From Investment Management to Data Science

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An interview with Applied Data Science Bootcamp Alumnus and Junior Developer, Michael Voghtmann Smith.

What were you doing before you enrolled in the bootcamp?

I was running a small investment partnership, Oakley Square LLP. The fund was originally started to seed a track record to market to the wider investing community. I kind of bottled out of going through loops to take investors on board, but the fund’s performance justified keeping the operation private with the original investment from the founding partners.

With a long-term strategy and without the day-to-day reporting to worry about, I had a window of opportunity to look into what I was really passionate about. I became excited about how advances in technology were opening up huge value in many different fields, especially human potential. I read Pedro Domingos’ “The Master Algorithm” and thought, “How can I be a part of this!”

I took a few online courses, but it’s hard starting from scratch on your own. I was focusing too much on details and not grasping general concepts.

What challenges or friction did you encounter with your existing skillset?

My coding experience was next to zero. I took a few online courses, but it’s hard starting from scratch on your own. I was focusing too much on details and not grasping general concepts. I, fortunately, attended a Python workshop with Cambridge Spark a couple of months before the bootcamp, which really helped a lot and gave me a better understanding of the skills I would need.

After struggling with online courses, I was keen to train in-person and receive expert feedback.

Why did you choose Cambridge Spark as your learning provider?

After struggling with online courses, I was keen to train in-person and receive expert feedback. The calibre of instructors, coming from top universities and industry, was incredible. Each module was led by the chosen expert for that subject from among the Cambridge Spark team. The course runs over alternate weekends in central London, which was a big factor as I couldn’t commit to full time.

It was great fun to explore new tools and be exposed to so many ideas and potential opportunity by people who love sharing what they do.

What did you enjoy most about the bootcamp?

I liked the community that formed amongst both the students and instructors. It’s a cutting-edge industry and no one has all the answers or knows which direction things will take. It was great fun to explore new tools and be exposed to so many ideas and potential opportunity by people who love sharing what they do.

I’ve been impressed by the friendliness, enthusiasm and expertise of the staff and instructors. They’ve created an open and inclusive culture, which is conducive to learning, whatever level you’re at.

Can you sum up your overall experience of Cambridge Spark?

I’ve been impressed by the friendliness, enthusiasm and expertise of the staff and instructors. They’ve created an open and inclusive culture, which is conducive to learning, whatever level you’re at. The experience was definitely worth it and one I will harness.

Take the opportunities to meet up between class to work on projects and exchange ideas.

What advice would you give for those considering the bootcamp?            

If you’re new to coding, attend an in-person coding course as early on as possible. This will make your pre-course self-study far more productive. Also, make the most of the community. Take the opportunities to meet up between class to work on projects and exchange ideas.

Cambridge spark was instrumental in inspiring me on this path and I value the network and friendships made going forward.

What are you doing now?

Since finishing the course, I made the decision to get more hands-on with data. It was great to learn concepts during my Chartered Financial Analyst studies, but now I also have the tools to actually create powerful models from raw data. To pursue this goal, I closed my partnership and focused on programming. At this time I have just finished a developer programme in London. Cambridge spark was instrumental in inspiring me on this path and I value the network and friendships made going forward.

 

What does the future hold for your career?

Becoming a junior developer might feel like a step backwards, but learning to code and develop software has given me the potential to add far more value to my existing skillsets and the opportunity to create projects I’m genuinely excited about.

I think that skills in data processing, interpretation and presentation will increasingly become a core part of many professions and businesses.

Could you sum up your perspective on the data science industry?

There’s definitely been a shift from nice-to-have to must-have [in terms of data science skills]. I think that skills in data processing, interpretation and presentation will increasingly become a core part of many professions and businesses. Along with data specialists, decision-makers at any level will be more empowered with a working familiarity of data science concepts.

I feel privileged to have worked and learned with a team of inspiring people who are at the forefront of an industry creating huge value and opportunity.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I feel privileged to have worked and learned with a team of inspiring people who are at the forefront of an industry creating huge value and opportunity. It’s an exciting time to be alive.

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