"Are you boring? Are you evil?"
March 8, 2015 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Cathy O'Neil left a job as a math professor at Columbia because she thought it was boring and slow-paced, reinvented herself in finance, and then reinvented herself again as a data scientist.

Her blog includes thoughtful advice for people in math and science trying to find new careers, raunchy advice about having more sex and learning python, and prescient warnings about the way careless mathematical modeling can perpetuate inequality.
posted by yarntheory (17 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cathy is one of my oldest friends -- we were in grad school together and worked with the same Ph.D. advisor. She is the awesomest.

Also, you forgot "then reinvented herself as an Occupier" in between finance and data scientist..!
posted by escabeche at 12:53 PM on March 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


She's also fantastic on the Slate Money podcast.
posted by fermezporte at 12:58 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


May I skip learning Python and just have more sex, please?
posted by Bella Donna at 1:42 PM on March 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Cathy is essential to the Slate Money pod. She brings a welcome perspective as a woman, as a smart person, and as a leftist.
posted by wotsac at 1:58 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


You could skip learning Python but, really, what are your other options? Sex in C would require significantly more code.
posted by delicious-luncheon at 2:37 PM on March 8, 2015 [15 favorites]


And it would be a lot messier.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 2:40 PM on March 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Back in 1991, my circle of friends included a Cathy O'Neil who was a math undergraduate at Berkeley. There must be a lot of Cathy O'Neil's in the world, but how many would be characterized by, er, that mix of topics?

Apparently, there's just one. And she's still involved in HCSSiM, a very wonderful program.

Nice that she pops up here in the blue!
posted by brambleboy at 3:04 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


10 FOR F=1 TO 100: POKE: NEXT F
20 FOR G=1 TO 5: OR G: ASM: NEXT G
30 PRINT "THANKS, LUV"
40 END
posted by Devonian at 3:06 PM on March 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


You could try having sex in Haskell, which would be guaranteed to be safe and side-effect free, as long as binding over monads turns you on.

Or you could have sex in PHP, in which case you're probably going to die.
posted by acb at 3:50 PM on March 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Have sex in Lisp.

It'll expand your mind. You'll suddenly realize how limiting your sex has been in all those other languages.

It's tantric, baby.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:37 PM on March 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Or you could have sex in Assembly. It involves jamming a syringe into the hypothalamus in order to directly stimulate the limbic system. It's a much more efficient source of dopamine release; you just have to be really careful.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:42 PM on March 8, 2015 [18 favorites]


Yeah, I did the Occupy thing too. I didn't know she was involved with the Occupy Finance document.

One of the reasons I was serious about Occupy was that I was only marginally employed as a temp worker in mathematics. Now my entire division was suddenly closed, the work was outsourced (we don't know where, but apparently it is not anywhere local) and hundreds of us are unemployed.

So I have been struggling with the reinvention thing, I need a good job. I looked at Cathy's advice, and it looks like she's basically examining this Venn Diagram, looking for the overlap of "What you're good at" and "what you like to do." And interestingly, she is also examining the items not within these sets, the negatives sets of "what you DON'T like to do" and "What you're NOT good at."

But I have been looking at a different diagram. That one only has two sets. This one has three sets, it went viral a while ago, that's when I heard about it. It's way more useful because there is a lot of stuff in that union of the two sets, that are not within the "what we can be paid to do" set. According to the three-set diagram, that area is marked "learn to monetize." And that is ALWAYS the problem. Even in Cathy's self-reinvention scheme, it assumes that you can "follow your muse" and the money will follow. Every starving artist like me, knows better.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:29 PM on March 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


charlie don't surf, you made me curious about Cathy's "How to reinvent yourself" column, seen as a Venn diagram. Cathy's diagram would have four sets, and the interesting thing about it compared with the diagrams you've been looking at, is that you are already in the center of all the sets. In fact, you want to move a bit out of the center since it comprises things you don't like.

As for the "learn to monetize" thing, it is either in the "skills you don't have" or the "things you don't like" sets, or in both. I am an artist in the process of reinventing myself and yes, it isn't easy, but I find unsuspected use for my skills and experience — AND the muse doesn't die.
posted by L E M M at 6:12 PM on March 8, 2015


I looked at Cathy's advice, and it looks like she's basically examining this Venn Diagram, looking for the overlap of "What you're good at" and "what you like to do." And interestingly, she is also examining the items not within these sets, the negatives sets of "what you DON'T like to do" and "What you're NOT good at."

I know this comes off as churlish but... where on that Venn diagram is the "gold plated ivy league resume" and partner willing to support you financially, of which she has both. And it not like she's really made much of a living as a data scientist either, she transitioned really quickly into "data science for journalists" and popular media writer/commentator.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:02 PM on March 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


As for the "learn to monetize" thing, it is either in the "skills you don't have" or the "things you don't like" sets, or in both.

I think the "learn to monetize" thing tends to be a lot about social capital, too, which is why we all get frustrated with those articles that condense down to "and then I called my dad's friend in the White House and they gave me a job" or whatever, because hard skills generalize well but social capital does not. I'm not saying that O'Neil is being that glib, but social capital is very much the missing space in both Venn diagrams being discussed, and eliding that is neither honest nor helpful.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:12 PM on March 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


The article deals with social capital:

Next, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and accurate, and that your ex-coworkers have written letters for you and endorsed you for your skills.

Unfortunately, it does not understand the "learn to monetize" idea, this article recommends you monetize your social network for LinkedIn's benefit. I am skeptical that you can extract value from a network in ways that profit you more than them. And if I had a strong network of social contacts in my field of work, I wouldn't need LinkedIn.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:13 AM on March 9, 2015


"Are you boring? Are you evil?"

Yes and yes. Go on...
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 7:23 AM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


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