I'm a machine learning hipster.
I got into the field before it was cool in geoscience. Then I was able to grow with the field and contribute to its early successes. Obviously, luck is a contributing factor, but I have a framework that helped me get lucky.
I was able to leverage my PhD into an interesting job, first in the space industry and now in weather modelling for the coordinated organisations in the EU. I contribute to a United Nations committee. I get to give cool talks at conferences and volunteer to teach people Python.
Overall, pretty alright for someone in their early 30s, I hope.
What bets have I made regarding my career
I made a few deliberate decisions in my life based on available data.
I put my chips on machine learning because I saw the world's fascination with big data and fuzzy logic.
I learned Python because I saw how easy it is for people to learn the language and the frameworks already making data science so easy.
Those bets paid off. The bet on Tensorflow vs Pytorch ended up not mattering in the end. In reality, no one actually cares which framework you use, and today I use both at work.
Those were technologies with upward potential in my domain that I could grow with.
How have I made career decisions to get where I am?
First of all, it's important to know if it's a reversible or permanent decision.
This is more of a spectrum of permanence, houses can be sold, and you can always try to get a new job. But obviously renting is less permanent, i.e. easier to untangle than buying a house. Moving internationally with a car, kids, and wife is more permanent than finding a new position in the same city.
Not every decision has to be hard when you can easily reverse its impact.
How to make hard decisions?
My main framework to make decisions for my career is:
Make decisions that maximise your options.
I decided to pursue a PhD because it opened up the entire academic career path to me and research positions in companies. I decided to pursue work in computation because it opened up careers in many other fields beyond geoscience. This maximised options in career paths and even fields.
When you face a decision, choose the option that gives you more options. This way, you avoid getting stuck and can build leverage over time.