The New Year is already here and the next edition of Basecamp will follow shortly. However, just before moving on, we want to reminisce a bit about the old one. For this occasion, we interviewed one of our alumni – George Burry. George took part in the Basecamp Spring 2018 edition and after finishing the bootcamp, started working as a Data Scientist. We asked him about his motivation to transition into Data Science, what it took to get a DS job, how was his experience at Basecamp and he told us what surprised him in his new career.
Hi, could you shortly introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m George. I come from New Zealand and I am currently living in The Netherlands and working as a Data Scientist. I studied aviation and engineering at university, before moving to Japan where I taught English, learned a bit of Japanese and gained exposure to the world of international business. While working in marketing, I decided that I would like to switch to a new career in the magical realm of data science.
When and why did you decide to become a Data Scientist?
In the beginning of 2017, I went back to coding in Python and learned that I could import datasets into a Pandas dataframe, play with the data, use it to train a Scikit-learn machine learning model and use that model to make predictions. I thought: “Hey this is really cool stuff!” and I realized that it is very valuable across a wide range of industries. That means the work of a data scientist can be very diverse.
What did you do to become one?
At first, I took a data science related course online, but I was confused and intimidated by all of the concepts and gave up. I then spent some time exploring frontend development, then working on small Python applications and finally I felt bold enough to dive into the Coursera Machine Learning course after someone recommended it to me. A few days after completing that course, I applied for a place on the BaseCamp bootcamp. Less than two months later I was in Bratislava doing the bootcamp. I was ultimately offered a Python developer, a data consultant, and a data scientist role.
What did(n't) you like about Basecamp?
I really enjoyed being part of a small group of like-minded people and being coached through a broad curriculum of challenging and exciting topics. Each topic was taught by a mentor who is specialized in the relevant area and there were ample opportunities to ask questions and really try to get our heads around the new concepts. Each day we were given challenging exercises to work through where we had to think for ourselves and work together as a team to get to the solutions. Given that the bootcamp runs for only two months, there is a lot to cover in a short time, so some of the topics are only briefly touched on. The capstone project is a great way to get exposed to a real-world problem and reinforce the new skills and knowledge.
What was your capstone project about?
My capstone project involved investigating and applying techniques to predict a time-series and detect outliers. I tried to approach the problems through deep learning using LSTM neural nets, but I found that one of the caveats is that such models tend to take a long time to train. I discovered that the XGBoost regression algorithm offers surprisingly good results and can be trained in a fraction of the time.
Is there something that surprised you in your Data Science career?
I am now working for a small consultancy and we offer end-to-end solutions for our clients. Being a small team, we need to get our hands dirty with frontend/backend development as well as working directly with the data. I recently learned how to build an API and I am currently learning how to store and manage the data on the frontend. I originally imagined that I would be spending all of my time doing data wrangling and training models; however, I am grateful to be building a diverse range of skills.
What would you recommend to people who would like to transition to Data Science?
Dive in as soon as you can to see if it is for you or not. There are so many good tutorials and blogs online to try out and get a feel for it. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will get hired as a data scientist and get paid to solve interesting problems and build up valuable experience. If you decide that data science is for you, you will realise that going from zero to one is a daunting and challenging step. Doing a bootcamp was a great way to get hands-on experience working on real-world problems, to get support and feedback from mentors and to be a part of a team. These days I really enjoy what I do, so committing to the bootcamp was a great decision.
Thank you, George! It was nice having you at Basecamp. Good luck in your Data Science career.
If you would also like to transition into Data Science, you can still secure your spot at Basecamp Spring 2019 edition starting in March. But don't forget that the application deadline is quickly approaching. You have until Jan 31 to apply.