What do the career path and day-in-the-life look like for a Data Scientist at Facebook Boston?
We connected with Lily Amadeo to find out!
Where did you grow up? What did your parents do for work?
I'm from a small town in New Hampshire, just over an hour north of Boston. Both of my parents work in software (development and QA), but they never forced their path on me or my brother. Instead, they challenged us to explore a career that would inspire us every day. Ironically, my brother and I fell in love with math early on and stuck with it. He followed in my parent's footsteps as a software engineer, and I actually veered the farthest from the family job tree, proudly working as a data scientist at Facebook.
Where did you go to college? What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?
I majored in applied math at Columbia University and minored in both psychology and statistics. Columbia has a large required core curriculum that includes humanities classes that I would have never taken proactively. But, I'm so glad I did - some of those classes ended up being my favorites. After graduating from Columbia, I worked for a year as a government analyst, and the position motivated me to pursue a masters in data science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I really wanted to improve my coding skills and that helped me immensely. Coming out of grad school, I landed my first data scientist role at a global financial services company. It was quite different in application from what I do now at Facebook, but it taught me a lot, and I had the pleasure of working with an incredible manager and team.
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as a Data Scientist at Facebook?
I collaborate with Facebook infrastructure software engineers to develop data-driven solutions for significant infrastructure challenges such as app and site performance, systems efficiency and reliability, resource allocation and long-term capacity forecasts. Often, teams will come to me with a question they want to answer. Before I provide an answer, the most interesting part of my job is coming back with more questions they might not have thought of, or a new take on tackling the problem, or a suggestion to improve their service. Sometimes, that means I am doing analysis, or other times, I'm building data pipelines or modeling. I try to see things from a different perspective than they do, which hopefully brings new ideas or positive changes to an existing project.
Any tips for someone considering a career as a Data Scientist?
The spectrum of what a data scientist can do is so broad - modeling, engineering, statistics, the list goes on. When you first hear about it all, it can sound overwhelming. Don't let that stop you. If you have an idea of what you enjoy and want to focus on — go for it! However, invest time in other areas to ensure you're developing a well-rounded skill set. If you're unsure where to start, explore various areas and gauge your levels of interest. If you're not drawn to a particular area, but you enjoy a little bit of everything, there are many opportunities for data science generalists as well.
Day in the Life
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
Facebook Boston's microkitchen is stocked with every coffee and tea you can think of! I'm not a coffee drinker, but I do love to start the day with a fruity, herbal tea. And if I could buy stock in Polar, I would!
What are three things that motivate you in your role?
Working on new problems that no one has tackled before. At Facebook, we're not just finding new solutions to existing challenges, we're asking questions that no one has asked before.
Finding actionable insights where it appears at first glance there is none. Sometimes it looks like you’re getting nowhere, but finding the hidden signal in the noise, especially when you don't expect it, is really cool.
Working with people who are smarter than me or know things I don't. I love collaborating with people from other disciplines, as they always teach me something new.
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
My dog is my alarm clock, so I wake up whenever she does, which is usually around 6:00 AM. We go for a run and then I bike to work. I eat breakfast in the Facebook Boston cafe and usually spend my mornings focused on projects and core work. That's my most productive and favorite time of the day, as I'm heads-down doing what I love. After grabbing lunch, I usually meet with my teams in the afternoon, as many of my collaborators are on the west coast. I try to schedule meetings in large blocks so I can maintain longer work periods without interruption. If I have a small chunk of time between meetings, that's when I try to get the little things done, like formatting a post I'm going to write or checking in on my to-do list. I usually leave the office around 5:00 or 5:30 PM. Later in the evening, I'll check in with my west coast colleagues before they head out.
Any productivity hacks?
I've tried so many structured things, but I've found that keeping it simple works best for me. At the beginning of the week, I make a simple to-do list. Throughout the week, I periodically check in and add items or cross them off as I go, and it's always the last thing I look at on Friday afternoon.
Throughout the day, I try to move around the office and work from places that aren't my desk. I've found that for me, sitting in one place for too long lets me drift off and get distracted, and changing up my environment actually keeps me engaged with what I'm working on.
What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?
Email - How did we function before email!? Pretty much everything in my life runs through my inbox.
Instagram - IG is my go-to for sharing photos of my adventures, and connecting with the people and things I love.
Podcasts - I listen to podcasts while walking the dog, working out, commuting to work, etc. Basically, whenever I'm on the move, I'm tuned into a podcast.
What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?
The first time someone asked me to be on a panel and talk about my work to an audience. It was extremely humbling and an honor to be invited to share my thoughts and insights with others.
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
My parents, brother, and sister-in-law. I'm extremely lucky that they not only understand and appreciate the technical side of my job but provide invaluable advice and counsel on general career growth. For example, my sister-in-law is a consultant turned product manager and is extremely talented at networking, self-advocacy and conflict resolution.