Susan Shu Chang (she/her) has followed a bit of a winding professional path all her life. Currently, she's a principal data scientist at Elastic, a platform for search-powered solutions. She’s also a committee member of Aggregate Intellect, a machine learning platform with 13k+ YouTube subscribers, and the founder of Quill Game StudiosAt the time of her interview she was a principal data scientist at Clearco, a fintech company providing growth capital for online businesses.

All of that said, you might be surprised to learn that she never formally studied coding and, in fact, her educational background is in economics. In a truly inspiring example of unique skill building, Susan simply pursued the skills she thought were interesting. This helped her accumulate the perfect combination of skills for the career she’s currently pursuing.

A Winding Career Path to Success

Susan says a large part of her early life was all about changing scenery. She moved back and forth between Taiwan and Canada, which forced her to make new friends and start fresh a number of times during her public school years. It wasn’t until she went to the University of Waterloo to study economics that she started to feel like she had found a sense of community.

Susan says she accepted her sexual identity early in life. Because of her background, she says she was already different from her peers in a lot of ways so being queer was just one more way to be different. This didn’t always make it easy – it was very difficult for some of her friends and family to be as accepting as she was of herself. While at University of Waterloo, Susan started volunteering with some of the on campus LGBTQ+ organizations and discovered that she wasn’t that different from some of her peers after all.

While attending the University of Toronto for her Masters degree, one of Susan’s friends told her that the skills she had accumulated (studying economics and also teaching herself how to code) perfectly complemented each other for a career as a data scientist.


The Power of Coding as a Career Builder

Susan says her current career path was one that she had “accidentally” set herself up to succeed at. Not only did her economics background provide her with a statistical background that complements the work of a data scientist, but she’d also spent years teaching herself to code so she could develop her own video games.

Susan started with languages like Javascript and HTML before moving on to more advanced ones like Python and C++. All of this she taught herself piece by piece using Youtube tutorials, and never with the intention of using it professionally. Now she’s found that her hobbies and education have intersected perfectly in her role as a principal data scientist.

Coding is a valuable skill for anyone looking to get started in tech, and as Susan’s story shows, anyone can learn in their own time and in their own way. Advancing your career is something you have the power to do, too! Look for tutorials online, or pay for a class that fits your interests. Then, when you’re ready, pop over to our QueerTech job board to find the right career for you with companies we know and trust.

Catch our conversation with Susan Here