Ryan Keenan

You know, when it happens, it's going to be the right one.

Ryan Keenan

Photo credit: Anggara Mahendra

Ryan got in Bali a little over a year ago. He was living in Taipei for almost 3 years, when he learned how frustrated he was with academia. Though he thought that the research projects he did were interesting, he nevertheless felt discontented. Ryan felt that his work didn’t have real world impact he was looking for. On the other hand, Ryan kept on hearing about data science and how people are joining into almost any industry as an analyst. The more he learned about data science, the more he understood how it really is a growing field. There are tons of opportunities, in any city, any place, in almost any industry. Ryan found that the kind of impact he can have as a data scientist is really limitless. It also helps the problems that everybody’s dealing with, on day to day. That’s the real world impact he wanted to make.

There was one day when I was reading a blog about how to get a tenure-track faculty position at a university – which is what I was applying for before I switched. I was applying to be a professor at a university. I didn’t really care if it was in the United States or South America, Europe, whatever. I was looking at many different positions. As I read this blog, basically it just said you have to be better than the top 1%! To even get an interview, you have to really have all of your ducks in a row – as they say – your publications, grants, your ability and your speaking record, everything else. It just sounded like the odds are worse than winning the lottery. You really got to be the best of the best! At the same time, you have to be willing to move anywhere. You need to apply for jobs everywhere and willing to just pick up and go when you find it.

The fact that his girlfriend planned to move to Bali for a job added another factor into consideration. The two things coming together at the right time led Ryan to make a life-changing decision: to quit his job, move to Bali, and become a data scientist.

Nobody said it was easy, but…

I’ve been going through a lot of interviews and I have had a lot of let-downs. It’s been a bit stressful. But people say, “You know, when it happens, it’s going to be the right one”

Recalling his early days in Bali, Ryan shared how Kumpul has been a big part of his life. It’s been more than a memorable place for him to do most of his interviews with the other party from the other side of the world. It was also just the connection – good friends and great surfing buddies – and the unexpected opportunities.

The first thing I did when I got here was that I gave a talk about what I’m doing. I thought it would be a nice way to introduce myself and also possibly get some kind of work, some experience to be a freelancer. So I gave a talk about 1 year ago, that was about half my background on astrophysics, and then half (was about) where I’m going with data science. Sure enough, there was one guy in the crowd who said, “Yea I got some data problems and I’d love it if you look at it.”

Getting his first freelancing gig was just the beginning of his exciting winding road. Ryan started facilitating and helping out Tahu Tech programs, that turned into a study circle at Kumpul. The most recent activity in the study circle was to learn through taking an online course. As he was taking the course, Ryan learned that it was the best online course platform he’s ever used. Little that he knew how clicking that “Careers” button on the website would lead to his next adventure.

Well, right now I’m excited. But it’s a bit chaotic because I’ve got to two on-site interviews in San Francisco next week. This is something I’ve been working for like a year. I’ve been applying for a lot of jobs and it’s been a bit difficult to get to the final steps. I was struggling. So right now I feel like, hopefully, closing the deal. I’m excited!