From pastry chef to a tech career with Miami-Dade County, this MDC graduate is taking the data analytics world by storm

By Krysten Brenlla

Daniela Rodriguez always knew the importance of being creative and detail oriented with her work. After all, it’s how she made delicious desserts as a pastry chef that kept customers coming back.

Being detail-oriented while solving problems with creativity is also what drew Rodriguez, a Venezuelan native, to information technology. With a mix of two new degrees from Miami Dade College  and work toward one from the University of Miami, hard work and creativity, she landed a new job in tech.

Now, Rodriguez is solving community issues with smart solutions using data analytics as an Information Technology Specialist at Miami-Dade County.

“I always considered myself somewhat of a nerd; I always heard about data analytics through sports, which I love, and I was really drawn to data after participating in a boot camp back in 2019. That year, I was pregnant with my son, so I decided to leave the kitchen and I went back to school,” Rodriguez said. “MDC had one of the only data analytics programs at the time – I really liked that it was online and flexible.”

Rodriguez balanced raising a newborn and her first-born daughter while earning her bachelor’s degree from MDC’s Data Analytics program. Now, she is working toward being among the first graduates of the MDC-UM Data Science master’s program at UM, after earning her bachelor’s at MDC. That will be made possible because of an articulation agreement between the two institutions.

“For me, data analytics is an understanding of your surroundings,” Rodriguez said. “Like math is everywhere, so is data, and it affects us in so many different ways. As someone who is naturally curious, understanding my surroundings through data is what drew me to the career.”

As one of the top students at both programs, her professors encouraged her to push further.

This led to her participation in a datathon competition, where she met her future colleagues – Ana Chammas, the IT Innovation Division Director at Miami-Dade County, Margaret Brisbane, the IT Director and Chief Information Officer at Miami Dade County, and Jorge Valens, innovation manager at Miami-Dade County.

Her work, alongside the connections she made at the datathon, helped her land her first internship at Miami-Dade County, leading to her full-time position.

“The internship at Miami-Dade County was an incredible experience for me. I was splitting my time with both the data science and innovation teams and through my work with both teams, I got to see how data affects us on a daily basis,” Rodriguez explained. “Data helps everyone – from small business owners to residents – and the encouragement I received from the team helped me grow, learn, and love what I do and who I work with even more.”

Together with her colleagues, she would go on to tackle county-wide issues using data and artificial intelligence technology, like adopting a pet in need through a new application she and her MDC team created, Paw-fect Match, or affordable housing.

And, on top of it all, she and other team members presented their work at the Miami-Dade County exhibit at eMerge Americas this year, with residents across South Florida finding it both captivating and useful.

“When our Miami-Dade County residents present us with a need, we want to help them,” Rodriguez continued. “We’re focused on using data that we have now to facilitate and create programs for our residents that are impactful.”

For the future, Rodriguez is looking forward to seeing Miami and South Florida’s overall growth in technology. She wants to keep learning all there is to know about data analytics, technology, and artificial intelligence to continue helping South Florida residents in need, while helping Miami’s communities grow even more.

“It’s not just dots on a scatter plot; they represent people and experiences,” Rodriguez said. “I take pride in being a County employee because what I’m working on could potentially help someone who looks like me, as a resident of Miami-Dade County. If technology can help with that, then yes, I want to be part of it.”

It is the goal of Miami Tech Works and its Miami Tech Talent Coalition to fuel Miami’s tech talent pipeline with hundreds of students like Rodriguez. Miami Tech Works is backed by a $10 million grant over three years from the Biden Administration’s Good Jobs Challenge program to create new pathways into tech for the county’s underserved population and connect them with programs to learn, upskill and reskill. The Miami Tech Talent Coalition is a collaboration of employers, academia and community organizations to do just that. What’s more, data analytics is a fast-growing field where there’s a large need for more tech talent like Rodriguez in South Florida.

“In essence, [Rodriguez’s] journey exemplifies the achievements possible when local talent engages with academic opportunities within their community, leveraging partnerships among academia, government and the private sector,” said Antonio Delgado, vice president of Innovation and Tech Partnerships at Miami Dade College.

Daniela Rodriguez with her family. The picture at the top of this post shows Rodriguez participating in the Miami-Dade County booth at eMerge Americas, where a new application her team at MDC created, Paw-fect Match, was showcased.

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For employers: How to get involved in the Miami Tech Talent Coalition

Your involvement can make a significant difference in shaping the future of Miami’s tech industry, creating a vibrant and sustainable tech talent ecosystem. Together, participants can continue to build Miami as an innovative hub and a desirable destination for businesses and tech talent.

  • Join the Miami Tech Talent Coalition here. Employers can also specify a work group they are interested in. 
  • Attend a  meeting: The next in-person Miami Tech Talent Coalition meeting is scheduled for June 13. Find out more and register here.
  • Stay connected with the coalition’s progress and updates by signing up for their newsletter here, reviewing the website here, and following Miami Tech Works on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Refresh Miami is a proud Miami Tech Works partner.

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Krysten Brenlla