Why a Business Grad Went Back to School for Data Science

By BrainStation July 23, 2019
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The growth of the data science field shows no signs of slowing, with a projected 2.7 million new data jobs to be created in the next two years. Many individuals are realizing now is the time to change course and pursue a data-focused career. 

Data Science StudentOne of these individuals is Andrew Berry, who shortly after completing his business degree, decided to pursue digital skills education and applied to BrainStation’s Data Science Diploma Program

BrainStation spoke to Andrew about his what influenced his decision to pursue a career in data, his experience in the program, and what he plans to do next. 

Can you tell us a bit about your education and career background before BrainStation?

I graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree last May. In between my graduation and starting the BrainStation Data Science Program, I travelled in Southern Asia and South-East Asia – an experience that I’m very grateful for. In terms of my career background, I’ve done many internships throughout university and started a bunch of passion projects over the years– I’m a curious individual and there is so much that I want to learn. 

What was your motivation behind taking the Data Science Program? 

At McGill, I majored in Information Systems and had a concentration in Finance. During my time, I took a couple of data science related classes and from that exposure I became very fascinated with the topic, as well as all the potential use cases that went along with it. Data science can be implemented and used everywhere. However, I didn’t think I knew enough and I wanted to further my technical skills.

I envision that some form of data science skills will be commonplace in every work environment moving forward, and so it seemed logical to upskill and future-proof myself. There is an art to data science – the art of interpreting the data, the storytelling, and all of the potential use cases. It’s an exciting field right now. To me, it feels like the perfect intersection between the technical world and the business world. 

You did a commerce degree at McGill before deciding to take the Data Science program, what made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in data over a more traditional ‘business’ position?

I want to pursue a career that is in the intersection between technology and business. I would say the Data Science Diploma Program complements my degree nicely. No matter what position you hold in the future, having a good understanding of the business-side will help you understand the purpose of your work. Like I mentioned earlier, data science will be very commonplace in the business world, so it’s important to have a solid understanding of it. 

Ideally, after some exposure to the data science field, I’d like to transition into a product management role, dealing with data-driven solutions or data-focused products. 

Do you think having a business background is helpful in the data field? 

I’d like to think so. In business school, you spend most of your time working on case studies. These case studies, in essence, are some form of past data, and whatever business decision you make, the rational will be derived from the lessons learned in these case studies. Essentially business is one big supervised learning model. 

On a more serious note, business school does a really good job at educating you on how to effectively communicate, write, and persuade. These are the essential soft skills in any role, but you don’t necessarily need business school to learn them. What business school did teach me is how to manage relationships, resources, and delivery of a product that is aligned with the overall target segment. I think these skills are very transferable to the data field. 

You moved to Toronto right before taking the course – we have a lot of international students, can you give them any tips on how to find accommodations and what they should do when they arrive?

It seems that Toronto has a very competitive rental market, and people new to the city may want something flexible. I went with a co-living rental service called Roost, they offered a 6 month lease which was flexible enough for me. In addition, they also provided a fully furnished room and a lot of little things were already taken care of. The rental process was very straightforward and easy with them, so I didn’t have to deal with a lot of headaches. I do have housemates, and Roost matched me with them based on our personalities – so far, we’ve meshed really well and I’m glad I went with Roost, I’d highly recommend it.

Tell us a bit about your learning experience at BrainStation, what are some of the highlights?

BrainStation exceeded my expectations in a lot of ways, I learnt a lot, and I had a good time doing so. I really enjoyed the fact that I was part of an intelligent cohort with every member coming from a diverse background.There is a lot of knowledge in your cohort, so I advise you to get to know them, pick their brains, and learn what they are passionate about. I learned a lot of life lessons from my peers and we’re all very close – everyone got along really well. 

I really enjoyed our tech tours and the afternoon workshops that were offered during the course. They’re very helpful, especially if you’re new to Toronto and want to get a sense of the tech landscape here. 

The best part of the program was that there were excellent and experienced instructors present. They’re friendly and always willing to help or answer questions you may have. I really loved when they would bring up an anecdote from their professional experience that related to the content we were learning. They explained industry standards, best practices, and what common data science mistakes they have made. 

Overall, it was a lot of work and it’s one of those programs where what you put in is what you get out. So I advise anyone considering it to take the program seriously. 

What were some of the most valuable skills you gained during the program? 

Obviously the technical skills that I learned are very valuable. Overall, BrainStation’s Data Science Diploma Program provides a very good foundation of data science, and what you learn will provide you with the skills and confidence to start a career in the data world. 

What has the Career Support experience been like at BrainStation throughout the program and since you graduated?

There were definitely some highlights in the career support experience. For me, the most valuable moment was when we did our technical mock interviews, the feedback from an experienced hiring manager was invaluable. I also found the workshops on networking and life after BrainStation particularly useful. On Synapse – BrainStation’s Learning Management System – there are some useful career support sections that serve as nice reminders. 

What are your next steps now that you’ve graduated from the program?

Since graduating one month ago, I’ve been networking and setting up coffee chats with various people in different industries to build new connections and learn something new from experienced professionals. I’ve been attending hackathons, data science meetups, and events to really network with the community.

I’ve also been continuing my data science studies, working on building up my portfolio on github – I want to have four or five solid projects – and doing some coding challenges. It’s important to keep learning and actively improving your skills.