So, I’ve been getting some questions on what I would recommend for people who are interested in picking up programming lanaguages like Python, and learning about Data Science, Machine Learning, etc.
So I’ve come up with a little FAQ below - let me know if you have more questions!
Of course, all this I write now is in hindsight. If you prefer to read about it from my perspective back then when I started (very different perspective I assure you), check out the link below and scroll all the way to the very first blog post: https://www.yinglinglow.com/blog/
Enjoy and all the best in your journey :)
I saw that you took courses on General Assembly and also online courses on Datacamp. Which would you recommend more?
If you are just dabbling around with Python as a start, I’d recommend ‘Python Zero to Hero’ on Udemy (https://www.udemy.com/complete-python-bootcamp/learn/v4/overview) as an introduction to Python (NOT data science focused). It costs around $15 USD when on sale (last I checked!). Singaporeans, you can claim it via Skillsfuture. There are also other online courses if you want to explore Python for Data Science.
If you are already sure about going into Data Science and want to jump right in, then go for General Assembly. It is quite broad in coverage (and comes with Datacamp access, for those who are interested) but it is a significant investment. The course is 3 months, full time, and costs around $13,000 USD. For Singaporeans, it costs ~$6k after government subsidy but you MUST get a Python/Data Science role to qualify for the subsidy.
How much knowledge did you have before going for the course?
I had zero knowledge in programming two months before the course started (only vveryyyy basic html). I did a an online Udemy course in Python (https://www.udemy.com/complete-python-bootcamp/learn/v4/overview) and had some help (ok, a LOT of help) from my friend who knows coding, before starting the GA course. The pre-course work they assigned was helpful as preparation too.
As you have previously studied Business Administration, are you comfortable in sharing what made you take the jump?
Knowing that I have friends that I could approach to ask for help was important.
Also, in general, I think I am someone who is more inclined toward action (aka jump into things and from there, make it work), rather than worry about what can or cannot be done and end up being paralysed.
Not encouraging rash behaviour here - rather, I think it is about:
1) be aware of the potential risks and make sure it is in line with your risk appetite.
2) having in place a plan B if your original plan fails, and THEN also a backup plan for your plan B (idealistic, I know LOL things don’t always play out so nicely hahaha).
Was it a steep learning curve?
As with everything in life, if you don’t have background in something and you start learning it from scratch, it is going to be difficult. But if you are determined, persistent, and consistent, you will learn new things every day and you will improve. And in tech, you will HAVE to keep learning for the rest of your life - the speed of change is insane! #lifelonglearning lol
What did the course help you in?
The practical experience from projects were valuable, so that you can actually apply the code you learnt!
Syllabus was quite a good coverage of topics (in terms of breadth), but on top of that it is really important to read up and practice outside of class for depth, and to also explore other topics!
What we learn in class is a good starting point to cover the basics so that it is much easier for self-study in the future.
Most importantly, because you are learning as a class, you are learning from your classmates - there are so many ways to code, to tackle a problem. Really eye-opening. Even after the course has ended, these are the people who will be your (techy) support group outside of work.
How did you get your first job after General Assembly?
I was actively applying to jobs since the beginning of the course. Apply early! Don’t wait until the last minute. It takes months to find a job! If you are concerned about not having sufficient skills to pass the interview - well, my mindset was that going for interviews will exactly teach you what skills you are lacking in and THEN you know what skills to focus on picking up.
As to how I actually secured the job - I think the key contributing factors were: 1) Filling up my CV/ Linkedin with relevant skillsets and experience - very important! Otherwise how would anyone know what knowledge/experience/skills you have? And if you have no experience - do some side projects and write them in! It doesn’t have to be professional experience when you are starting out.
2) Doing up my Github - again, very important. Showcase your projects, and be ready to explain how you did it!
3) GO FOR INTERVIEWS - I was exploring many types of roles (not necessarily just those with the ‘Data Scientist’ titles), and I was also open to contract roles (my first job was a contract role).
4) Be ready to explain what you know, what you don’t know (be honest! DON’T oversell), be keen to learn.
Of course, a lot of other things had to come together nicely for it to work - but do what you can on the things you can control to maximise your chances.
I have been actively applying for Data Science Internships and got constantly rejected for lack of experience (even though I had the skillset that was required). What will your advice be?
Do projects (e.g. complete a data analytics project from sourcing the data to visualising the data and blog about it; build a telegram bot end to end) and (this is the key thing) PUT THEM ALL ON GITHUB and showcase them during your interview! Demonstrate the value your project will bring to other people.
Knowing the theory is one thing, being able to actually build something useful with it is another!
Could you tell me about your current role and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
I work on data projects end to end - from sourcing data, cleaning data, to calculations and data visualisation. On a day-to-day basis, for new projects that means meetings to scope out what actually is required to be done, and coding to get things up and running. For existing projects, if there are errors cropping up, we investigate the data and fix the bugs. Or, we work on improving the code.
For more details, check out my linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yinglinglow/
Is there a framework you use/can advise me to use when tackling a data analytics project?
First of all, understand the end goal (what do you want to predict/get out from the data).
Then, understand the the data you have (explore the data, understand what the data actually means, how the data moves/changes).
Clean/format the data for your particular use case.
Model and predict your data.
Finally, visualise your data.
How do you generate insightful trends and analysis from a given data? As most analysis can be done by others in Excel.
Insight comes from business understanding, not the tool. Someone who fully understands the business can get the same insight whether he uses Python or Excel - the difference lies in how he gets there.
How do you search for a needle in a haystack? You can manually search for it; you can pay someone to search for it; you can use a metal detector; you can burn the hay down and search for it.
Python is different from Excel in that it is more suited to dealing with bigger datasets. You can google to find out more about Python!
Looking back at your university days, is there anything you could change or improve if you had the chance to? What will your advice be for me?
I probably would have chosen to take a more ‘technical’ type of degree. Not so much so for the content, but to learn the approach to thinking about how to solve technical problems, or large-scale problems. Then again, everything I have done has let me to where I am currently, so maybe there was a hidden advantage of me taking a marketing major that I do not see (yet) haha
I think a very useful piece of advice my friend once told me (but he was based in the US) is that ‘nobody takes you seriously until your third job’. The point is - your first few roles will be for learning, so don’t worry too much if things don’t go smoothly (aka you don’t find your dream first job and stick with it for the rest of your life). I did a detour to take on a sales role early in my career - that really opened my eyes to gain new perspective on things.
You will stumble and fall - but as long as you stay humble, eager to learn and respectful, you can achieve whatever you want. Again, the caveat is your risk appetite, which comes hand in hand with your current life situation. A lot of times, people do not have the privilege of changing jobs without any outside commitments.
That said, I leave you with a quote which regularly comes back to me when I do a bit of thinking:
If you don’t get what you want, it’s a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.
- Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)