Making a career change is never an easy decision and usually takes time and patience to achieve.
For Jayeon Kim, though, enrolling at Montgomery County Community College opened the door to a dream career and opportunities she never could have imagined. It helped her to gain acceptance into a highly competitive master’s degree program at Georgia Tech, and most recently led to a job offer as a data scientist at John Deere.
“I wanted to start a new career with a clearer path,” she said. ““What I liked about my time at Montco is I think it’s a great value. It’s so flexible.”
The 31-year-old emigrated from South Korea with her parents and younger brother when she was 9 years old. The family moved to Blue Bell and she graduated from Wissahickon High School in 2009. After high school, she attended Colby College in Waterville, Maine to study sociology and Russian. She then went to earn a master’s degree in international relations, before landing a job as a security analyst for an international company in 2016.
“I love that Montco is open to anyone looking for a new beginning. The classes are open to anyone and they have a wide selection of classes for every level. I knew that if I wanted a new start, Montco is the right place for me to begin." -Jayeon Kim
Two years into her position, she decided her career choice wasn’t the right fit and she decided it was time to go back to school. A friend had enrolled at MCCC in 2018 and Kim decided to follow her lead that summer.
“I’ve been working and studying at the same time since going to Montco,” she said.
She wanted to pursue a career in data science and found MCCC’s catalogue of online courses offered just what she was looking for to get started.
“The classes are easy to take from your house,” she said. “All the classes I wanted to take were offered online and I found the professors were helpful as well.”
For the few times she did have to go to campus, Kim said she had reservations at first about making the weekly drive, but quickly felt at ease.
“I actually liked that experience too. The students were really ambitious,” she said. “They all had different goals. So, I think working alongside them actually gave me extra motivation.”
Computer Science Professor Kendall Martin remembered Kim as a student who was passionate about the material she was studying. To help her chances of gaining acceptance into some very competitive programs, she would work independently on free, online computer science projects. Martin said faculty members at MCCC can help guide students and give them the support they need to keep going.
“A lot of our students don’t have the confidence or vision to see themselves going into new field or breaking from what their family has always done. It can be hard to seeing a new future for themselves,” she said. “Having someone who cheers for you, reframes setbacks, consistently encourages you and says, ‘Of course you’ll do this,’ that’s what I can do with this process. It’s really heartwarming to see Jayeon’s success.”
Kim was accepted into Georgia Tech’s online data analytics program and began studying online in 2020.
“The program is designed with a working professional in mind,” she said. “I think most of the students who were studying in the program already had a job, like me. Which meant that a lot of the students weren’t taking more than one or two courses per semester. If you take the courses at the pace I did, the average student can complete the program in two years.”
Kim will finish her program at Georgia Tech this spring.
In December, she completed her last day as a security analyst. This month, she starts a new career as a data scientist at John Deere. She’d been searching for a job since the early fall of 2021 and met a John Deere recruiter at a technology career fair event.
“I went through the interview process and in November I got the offer to work as a data scientist,” she said. “My next goal is to feel confident in what I’m doing. To feel like I know what I’m doing when it comes to data science. I hope I will be able to reach a point when I will be able to mentor other new data scientists.”
Kim credits MCCC for helping her unlock her recent success and encouraged others to follow her path.
“I love that Montco is open to anyone looking for a new beginning,” she said. “The classes are open to anyone and they have a wide selection of classes for every level. I knew that if I wanted a new start, Montco is the right place for me to begin.
“Never think it’s too late for a new beginning. Deciding to take a new path is a sign of so much courage. Even when you feel stuck or when you feel discouraged, just keep going. Keep moving forward.”