In our second guest post, Anita George, former University of Stirling MSc Data Science for Business student and winner of The Data Lab Industrial Placement Award 2017, shares her experience of an amazing year and and gives advice for students preparing to enter the world of data science.
Its been almost four months since I finished my post-graduation.
Now, after an award, employment at NHS, several interviews and photoshoots, I thought it was about time I looked back at the course I undertook, and being invited to write for this blog seemed ideal.
It was not an easy path, the past year. It was full of stumbles, failures, tears and often sleeping for maybe 2-3 hours in a day.
But what helped me through all this, apart from the never-ending cheering from my family, was that I never quit from standing up and trying again, each time from never giving up in trying my best.
I started my job just four days after my final project presentation, which means weeks of non-stop relentless hard work and when asked why I didn’t take a holiday to celebrate my postgraduation, I knew I didn’t want to.
This is my celebration - my employment at NHS NSS.
There is so much I would like to write about the programme I did and things I wish I had done or hadn’t done. Maybe its better to go one step at a time.
I did the MSc programme Data Science for Business, which was an unique blend of business and data science giving innumerable opportunities in various industries.
It involved plenty of group work, individual research, assignments and presentations.
There was a diverse mix of nationalities and cultures in the university and I had learnt a lot from each person I talked with. In ways they handled demanding situations, difficult people, friendships, workloads, studies and adapting to a new country and for some - a new language.
A Community of Learning
If you are studying at the University of Stirling, you would know what a warm and friendly community it is in there.
I could go on and on but there is something that I did and wish you would do too - look out for each other.
Many are in the programme with different qualifications, culture, nationality or language. For some, somethings are easy and for some its extremely difficult.
Some have very bold personalities and characters while some prefer to stay in the background but by looking out for others, it means you are not only doing others a favour, you are doing yourself a favour too - something that can only felt from the heart.
Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In
Always try your best. There are some modules, some days, some lectures that you wish wasn’t part of your student journey but in the end, you would know that they were the most important in moulding you in your skills or personality.
So, whether it is an assignment, lecture or group work - turn up and do your best even if sometimes it is not quite up to the required standards.
Eventually your standards will rise.
Take Advantage of Online Learning
There are loads of short courses in data science or coding in various education websites which I am still using, either on my commute or when my little one has gone to sleep. It is very helpful especially if you have made a career change and everything seems so daunting.
There are ‘listen again’ recordings of the lectures which I found very useful. Sometimes I have listened some of them a couple of times to understand the concept. It is a very useful tool and I know some of my friends have benefited from it too.
I found it exceptionally fantastic that the University provides free access to Lynda. A site that I have used to learn at least a million things whether its business acumen or data science skills or sometimes its merely to build my confidence up. Make the most of this free access, Lynda has so many courses that can help you in the long run.
LinkedIn is something that wasn’t my comfort zone. Who would want to be my connection and why should I let everyone know my work history was the question I kept asking myself when asked to make an account at one of the employability skills workshops.
MBN is responsible for pushing me into starting an account with LinkedIn and in there I have seen a vast number of companies, industries, professionals and videos that are involved in data industry. I now have a Twitter account too.
Industrial Placements and Dissertations
Placements or dissertations are when you are truly put the test. Working as an analyst or data scientist makes all the skills you learnt or built during the course comes into play.
Make the most of it and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Not everything will and can be provided for you to make your project successful, it is up to you to make it happen. Don’t hesitate to ask your colleagues for help. They all have been there before.
Don’t Underestimate Your Existing Skills
Talking about career change, I made an enormous one. From being in the world of architecture to a world of data science.
It is very daunting and overwhelming, and I believe many of you are doing it too. I have asked many times, why would any one want to employ me-someone who has no undergraduate background in computers or statistics? But the transferrable skills you have gained on your previous job or education is exceptional.
Make use of the career cell and enjoy the personal and professional management module - it will help you understand your true strengths and how to overcome your weaknesses.
Overcoming Personal Challenges
All of us have our own hurdles. Being a mum makes it even more tough as I had to juggle my seven year old’s schedule with my studies. But the lecturers were supportive and so were the library staff. I have brought her to group works, project discussions and even late in the night while I worked on my assignments or research.
She once told me, “Mamma, I am the only school child who spends so much time in the University!”.
I am delighted that through it all my child has got so inspired that she now tells me that when she grows up she wants to go to the University of Stirling and learn data - ‘tricky data’ as she puts it.
I hope you all enjoy the programme and the time at the University of Stirling just like I did and if you choose health and want to work in a rewarding role where you are part of making a change in a patient’s life, then hopefully we can meet at NHS.
Whichever path you choose, I am sure you will excel in this fantastic data science industry.
The course you are taking might seem difficult now. I would like to quote the beautiful poem that I read at least a few hundred times this past year.
‘Don’t give up! Stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit. It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit!’.
Cheerio and Good luck!