MSc Data Science - Jack Russon

After completing a Maths undergraduate degree, Jack Russon came to UEA to do a MSc in Data Science.

We discussed the best things about the course, and the graduate scheme he is embarking on.

What drew you to UEA and the MSc Data Science?

I graduated from a Maths undergraduate six years ago. I’d always been looking for something I wanted to do next and a few years ago I discovered programming and data science and became really interested in it.

I was looking at jobs that I could potentially get, and I realised it was going to be difficult to do without going back to school. I'm from Norfolk so UEA was a natural option for me as it was close by. My sister did the same course the year before me – she really enjoyed it and gave it a glowing review. 

After looking at the curriculum, a lot of the things that were on there was stuff I was semi-familiar with but wanted to know more about, so it seemed to sync up well with what I wanted.

What’s your favourite thing about the MSc Data Science course?

Probably the exposure to such a wide range of different tools and tasks.

I've learned about a load of different things during the course of the year, and they're all things where I feel like it's had a very practical angle to it. When I finished, I really wanted to go into industry. 

When I'm looking at things to do, it needs to be something where I can actually see it being applied in a job afterwards and the UEA course has really delivered that. One of the projects we did early on was building a chatbot and it was quite self-starting. It was pretty much: here’s the tools you need to use, go and try and make the best thing you can do. That was really challenging, but it gave a good kind of experience of how it would be in the real world. 

Are there any particular skills you picked up on the course?

In terms of hard skills, learning SQL was really useful. That's a database language that I didn't know at all beforehand.

Through my dissertation, I've spent that learning about time series and deep learning, which are two areas that I didn't have any sort of experience with before, and I feel like those two tasks are pretty big in industry at the moment, so I suspect I'll be using them fairly soon when I start my new job, so that'll be great.

In terms of the softer skills, I definitely think my report writing. I was not good at that. Before, I did Maths as my undergrad so I didn't have to worry about writing at all. It's something I've really had to work on during the course of this year, but I think it’s really improved. Also presenting, talking with people in different areas. That's also been something I've worked on and had time to practice. 

I didn't want to specialize too much in just one thing. I really wanted to get a wide range of things that I would be able to work on and also just kind of one of the early modules, Applications of Programming was a real look at the more software development side of things, and that's been something I was really interested in and was useful to learn about.

Did you use any services to think about your career?

Fairly early on in the year, I had a few meetings with CareerCentral.

One of them was just a general information interview that I set up where they helped talk me through what the process of computer science jobs would be like and that was really useful.

I had another session which was more specifically looking at my CV, and they gave me some help in terms of setting that up and then also what to expect and what to prepare for interviews. I also participated in a mentoring scheme. I did a one-off mentoring session with somebody who is in industry that was really useful. I spent about an hour and a bit chatting with him and he gave me a lot of really good advice.

The course set up presentations on people who had graduated in previous years on what they're doing now. There's also a couple of presentations on general careers advice that was given through the course. I think there's a good amount of information that was brought to us, but also, it was worthwhile going out and finding it yourself.

I was lucky in that I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Even coming into the course my goal was 100% to get a job. From day one, my goals would be to use all of the tools that were out there that would help me reach my goal. 

Could you talk about the role that you’re going to be entering?

I've successfully interviewed and got an offer of a place with Airbus, so I'm moving to Bristol in in about a week.

It's exciting! I'm still not entirely sure what the scheme is going to encapsulate, because it seems very broad, but the idea is I'll be doing an initial six-month placement, followed by three-month placements for two and half years. My initial placement is going to be focusing on data sciences, which is my area of expertise and what I'm interested in doing.

It's pretty open in what I can do later on in further placement. I'll have the chance to work on some different areas if I want to do something on cyber security or software development. I'll be able to have a go at whatever, which is exciting to get an idea of how the different areas of the business works.

I'm looking forward to starting and I definitely think all of the help I got from UEA has really helped me actually get to where I want it to be.

Any words of advice for prospective MSc Data Science students?

I would 100% recommend it if that's where you want to be. I would say there is some flexibility – my sister previously did the Computer Science course and there's a lot of shared modules between the Computer Science course in the Data Science course.

so if you decided midway through the year you actually prefer software engineering or are really interested in this other thing, there is some sort of wiggle room to move around and do something else.

In terms of career prospects, if you do well through the course of the year, there's a lot that you can talk about. There's a lot that you have to offer to potential employees, and if you step on doing it, there's a lot of resources and help that are out there, but you've got to be proactive in in the way you go about it.

Make the effort to go out and get in contact with professors, because all the professors I spoke to through the course of the year were really obliging and helpful when I contacted them directly. Make the most of CareerCentral and also start applying for a lot of these placements early. 

Through the course of the year, I probably applied to about a hundred different schemes and had interviews for ten of those and got a placement at one. It's a bit of a numbers game.

There's a mixture of people on the course who have more coding ability or less coding ability. I'd done quite a bit before starting, which I think gave me quite an advantage. It made it a lot easier, but having said that, if you haven't had any coding experience, just be prepared, but you've got to learn two things rather than one. If you're completely new to coding, it's going to be harder, but it's very much still doable if you put in the effort.


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