Four Weeks In

Four Weeks In

Hard to believe, but I’m four weeks in to my MSc in Big Data. Boy, have the past four weeks whizzed by. Here’s a short reflection on them, around the themes of:

  • Change
  • Perspective
  • Balance
  • Collaboration


I’ve gone from working full-time to learning full-time, and the first thing to say about that is that I’m loving being back learning. Have a year to focus on learning new skills is such a privilege.

However, it’s not without it’s challenges. The last time I needed to really found something intellectually demanding was when I was an undergraduate, 25 years ago. So is it surprising that I’m finding some of the content of my MSc challenging? Not really, I reckon.

At the start of the course I beat myself up a bit that I was finding some things difficult (particularly maths). But, to be fair to myself, the hardest maths I’ve done in the past 13 years has been the 12 times table and multiplying fractions. (I’ve been a primary school teacher until recently). Also, my maths module assumes a fair bit of prior knowledge that either I’ve had but since forgotten, or never had in the first place.

I’ll get there, but it will just take me more time (and require more effort) than I first expected.

So, the change to full-time study is a really positive one, but one that comes with challenges.


It’s easy to lose the big picture when you’ve got your head in your books. I need to keep reminding myself why I’m doing this course and what I want to get out of it. Yes, it’s about academic learning but for me it’s about much more. I want to get lots of practical experience, to collaborate with others and to understand the data science landscape in Scotland much better, in order to prepare myself for the start of a new career.


Striking a balance between the different parts of your life can sometimes be hard.

At the moment I’m trying to work out that oh-so-important balance between my studies and the other aspects of my life. I have a family. I work (private tutoring and supply teaching - not a huge number of hours, but I want to bring some money into the household). I make a determined effort to stay healthy.

As for many people, juggling these often-competing elements is not easy. I haven’t yet figured it out, as is clear from the fact that I’m doing work for my MSc almost every day since I started.


The other students on my course are a good bunch. Thankfully. It’s been really encouraging to see how willing people are to help one another.

The students on my course are from all over the world and come from an incredible range of backgrounds, from those who have over thirty years experience of developing software, people who run their own business, who have backgrounds in science, engineering, and education.

The beauty of this is that we’re able to help each other - the mathematicians helping those who need help with their linear algebra, the programmers helping those who have no experience of programming.

Viva collaboration!