Everything you wanted to know about machine learning (but were afraid to ask).
Meet Alex, an Analyst Team Lead at Forum Research, who recently completed BrainStation’s part-time Data Science course. Alex recognized the demand for data-driven products and was looking to gain data skills that would enable him meet this demand.
Now that he’s completed the course, we asked Alex about how his learnings are helping him excel in his role.
BrainStation: What is your education and career background?
Alex: I went to U of T for my undergrad in Political Science, and then completed my CMPR designation. I work in marketing research, and am currently an Analyst Team Lead at Forum Research.
In my role as research manager I am constantly looking for ways to streamline the process of delivering data-driven insights. My current internal project is to evolve our [data visualization] products. We are experiencing a strong demand for data-driven portal type products – data science is a big part of making these products truly powerful. Naturally, me becoming more familiar with Python will result in a better product for our clients – this is my ultimate goal.
Why are you taking the part-time Data Science course?
Coming from the arts and science background I’ve had very limited formal training in anything related to data manipulation. One of my stats professors had a catchphrase that stuck with me: “There is truth in the data.” My first tool for discovering this “truth” via data manipulation was SPSS. This is a very limited tool, but it got me hooked on making sense of the data. Learning Python is the next step for me in order to elevate my data analysis skills.
What aspects of the course are you most interested in?
The “Modelling & Classification” part of the course is one that I am most excited about. Cleaning and organizing data is essential, but not fun. Putting the data to work is the fun part and I certainly look forward to learning more about that.
What sparked your decision to register for the course?
Python seems to be on trend these days. The awareness of the benefits was always there, I just needed to commit to a course. BrainStation provided a great package that met my needs content and timing-wise, thus allowing me to combine work and study.
Where do you see yourself after completing the course? Is there another course you’re thinking about taking next?
My main focus after completing the course is to apply the newly gained knowledge in the workplace. Once I feel comfortable with my progress in this area I am likely to focus on the User Interface side of the process. As mentioned earlier, I am focused on developing data visualization, insights-driven products and data science is just one piece of the puzzle. I am certainly coming back to BrainStation for more once I’m ready!
Now that you’ve finished the Data Science course, how are you using the tools and skills you’ve learned at BrainStation in your position as an analyst?
In my current workflow, I’ve been able to integrate the skills I’ve learned to streamline my data cleaning and preparation for use in such tools as Tableau and PowerBI. Both Tableau (Tableau Prep) and PowerBI (built in) offer user interface type solutions for cleaning and reshaping data. However, using Python surpasses the functionality and efficiency offered by point-and-click interfaces. This has allowed me to streamline my workflow and lessen my dependence on other teams.
What does your typical day-to-day look like, and how has it been influenced by what you’ve learned during the Data Science course?
The Data Science course has allowed me to spend more time on analysis and less on data prep. This, in turn, leads to better insights for my clients. I [have] yet to implement all of the techniques taught in the course, especially some of the advance analysis items – this is not a remark on the applicability of the course, but more so a compliment to the intensity of the course and the great amount of tools and skills taught.
What would be the next skill area that would benefit you as you work to develop data visualization products?
User interface is definitely the next big thing for me to figure out. Even within the very limited dashboard functionality allowed by data visualization products, user interaction is very important and can be accommodated well (or in most cases poorly). An understanding of how to create interfaces that users find useful and simple to use would elevate my work to the next level.
If you’re interested in learning more about Data Science, BrainStation offers a part-time Data Science course both on campus and online.