Boot Camp Gives Students Access to Satellite Imagery, Business Problems

Posted By Terri Williams on July 7, 2017 at 7:29 am
Boot Camp Gives Students Access to Satellite Imagery, Business Problems

To our readers: Today, GoodCall® takes a look at programs designed to promote career options for both college students and people who follow other paths. First, Terri Williams examines a data science boot camp. Later, she chronicles an auto repair internship program designed for those for whom college may not be the best option.


Data science continues to be a popular and well-paying career choice. While most data scientists have a master’s degree, not everyone follows this educational path. In fact, Metis offers 12-week, full-time coding boot camps that can quickly get students up to speed. And, this year, the school has added the Metis/DigitalGlobe Data Challenge.

Adam Estrada, DigitalGlobe director of analytic solutions, tells GoodCall®, “Metis students finish the coding boot camp by completing a three-week capstone “passion project,” in which they present a data science-based solution or application to an issue of their choosing.”

The boot camp data challenge

Estrada explains, “The curriculum prepares students for the project by developing skills like data acquisition, data wrangling, statistics and model-building.” And when students get to the data challenge, he says they have the opportunity to use high-accuracy, multi-spectral satellite imagery. “The collaboration with DigitalGlobe enables Metis students to go beyond the theoretical problems they have studied and, as part of their training, apply their education to real-world scenarios using powerful data that resides within high-resolution satellite imagery.”

During the 12-week boot camp, each student builds five projects. However, Megan Ayraud, head of careers at Metis, tells GoodCall® that the fifth project is the passion project. “When it comes to choosing what to focus on for the passion project, the sky’s the limit,” Ayraud says. “For example, a student interested in AI can focus on that discipline, while a student who wants to build recommendation systems can dive into those instead.”

Developing data science – and other – skills

Students develop a range of skills during the passion project. “They have to exercise their creativity, manage a project from beginning to end, and develop the communication skills needed to effectively present complicated topics to employers on career day or at their interviews,” Ayraud explains. “It really ties together everything a student has learned at Metis while letting them work on a subject they are truly passionate about.”

One unique feature of the data challenge is that students are allowed to work on the types of business problems that DigitalGlobe actually encounters, so they can apply what they’ve learned at Metis in a real-world setting. “This means they’re learning the ropes of how to collaborate with co-workers, create a deliverable, report to someone, and get down the rhythms of being on-the job,” Ayraud says. “And since they’re working with DigitalGlobe data scientists and managers, they’re getting experience in communicating data science concepts in a professional setting, which is hugely important for data scientists to be able to do clearly and effectively.”

According to Estrada, data science training has typically been focused on the areas in which it has had the most impact: finance and advertising, social media, and e-commerce.  “But geospatial data is substantially different from those types of data, because the physical dimension adds a lot of complexity.” While geospatial data is gaining ground as a result of politics and other fields, it’s still new enough that it’s not usually taught in classroom settings. “With the Metis/DigitalGlobe Data Challenge, DigitalGlobe created an opportunity for Metis students to work with geospatial data, and we introduced them to a new type of data: satellite imagery.”

Career day at each boot camp

The end of each boot camp includes a career day, where students present their final passion project to potential employers. “The latest career day in New York City was our best-attended career day yet, with representatives from 27 employers (including Capital One, Booz Allen Hamilton, Aetna, GrubHub, and JP Morgan) in attendance to look for their next generation of data science talent,” Ayraud says.

How big a deal is a career day for budding data scientists? Consider the salaries available in the field. Big data hype equals big data salaries, and medium base salaries for data scientists range from $95,000 to $157,000, with median bonuses ranging from $10,000 to almost $30,000.

While there are career days at every Metis boot camp cohort, Ayraud says, “This was the first time students working on DigitalGlobe projects presented their work, and the first time DigitalGlobe got to see their final products.”

The feedback from employers has been positive. “The data challenge is already generating interest from other employers – they let us know they see it as a model for getting help solving business problems and creating a pipeline for data science talent,” Ayraud says.

However, Estrada admits that he had doubts at first. “When we started planning for this project, I was worried that working with geospatial data for the first time would make the project too hard, and I thought the three-week time frame would lead to disappointing results,” Estrada says.

“We worked to avoid that by providing hands-on support from the students’ instructors and experts at DigitalGlobe.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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