Case study: Developing Data Science capabilities at GSK

By leveraging digital technologies GSK is able to improve products, enhance the customer experience and drive innovation at an accelerated rate. 

In order to help drive these initiatives, GSK is utilising the government-funded apprenticeship levy scheme to offer training and development opportunities to their employees from early careers through to experienced professionals. Cambridge Spark’s full digital pathway is available to all UK based GSK employees through the GSK Data Academy, they and their teams can gain the internal capabilities to better leverage data and make more informed, better decisions based on insights. 

At our recent roundtable discussion, we spoke with Jake Mallon, a Product Manager and Simon Watson, a Scientific investigator to increase our understanding of the impact their apprenticeship is having on them and their team at GSK. Both are undertaking the Level 7 AI Data Specialist Apprenticeship programme which equips learners with an advanced skill set to discover and devise new data-driven AI solutions, automate and optimise business processes, and support, augment and enhance human decision-making.

Accelerating your Learning & Development potential 

In our roundtable discussion with Jake and Simon, it became clear that the Level 7 AI Data Specialist Apprenticeship has been an opportunity for them both to improve their career trajectory, even though they are at different stages of their careers.

For Jake, who is part of the Future Leaders Programme, the apprenticeship proved to be an opening to unlock his learning potential.

“This apprenticeship has offered me the opportunity for a steep learning curve. It is a foundation for what I believe could lead to a really great career in a high impact space. It's definitely opened up doors to rotational opportunities, which internally may not have been possible for me otherwise.I think I have to credit the program for giving me the confidence to knock on that door and jump into this new and exciting space.”  

Jake Mallon, L7 AI Data Specialist Apprentice

Simon, an experienced professional with more than 20 years of experience at GSK, stated that the Apprenticeship has proved to be a turning point in his career.

"This course completely turned things around for me. It's helping me make connections with other parts of the business that we were previously supporting on this aspect as well. So it's giving me the opportunity to have conversations with people I haven't talked to in years on a new topic and get their opinion of where their gaps are.” 

Simon Watson, L7 AI Data Specialist Apprentice

Excellent standard of teaching

It was the standard of teaching, accessible through EDUKATE.AI, that stood out and deepened the learning experience for Jake.

“The tutors are excellent. They're knowledgeable, they're friendly, they're approachable. The experience itself is very hands-on, most lessons put theory into practice. It’s certainly what I was hoping to get out of an apprenticeship – being able to apply what I’ve learnt.

At the end of the lesson, I come away with the feeling that I can actually do this. I haven't just read it on a screen, maybe that's the apprenticeship way of doing things.”

Jake Mallon, L7 AI Data Specialist Apprentice

For Simon, the accreditation gained through Cambridge Spark Apprenticeships had a great draw.

“You ascribe a higher value to getting a formally recognised qualification at the end. It means you take it a bit more seriously, rather than just some course you spend some afternoons or some evenings doing. I think the same is true for your Line Manager as well as for the company, they take it more seriously.

Simon Watson, L7 AI Data Specialist Apprentice

Impact on their roles at GSK

For Simon, it was critical to have a practical skill that would impact and improve his day-to-day role. He describes the deepening of his Python knowledge as a “game-changer.”

“I had a growing frustration with the vendor software that only let you do certain things. I wanted to find out the most advanced ways of working with certain data sets. Using Python is a game changer, it makes me think about how to handle data when comparing the restrictions with Excel.

“Although there is a time barrier to learn these skills, you get this back quickly. If you put in the hours and learn an independent data handling platform, you’d be surprised how much you can get out of it quickly” 

Simon Watson, L7 AI Data Specialist Apprentice

Jake expanded on this, discussing the impact of his learning on his role at GSK. 

“Fortunately, the program offers project scoping support; outlining a problem, understanding how it could be solved, and working with mentors on either side to determine whether solutions will deliver sufficient value. That's going to be really helpful.”

Jake Mallon, L7 AI Data Specialist Apprentice

Not long out of Higher Education, Jake weighed up the greater learning experience from the Apprenticeship against the greater cost of studying for a degree.

“If I compare it to a typical lecture, thinking back to university, this has to be an improvement. Sometimes, I think, why didn’t I opt for an apprenticeship in the first place?”

Jake Mallon, L7 AI Data Specialist Apprentice

With apprentices already spread across twenty-seven of their departments, GSK’s data transformation is well underway as it continues to utilise the apprenticeship levy to bridge the skills gap for every team. As Simon states. 

“The skills you are learning are equally as applicable to chemistry, biology, engineering, logistics, marketing, management, anything pretty much”. 

Simon Watson, L7 AI Data Specialist Apprentice

If you’re interested in learning more about the Data and AI programmes offered at Cambridge Spark for yourself or your team please click here

Data Analyst Apprenticeship L4

Learn advanced data analysis skills
with a government-funded apprenticeship
April 2021 start

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