RedCat Digital’s Big Data Analytics recruiter sat down with a recently placed candidate who has made the unprecedented move from London Black Cab driver to Data Scientist. “Mike” has a great story and is an inspiration for all those looking to move industries or get back in to a technical job. Read his story here:
Tell me a little bit about your previous role before becoming a taxi driver?
I used to be an investment analyst working for a few different investment management companies, so my role was to analyse investment strategies, looking at things that can impact your pension for example in a quantitative way. Lots of crunching the numbers, we used to look at things like benchmarking and growth, and previous investments as what they may have invested in before may not have been what was necessarily on the tin. Ultimately we were looking to see if our investors were getting what they thought they were.
So how relatable was your role then to your role now as a Data Scientist?
Certainly similar to a data analyst role because that’s really what I was doing, I was called a research analyst, quantitative analyst and this type of thing, but ultimately its analysing data. With the finance industry it’s been data-driven for so long and now the whole ‘Big Data’ thing is making it much more accessible to other entities which maybe weren’t so data driven previously. All corporations now must be data driven but also government agencies and charities, they started to realise that if they have an app or a website then they can get some valuable insight from it which is so important nowadays. So previously when I was an investment analyst I was really just a specified data analyst so it’s always been that way in finance really.
So what caused your change of career path?
Well, I still had a job in 2009 during the financial crisis and even though it was an absolute nightmare, of course, a lot of people were still working in the city. But to be honest there was a culture in the city back then that I didn’t agree with, I had one boss in particular who wasn’t the best, there was one day when the market was particularly down and I remember him saying “Its days like this that I take comfort in the fact that its other people who are losing money and not me” and it was just things like that really.
So what was it that appealed to you about training to be a taxi driver?
I wanted to do something completely different and I wanted something where I could be self-employed where I could have a flexible way of living due to some personal family reasons. I’ve always loved maps as well and I love learning about London so it seemed like a good fit. At the time I was contracting so I decided that by doing The Knowledge of London test, it would fill in the gaps in between contracts.
Do you think that your background as an analyst helped with The Knowledge test?
Well, I have always been quite methodical and organisation, and The Knowledge [of London test] requires that so I guess there are some skills which were useful. I can’t say that knowledge of the stock market was particularly useful but it was more of the approach. I did initially just intend to do the driving just in between contracts but then my family life changed and it ended up being a sabbatical that ended up lasting 6 years.
So when the time was right to get your career back on track, what was it about Big Data that attracted you?
So I started at the General Assembly (GA) in October and did the immersive Data Science course, and with my background in financial analytics, it was very data driven anyway so now with Big Data roles it seemed like a natural career progression. And I feel that people nowadays are just much more aware of what analytics, in general, can do, whereas before it was seen as a bit weird to think about these things it’s now a very attractive thing to do. Whereas previously I would only have an excel spreadsheet to analyse data I now have a lot more, I used to just have 400 rows of data to analyse and now I have 3-4 million so you have to learn how to code properly to do that. It’s not a new science, the principals of maths still apply like a linear regression which has been around hundreds of years, and it’s just the way things are done nowadays.
I went to the GA to upskill and to show potential employers that I am serious about making the change back into professional services and I think to show people you are really serious you have to do something like that. You can do an online course but I don’t think it makes you into something, it gives you a bit of knowledge but I feel a proper immersive course is the best way to go.
What was it about the content of the GA course that you felt prepared you for a role as a Data Scientist?
A lot of it actually, the practical experience on python was good, I think we could of spent a bit more time on the basics of Python and it would have been good to go back and look at more computer programming and their concepts but once you’re up and running its good. The machine learning is really good and I now have lots of algorithms to talk about, in terms of building them and testing them, I now have lots to talk about in an interview. It lets you actually have a proper discussion, some of the blog posts you read can be pretty vague, some of them even ask if you want to do data science do you have to be good at maths?! It’s pretty funny really. At the GA its 3 months of solid work but you come out of it and you feel ready to get going.
So how did you find the process of finding a Data Scientist role once you had completed the GA course?
It was quite hard because of my time out of the industry and some people don’t see the other skills you have, I got the impression that because I had been out and doing a non-technical job some people weren’t open to me. However, as we know there are a lot of people out there who have had career breaks for family reason etc. who just need that first step back in and once you get in its fine, you just need that chance.
How has it been getting back in to a technical role as a Data Scientist?
It’s been good, because I did the GA course it’s not like I have just walked in straight from being a taxi driver and tried to pick it up after 6 years. I think the culture of where I am now is quite productive, I can come in and play around with the data and really get to grips with it, it eases you back in to things. I wasn’t sure if I would find it that way but it’s been an easy transition.
And how did you find the process of going through a recruitment agency such as RedCat Digital?
Yeah I’ve done it before when I was in finance, to be honest it’s a lot better. You don’t have to trawl through loads of jobs, you can just speak to somebody who can help the process along. It’s hard because there are some recruiters who are sharks but if you do find a good one it can make a big difference.
Do you have any final advice for anybody who has maybe been out of the industry and are looking to get back in to a technical job like a Data Scientist?
I think proving your serious and doing a proper course shows that you have got the hunger for it, so I would shop around for some of these courses and find the best one for you. And I know it’s a cliché but just don’t give up, it was very hard and I had lots of rejections but you have to focus on the skills you have got which maybe aren’t necessarily on the CV, because you will have something to give.
If you are looking for a new role in the Big Data Analytics space then contact Andy on 0207 265 7800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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