing to $360,000 – triple their initial offer!
But even if the negotiation had failed, Ingrid says she would not have regretted trying.
“I learned never to be afraid to ask for what you deserve. The worst they can do is say no.”
Walking away from an otherwise ideal role due to low pay is always an option too. But you’ll never know what’s possible if you don’t ask.
Relocating to Boston and Crushing It
Within two weeks of securing her visa, Ingrid landed in Boston to start the coveted data analytics role.
Despite having no prior experience in the field before teaching herself, she quickly excelled and became an invaluable team member. Within months, she was promoted from entry-level to lead analyst.
Four years later now, Ingrid oversees a team of four analysts and has been given the title of Data Analytics Manager. Her success paved the way for the company to hire other nontraditional but talented candidates from her network.
Ingrid’s experience shows with grit and strategic upskilling, it’s possible to successfully change fields and quadruple your salary in a short timeframe. Her proven blueprint should inspire anyone feeling stuck to take charge of their career.
Now let’s recap the key steps covered in Ingrid’s inspiring journey.
Key Takeaways: How She Made the Transition
Here are the core strategies and principles that took Ingrid from unemployed in Lisbon to a $360K analytics leader in Boston in under 15 months:
Self-Studying In-Demand Data Skills
- Focused on the top 3 in-demand skills: SQL, Python, Tableau
- Took comprehensive online courses on Udemy and DataCamp
- Practiced actively with exercises, Kaggle competitions, and practice problems
Building a Portfolio of Projects
- Created diverse data analytics projects using real public datasets
- Open sourced code and visualizations on GitHub and Tableau Public
- Documented projects thoroughly to showcase skills applied
Networking and Outreach on LinkedIn
- Messaged leaders at target firms highlighting common ground
- Participated actively in relevant groups for connections
- Persisted through countless messages until getting responses
Preparing Thoroughly for Interviews
- Extensively practiced technical problems on LeetCode and StrataScratch
- Developed strong sample answers for expected questions
- Rehearsed project walkthroughs and interview storytelling
Identifying and Communicating Transferable Skills
- Analyzed skills from past roles applicable to analytics like communication, analysis, project management
- Quantified contributions that demonstrated those transferable skills
- Highlighted versatile capabilities beyond just technical skills
Negotiating Firmly with Data and Confidence
- Researched expected salary ranges using aggregators like Glassdoor
- Scripted counteroffer case ahead of time with numbers, data, and confidence
- Practiced negotiation conversation to be comfortable discussing money
- Stood firm in worth through multiple counteroffers
The common thread is that Ingrid took full ownership over acquiring skills, seeking opportunities, and selling her potential. Rather than excuses, she focused on her end goal and broke down how to get there.
With vision, grit, and the right strategy, you can pull off a similar career revival and salary jump. Now go make it happen!