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Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

As a 20-year-old, Leeia Isabelle suddenly became a network administrator and sysadmin. 


Not long before beginning that job, she knew only how to start up her computer and get on the internet. 


And Leeia wasn’t administering just any old network: Her job was on the USS Momsen, a guided-missile destroyer based in Everett, Wash. 


Leeia’s team maintained the IT infrastructure for the ship’s networking and telecommunications. The U.S. Navy had trained her, yet the responsibilities were daunting.


But the motto of her ship? “Rise Above.” And she did.


Leeia has now left the Navy, but she continues to rise above challenges as she forges a new career in data science. Currently a participant in the Alteryx Advancing Data + Analytic Potential Together (ADAPT) program, Leeia worked in different technology roles before returning to a longstanding interest in data and coding for more education and training. 


Leeia shared her experiences in her career transition and in ADAPT. Her story is inspiring for everyone hoping to rise above and pursue new opportunities.


Leeia Isabelle



The Draw of Data Science Puzzles

Since she decided to go into data science, Leeia says, “Everything has been falling into place.” After her Navy service, Leeia worked in administrative, IT support and quality assurance roles, but she had always been interested in software development. 


“I started tinkering around with code, and I absolutely loved it. I spent a year doing that just for fun,” Leeia says. “I decided that I needed to go to school for it.”


She began to pursue a bachelor’s degree in software development from Western Governors University. But she was still intrigued by data, even during her Navy days, when she would spend her free time on the ship reading economics and statistics books.


“Fast forward into COVID-19. I found myself spending a lot of time reading over data and trying to make sense of it in my mind, just doing data analytics in a mental way. I would spend about four hours a day doing it. And I thought that was insane,” she says, laughing.


She realized that data science was the natural intersection of her interests. “I had that aha moment: I can take this, and I can take software development, and I can put it together,” Leeia says.


Just a week after that realization, Leeia heard about ADAPT in a Facebook group for Black women in technology, and she signed up for the program. 


“I’ve loved it. I find myself sometimes spending a little bit more time on Alteryx than I do my own homework,” she admits. The problem-solving was compelling. “Some people like gaming, but I like analyzing things. And it’s like a puzzle — a never-ending puzzle.”


Enjoying Seahawks football in Washington



Meaningful Credentials for a Data Career

Since beginning ADAPT and pursuing the puzzles of data science, Leeia has started to see a career path emerging for herself. 


“There’s an oversaturation of new software developers, and so it’s a little tough for us to find jobs and internships. But the minute that I put [on LinkedIn] that I’m going into data science training, recruiters started calling me. People started asking, ‘Do you want a job?’ And it’s turned around,” she says.


One of the reasons Leeia chose to pursue ADAPT was the program's offer of recognizable credentials in data science, including Alteryx Core Certification and a Udacity Nanodegree in Predictive Analytics for Business. She noted that in the tech industry, such certifications are meaningful as a “clear benchmark of what you’re capable of doing.”


“When I got out of the military, I had all of these skills. But I had no clear way of showing what I was capable of, so I struggled,” Leeia says. “With certifications like this, I can have a clear statement saying, ‘This is exactly what I can do, and these people have verified it.’”



Conversations in the Alteryx Community

Leeia is currently preparing to take the Core Certification exam, practicing her Alteryx skills with the study materials and weekly challenges in the Alteryx Community. She says the Community has been a welcoming, collaborative environment where she has interacted with other ADAPT participants and more experienced Alteryx users — and a place where she could find other people excited to talk about data and analytics.


“I find that when I talk to other people about what I’m doing, or if I try to help someone else solve their problem in the Community — whether it’s an easy problem for me or a challenge — it gives me the opportunity to sharpen my skills,” Leeia says. “It reinforces what I know, and it helps me better present things to other people.”




ADAPT participant conversations in the Alteryx Community



Leeia also pointed out the value of casual conversations in the Community. “Small talk leads to big talk,” she says. “You start by saying, ‘Hey, I’m Leeia. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m here,’ and it leads to bigger conversations. … ‘Hey, I know this job that would be a really good fit for you.’”



Leeia’s Advice for ADAPT Participants

As a self-paced program, ADAPT can be challenging for people learning on their own. Leeia says good time management is critical, especially since she is also completing college coursework and a data science externship with AT&T. 


“I have each lesson organized, each day organized in my calendar as a task. So each day, I know exactly what I need to do. I don’t have to stress about it,” she explains. “My desire to do all of these things has motivated me to become more organized because I want to fit everything into my day.”


Leeia also uses the Pomodoro Technique — a system of scheduling both work and breaks — to stay on task and motivated. She encourages others to find a dedicated space and a consistent daily time for studying. Then, to perfect your environment, add noise-canceling headphones and an instrumental lo-fi hip-hop playlist, Leeia suggests: “Having that relaxing music creates a balance.” (She recommends ChilledCow.)



ChilledCow: Leeia's favorite data science study playlist



Getting the external factors right is important, but having the internal confidence to know you can succeed matters, too. Leeia faced down that challenge when she took on her IT responsibilities in the Navy.


“I worked with these people in the military who have these brilliant minds. I had no degree. I had no experience,” she says. “And so throughout most of my career, I suffered from impostor syndrome.”


To combat that feeling, Leeia uses a technique she learned from Can’t Hurt Me, a book by retired Navy SEAL and endurance athlete David Goggins. She keeps a cookie jar filled with slips of paper. Each slip lists one of her accomplishments. When she needs a boost, she opens the jar and pulls out a reminder of her achievements.


“It just reminds me of all those hard facts about myself, why I deserve to be where I am,” Leeia says.


Hiking in Washington



Preparing to Make a Difference in the Data World

The COVID-19 pandemic brought Leeia another realization about her career. Data on the disease reveal that it is disproportionately affecting the Black community and people of color. However, especially early in the outbreak, publicly available data did not consistently include patients’ race — a crucial factor for accurate, equitable analysis and action. 


Learning about this biased data collection and its potentially dire consequences motivated Leeia even more to pursue data science so she can encourage more attention to these kinds of problems.


“That’s when I realized that I have a place in data science,” Leeia says. “I found my place in the activism community, where I can spend time talking to communities and reaching out, trying to get more diversity into data science.”


Leeia says she has always been “passionate about inclusiveness,” even in everyday social settings. She’ll seek out the shy, nervous person in the room and make sure they feel included. She plans to bring that same welcoming spirit into her tech career to help increase racial diversity and neurodiversity in data science.


“I’ve seen people with PTSD, ADHD and autism who really succeed in this industry. Those are other people I want to get involved in the tech industry, because sometimes they struggle in other industries, and they do extremely well [in tech],” she says.


Prepared with new credentials from ADAPT, plus her experiences, her passion and her persistence, Leeia will rise above any new challenges that come her way. And she’ll bring others up with her as she continues her data science journey.


If you'd like to add new data credentials to your résumé, connect with others seeking new career opportunities, and take on a new challenge, learn more and sign up for ADAPT. If you're eligible, you'll receive a free six-month license for Alteryx Designer, gain access to Alteryx Core Certification training materials and the Udacity nanodegree program, and become part of a vibrant community of Alteryx learners and professionals. 

Susan Currie Sivek
Senior Data Science Journalist

Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is the data science journalist for the Alteryx Community. She explores data science concepts with a global audience through blog posts and the Data Science Mixer podcast. Her background in academia and social science informs her approach to investigating data and communicating complex ideas — with a dash of creativity from her training in journalism. Susan also loves getting outdoors with her dog and relaxing with some good science fiction. Twitter: @susansivek

Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is the data science journalist for the Alteryx Community. She explores data science concepts with a global audience through blog posts and the Data Science Mixer podcast. Her background in academia and social science informs her approach to investigating data and communicating complex ideas — with a dash of creativity from her training in journalism. Susan also loves getting outdoors with her dog and relaxing with some good science fiction. Twitter: @susansivek

9 - Comet

I'm blushing from ear to ear! You captured my story and message so well, and you told it in a much more interesting way than I could have told it. Thank you for the opportunity Susan and Leah!

20 - Arcturus
20 - Arcturus

@Leeia_I ,


 I'm proud of your accomplishments!  You help to show the way for others.  A rising star that wants to shine and bring others along with you on your journey. You inspire me!





Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Thank you @Leeia_I for inspiring us ! 

Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Thank you @Leeia_I for sharing your story! You are an inspiration to so many others who want to get started in data science and analytics. Excited for you to crush the Core Certification exam!

16 - Nebula
16 - Nebula



You are awesome, your journey is inspiring and you bring a lot to the ADAPT discussions!


Keep going the good work, I believe you are capable of anything!








So motivating and inspriring! You'll pass the exam with flying colors!


The world is yours for the taking! 🙂 



Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Such a powerful story! I love how she compares analytics to a never-ending puzzle. So true, the more questions one asks the more answers one can find - if they just have the right tools for the job. Good luck on the exam!

14 - Magnetar
14 - Magnetar

Thanks for sharing your story @Leeia_I!  Looking forward to seeing your Designer Core Certified badge on your page.  The pictures remind me of home as I grew up about 40 miles north of Everett.

9 - Comet

@T_Willins I'm juggling quite a few classes, but I am still working on it. I took it once and failed it. 


I can't remember the name of this place, but it was north of Everett. It's a place where there are many crystals. I also used to live in Everett.

Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

I must say @Leeia_I for never giving up to follow your passion.  it is your passion for what you do that is making a difference.  Your story is a true inspiration to all of us in data analytics who know there is such an amazing future for all of us as data is everywhere.  Solving to drive insights with data is now.  Every business is doing it and need the talent that you bring.


Thank you for being in ADAPT and for all of us that we can #neverstoprlearning.


Thank you @SusanCS for sharing Leeia's story.


I can't wait to meet you!