Prior to venturing into the unfamiliar world of Data Science, I was on a gap year and had been watching quite a lot of tech shows and futuristic television series. Having come from an agricultural background, I was fascinated by how dairy farming was being automated and how drone imaging was used to spot diseased crops in large plantations, all because of some weird thing called ‘machine learning’. I realised that the world as we knew it was changing and I needed to learn how to build these machines of the future – especially if they were going to make it harder for me to get a job. So I thought, “I must learn how to code!”
So I took a chance and applied to the EXPLORE Data Science Academy. The worst that could happen was that they would say no, but I was ready to find a way no matter what! I did not know that I was walking straight into destiny.
Training with EXPLORE was quite challenging and a completely new approach to learning for me. It was actively self-driven, there were no classes or lectures from the instructors, only guidance and clarifying questions. All of this scared me - so, I took comfort that there would be no exams to write. Phew!
When I arrived at EXPLORE, I had spent the previous year obsessing over financial markets and was somewhat disappointed to start the year off with ‘solving the drought’ problem in the Cape region. However, this project actually ended up being critical to my knowledge base. I was keen to develop an AI that would compete with the AI Powered Equity ETF (AIEQ), the first actively managed fund driven by artificial intelligence, but my skillset at the time would not get me there yet. I had to learn a key point about data science, “It’s not about what you think you can do with the data, but simply understanding what the data is saying”.
The learning curve was steep: multiple video-led courses, a barrage of assignments and team projects, and guess what? Tests...but they were open book, testing application rather than recall. There was also development coaching available which I embraced fully. I got to clearly understand who I am, where I want to end up and what it will take to get there. Life at EXPLORE was not only an academic exercise but an introspective one as well.
After completing my Data Science full-time programme, I got a graduate opportunity with one of the commercial banks in South Africa. I currently work there as a Warehouse Data Analyst where I do SQL development, some data testing and regularly engage with business on their data requirements. The work is challenging and requires constant problem-solving, and I thoroughly enjoy it. Every day is an opportunity for learning which is why I am still there.
Of all the years of my life, the time spent with EXPLORE was the most uncertain but also the most fulfilling. I was in a new city all alone. I made friends, grew my professional network, gained what I deem to be a formidable skill set, and fell in love with Cape Town! Lately, I have been dubbed a ‘Python ninja’ by some of my friends whom I assist and I owe it all to the time spent at EXPLORE. I have also been roped into some business ventures in the eCommerce space and the future looks colourful in this vast world of Big Data.
Given a chance, I would live that year over just as it was! Stepping into Data Science was pivotal for my life and has set me on course to contribute to the tech-driven future we are building.
Warehouse Data Analyst & Python Ninja