From Push-ups to Start-ups: How this Navy Vet Went Back to School to Launch His Data Analytics Business

Geoff Valera, the co-founder of Data Consumed, isn’t your typical data analytics boot camp student. After earning his BA in information systems and his doctorate in computer information security systems, Geoff learned how to work with data for a fairly demanding client—his commanding officer in the US Navy.

“As part of my unit, I created databases for my CO to help with his reports,” said Geoff. “I literally fell into working with information systems out of necessity.”

After the military, Geoff continued working as a consultant and data engineer for six years, doing Power BI, ETL, report writing, and “bleeding-edge stuff” like data visualization. But he wanted more.

As Geoff’s data analytics side project, Data Consumed, started to take off, he realized that if he wanted to run his own company, he’d have to go back to boot camp. Only this time, there’d be fewer push-ups involved.

Back to boot camp

Geoff initially became interested in attending the University of Arizona Data Analytics Boot Camp because he wanted to learn more about how data scientists actually operate.

“As a consultant, I was making all of these cool tools for the data scientists to use, but I didn’t know exactly what they were doing with them. That’s why I took the data analytics course,” Geoff explained. “I needed a deeper understanding of how they were actually using the tools.”

Geoff also wanted to upgrade his skills in a hurry. “I was honestly looking for something that didn’t involve going back to school to get a BA, MS, PhD,” he said. “I just wanted something specific. Something useful.”

What he found was a wealth of technical data analytics skills grounded in real-world expertise.

Real-world skills in a real hurry

“My teacher was really knowledgeable. He not only had the technical skills down, you could tell that he was part of the industry,” Geoff said. “He was doing data science before it was even called ‘data science’.”

Throughout the course, Geoff mastered Javascript, SQL, Tableau, and Python—four cornerstone skills for an analytics start-up co-founder.

“The boot camp immediately filled a gap,” Geoff said. “I got really confident with Python by the end, and it’s important to know what’s out there with data visualization. I love knowing that I can talk shop with the data scientists.”

Gaining this newfound comfort and confidence was only the first step toward Geoff’s real goal. He still had to turn Data Consumed from a side hustle into a viable start-up.

Starting a start-up on the right foot

“Data Consumed started out as a side project,” said Geoff. “We expected it to be a part-time thing since I was working full-time as a consultant, not to mention raising four children with my wife. But things just kept getting bigger. We needed to hire more people to keep up with client demand.”

Luckily, Geoff’s time in the boot camp not only led to a skills upgrade but to a personnel boost as well.

“I had some smart people in my class, so we actually brought them on at Data Consumed. We initially interned them to try it out for a few months, but we hired several of them. It’s been going well,” said Geoff.

Geoff and his co-founder, Leo Wakambamba, have continued to grow Data Consumed since Geoff finished boot camp in February 2019, bringing on more employees and clients. They have nothing but high hopes for the future.

“I want to create a consulting firm that’s for the employees first and foremost. A place where everybody wants to work,” explained Geoff. “My goal is to grow the company to 20 people by the end of 2019. Then hopefully to 100–200 consultants within the next five years as we keep bringing bleeding-edge data tech to more companies.”

Geoff has one final piece of advice for anyone considering a career shift or skills upgrade by signing up for a coding or analytics boot camp.

“Take it as seriously as possible,” he said. “Take what you learn in class and expand on it. There’s a lot of demand for what we do, but not a lot of people that really know this stuff. You can transform yourself by diving a little deeper.”

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