Making a difference with Oracle Academy
Kara Lucord is a data scientist at Oracle in Denver, Colorado. Every day, she uses skills she learned in Oracle Academy courses, during internships, and at university to write code for data analysis.
Though computing was a career path she was curious about, when she set out, she had no idea she’d someday be an Oracle employee.
As a high school student in Chesterfield County, Virginia, Lucord knew she had a passion for both math and computing. She was drawn to the Programming and Software Development program offered by the Career and Technical Center (CTC) and to Oracle Academy-based computing classes taught by Carol Guerin.
Normally, first year students in this program learn Oracle Academys’s Database Foundations, and then move on to Database Design and Programming with SQL and Programming with PL/SQL in the second year. Lucord, though, mastered Database Foundations in her first semester, and eager for more, worked with Guerin to find an unpaid internship within the CTC for the rest of the academic year. Still hungry, Lucord then landed a summer internship with the local power company, where she learned to use SQL statements to produce business intelligence reports. Her work was so valuable that the company retained her as an intern during the following academic year, too.
“I applied everything I learned, got my hands in the weeds and felt way ahead of the game,” Lucord now says. During school, “I fell in love with the analytical, data-driven, and hands-on approach offered by Oracle Academy – and the internships allowed me to put it all into practice.”
When she graduated from the CTC Programming and Software Development program with honors, Lucord was certain she wanted a career in computing. But computer science is a huge field, and she didn’t know whether she wanted to continue to focus on database and data management, or do something else, like computer networking. Instead of jumping into a job, she set out to expand her knowledge and develop additional skills and enrolled as an undergraduate computer science major at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia.
“That took me all over the field,” Lucord says. “I learned Java, Python and many other programming languages, along with software development, data analysis and cybersecurity.”
One of the things the CTC Programming and Software Development program taught Lucord was that applying her academic learning in real-world contexts enriched her understanding of the subject matter. It also made her more valuable to employers. During her two final years at VCU, while she continued to pursue her bachelor’s degree, Lucord also worked part time for Chesterfield County as a programmer-analyst, where she created student grade, attendance, and medical reports from the school systems database.
Looking back, she says combining solid coursework with hands-on experience was key to her success. “Using what I was being taught, getting my hands in the weeds, hanging out with DBAs, playing with a sandbox database, checking data, getting used to the whole tech environment – all of that was absolutely invaluable.”
In 2016, Lucord completed her journey from Oracle Academy student with a passion for math and computing to full time Oracle employee. After graduating from VCU with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2016, Lucord joined Oracle in Denver in her current role. It wasn’t a path she expected to follow.
“I hadn’t been outside Virginia before and didn’t have much free time,” she says. “But now I’ve been able to see the mountains. I hike, I ski, and meet amazing people.”
And, as a member of the Oracle Data Cloud group, Lucord is putting everything she has learned into data mining and analysis to benefit Oracle’s customers and partners. She attributes her success partly to the soft skills coaching she received from Guerin as a CTC student, which included practicing for interviews, writing résumés, communication skills and other elements essential to finding work. She also gives Oracle Academy credit.
“The job is a lot of fun,” she says. “I get to use the SQL programming from Oracle Academy and the Java skills from college to write software code to analyze data sets – the job combines all of the things I’ve learned along the way.”
She adds, “I’m grateful to Oracle Academy for having gotten me this far. The program is truly awesome and I encourage whoever is interested in mathematics or computing to look into it – it’s free and available to anyone.”