Driven by Data: Julio’s Story

One exciting benefit of learning to code is gaining the technical skills to solve real world problems. We love it when our students find they are able to tackle problems they faced in previous professional positions or in their personal lives using what they’ve learned in our courses. Julio Cardoza, a recent graduate from the Data Science course in Durham, NC, is an amazing example of someone who leveraged his new-found skills to solve an issue he faced as an Uber driver.

Hailing from New Orleans, Julio – who has a degree in computer science – spent the last few years in the hospitality industry working as a general manager for a local restaurant. About a year ago, he was laid off and had to quickly start thinking about what he wanted to do from there. In the meantime, he began working as an Uber driver.

julio_uber“During my long hours in the car, I had plenty of time to think about what was next for me,” Julio said. “I wanted to put my passion for computers to use and I wanted to do something outstanding. I started looking around for different options and doing research on the best programs for learning more about data science and Python.”

After carefully weighing his options, Julio took the plunge and moved to Durham for The Iron Yard’s upcoming Data Science cohort.

“I struggled from day one, which is a good thing,” Julio said. “I felt challenged throughout the whole experience – it’s pretty intense. The way I see it is if I didn’t feel any pain, that would mean I wasn’t getting the new information and reaching the programming level that I wanted. The course made me stronger, and more knowledgeable of what I am capable of.”

Julio threw himself into his course work and began thinking about how the skills he was learning applied to his time as an Uber driver. He explained that the way Uber presents information to drivers isn’t always relevant and doesn’t always help them make better decisions about their rides. “Uber sends you a log of all the rides you do, but it’s just rows and rows of numbers,” he said. “The information is there, but there is no way to digest it in an easy way. I started thinking, ‘what if I could improve this? what if I could create an app that uses the raw data Uber provides and improves the way drivers manage their business?’ That’s a pretty big goal, but I looked into the Uber business model, made a functional prototype using excel, and concluded it was a doable task.”

“I worked for Uber, but Uber also worked for me,” Julio continued. “I’m a businessman and I need information to be able to work and operate – that means seeing the costs and revenue so I can determine how profitable my operation is. That was the basis for the solution I created with a team for my final project.”

Julio created the Smart Driver app with a team of two other students – Kathryn and Ryan – for a joint final project. Their app aggregates the ride log information that Uber sends each of its drivers and presents the information in a relevant, digestible way. For example, if a driver wants to see how much money they made per hour, the average amount of money they made per ride, or how much money they made that day, the app can tell you that by pulling the data from an individual’s Uber driver account using their login credentials. These are the building blocks of the solution that helps drivers analyze information and look at weekly, monthly and yearly data in a useable, visual format – including graphs.

“The app helps you have a better idea of how you’re doing as a business person within the business model of Uber,” Julio said. “I couldn’t have made this happen at all without the help of my team members, and of course my Python guru, instructor Bryce Darling, who guided us through the development of the app. They are wonderful, talented people and together we made this idea a reality.”

Julio’s experience at The Iron Yard helped him reconnect with his passion for computers and programming, and pursue a career in the field. For others looking into code schools, he has two pieces of advice: “First, prepare yourself as much as possible before you go into your cohort. Do your own research in the months and weeks leading up to the course so that when you start, you’ll have some familiarity with the terms and topics – you’re going to starting learning a ton of information on day one, so the more you prepare in advance the better off you’ll be.”

“Second, manage your expectations. Why? In my experience I had big expectations of how I was going to perform in the course and it just wasn’t realistic. Be open-minded so that you don’t get frustrated. There were times when I realized that even though I didn’t know how to do something at that very moment, I would learn soon enough.”

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