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Data Science for Impact: Meet Emily

Welcome back to edX Insider, a series where we take a look behind the scenes at edX HQ and feature edXers across different teams. Today, we sit down with Emily Mower, Senior Data Scientist, to discuss her best advice for pursuing a data science career, her role at edX, and more.

Quick Stats:
Name: Emily Mower
Role: Senior Data Scientist
Hometown: Concord, MA
Favorite food: Anything from Dave’s Fresh Pasta

Emily, what do you think makes edX different?
I think the fact that edX is mission-driven and non-profit makes it stand out among other tech and data science opportunities.

What’s your best advice for people who want to pursue a career in data science?
I believe that having a really strong understanding of statistics is the most important foundation for being an effective data scientist. Statistics helps you understand how confident to be in your conclusions and how generalizable your results are (or are not). I highly recommend Joe Blitzstein’s book and edX course on probability (STAT 110). While I haven’t taken this Data Analysis for Social Scientists course from MIT, it looks like it might be a good next step for those looking to build statistical intuition. Also, I would recommend the free online book “Introduction to Statistical Learning with Applications in R” for a really efficient introduction to machine learning and R. I find R very easy to work with for a lot of statistical analyses, though many jobs also look for python.

P.S. If you’re already a data scientist or data analyst and are looking to do work with a mission, the edX data science team is hiring!

What’s your favorite part of working at edX?
My favorite part of working at edX is the immediate impact my work can have. For example, I am really interested in finding ways for online education to better serve for low-income learners. Since starting at edX, I’ve had the chance to measure the effectiveness of our financial assistance. I found that financial assistance significantly increases course completion and certification rates for low-income learners, and people across the company were immediately excited to find ways to expand support for financial assistance. I’m hoping to continue using data science skills to evaluate the effectiveness of other measures that we might take to better support low-income learners.

Best advice for edX learners?
Shop around a little to find the best course for you and your learning style. Watch the first few minutes of the lecture video for each of the courses you’re considering and take the one that feels most engaging. It’s free to enroll and watch these videos, and when you find a good fit, you can purchase a certificate that not only helps you in your school and/or career objectives but also helps support expanded access to high-quality education for learners around the world.

What’s one thing your colleagues may not know about you?
As a kid, I was on a vaulting team every summer. If you aren’t familiar with vaulting, it’s essentially gymnastics on a moving horse.