Alex Brostoff’s power lies in her curiosity. She is constantly asking why, and uses her knowledge, passion and data to answer questions that come her way. Alex graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in Business Information Systems. She spent the last few years at university studying various areas of Information Systems and became fascinated with predictive modeling. The summer before last, she was selected as a Technology Risk Consultant for Ernst and Young in NYC, and worked for a private equity firm where she was able to merge her interests in business and technology, making recommendations to her clients.
Alex shared with us how she thrives on working with other curious, motivated individuals, so the opportunity to both learn from and collaborate with like-minded data scientists and fellows at ITC really excited her. We sat with Alex to learn more about the roots of her curiosity and how she is using it to blaze her own trail to success.
How did your interest for tech/coding/data science start? Were you always interested in this field? If not, why did you transition?
My interest in data science was first sparked by a Freakonomics radio podcast that included an hour-long interview with data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. In this podcast, Stephens-Davidowitz spoke about how he found data helped to answer his constant questions about the human condition. He did this by utilizing google data to come up with conclusions about human behavior. He realized that this data could tell someone more about themselves than they may even know.
Like Seth, I am tremendously curious and frequently ask difficult and complex questions. I am extremely driven to understand these questions on a deep level, asking “why” as much as I can. Data itself is ubiquitous, and becoming an expert in this field allows me to answer many of these seemingly unanswerable questions. In this day and age, data science transcends almost every industry and I am passionate about applying my expertise to my interests and passions, as well as my future career.
Why did you decide to join this ITC program? What made you choose ITC over other training providers?
I decided to join ITC because of its direct relationship with the Israeli high-tech ecosystem. Although ITC focuses on academic concepts, all classes are taught by company professionals, allowing us to experience and adapt to the fast-paced high-tech culture.
Another draw to ITC is its focus on diversity. ITC brings together people from all over the world, giving its students the opportunity to broaden their minds technically, professionally, and socially.
What’s one advice you would give aspiring women in tech?
My biggest advice for aspiring women in tech can be summed up by a brilliant quote from Winnie-the-Pooh, stating “promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Although I think this quote applies to everyone, it is especially fitting for women. In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg states that, “despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are- impostors with limited skills or abilities.” For thousands of years, women have constantly been portrayed as weak and helpless. Changing society’s views about women in male dominated fields is a slow (but important) process, and there will be times where you feel like you’re pursuing a lost cause. That being said, the most important thing to focus on is reminding yourself of how strong you are. Not only will this allow you to succeed, but it can create a chain reaction of women empowerment throughout the entire tech ecosystem.
Men and women have their respective stereotypes, caused by the subtle cues about “manly” and “ladylike” behaviors that have molded us since birth. The differences that arise from these stereotypes can often be seen to women as roadblocks preventing them from achieving their goals, believing that the only way to get over them is to become more “manly.” In reality, it is more important to stop thinking about these differences as a limitation, but instead as a superpower. For instance, men are statistically less likely to seek help than women, with only a third of people in therapy in the US being men. Instead of feeling like we should become more closed off to be more like men, we should use this ability to our advantage and not be afraid to seek out help. This includes finding a mentor, talking to others about our problems, and being comfortable and confident without being vulnerable.
How can women get the most out of the ITC experience, and how can they best get ready for their next job during the training?
I do not think there is one way to get the most out of the ITC experience. That being said, I think that the most important thing you can do to prepare for your next job is to make sure to reflect on your experience each day. That could mean journaling, jotting down quick notes of the day, or even quickly thinking about what you learned before bed. I truly believe that the most important information you will gain throughout the program will be about yourself. Use this opportunity to figure out what you enjoy, what you don’t enjoy, your strengths, weaknesses and how you can improve. This will allow you to understand what you want out of your next job, professionally and personally.
What has been your proudest achievement in this field so far? (A cool project you worked on, a topic you wanted to learn, a challenge you overcame)
Because of my use of technology to assist business tasks, I was recognized by the company’s president and top-level management for my innovative technical solutions, and was asked to create a guide for all corporate FirstService markets. I utilized my time management skills and worked overtime to meet the pressing deadline. I presented my project to corporate managers, which allowed them to understand the importance of investing in technology solutions and training.
Another achievement I am especially proud of is receiving a 4.0/4.0 for my senior year, putting me on the dean’s list for both the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters. I graduated with a major GPA of 3.7/4.0, demonstrating my achievement in classes related to information systems management, coding, and databasing.
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
The best part about being a woman in the tech industry is that there is so much potential for improvement. There are still many problems for women in tech, including unequal pay, discrimination, and self-doubt. I truly believe that we are living in a significant time for feminism. I believe that every woman in tech has the ability to influence and inspire the current generation and positively impact generations to come.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not coding?
I enjoy hanging out with friends and family, traveling, and trying new things.
What’s next for you? Where would you love to see yourself in a few years?
I would love to see myself working in a role where I can continue to learn and grow, as well as have a good work-life balance. I would also love to become involved in various groups and communities wherever I may be living, connecting with other like minded people.
Would you like to apply to ITC’s Data Science Fellows, Cyber Security Fellows or Full-Stack Development course, fill out the form below: