More than a year ago I came to the realisation that my curiosity for knowledge and career ambition were not being fulfilled. At that time, I had just finished my PhD in complex systems simulation and was working as a data analyst and project manager. After several online courses I felt that, although I had learned a lot, there was still something missing from the learning experience. For one, I wasn’t interacting directly with other students, but more importantly, I felt I wasn’t growing the kind professional network that would propel my career to the next level.
I decided to apply to the data science fellowship program at Faculty. In this fellowship, candidates are recruited from a pool of hard-science PhD graduates from the best universities in the world. From this set, Faculty then takes only the best candidates as fellows. At the end of the year I got accepted, which was an honour, but at that time I wondered, will experience live up to the hype? It did, big time.
The fellowship starts with two weeks of full-day courses with both theoretical and practical components. Instructors are academically-trained experts and experienced data scientists. This combination yields the perfect balance between understanding the underlying principles of machine learning techniques and having the competence to select and deploy these techniques in a professional role.
The atmosphere was very welcoming and relaxed and our fellowship manager was superb at creating the perfect environment for the entire cohort of fellows to collaborate and engage with each other. Technical sessions during these two weeks were interspaced by sessions on industry best practices and public speaking. In a room where most have only experienced an academic environment, these sessions were appreciated.
By the third week we were assigned to different companies to work on a six-week project. In my case, the company was Vodafone. There, I trained a classification model to identify a particular type of customer, and a topic modelling pipeline to gain insight into key loyalty drivers using a large corpus of social media and survey texts. During this project, both technical and industry mentors were available for questions and feedback regarding my progress. I felt particularly confident in my role as a fellow in Vodafone, and part of that confidence came from knowing that my Faculty mentors were there to help in case I encountered a hurdle.
At the end of the fellowship, all fellows participated in Demo Day. This consisted of a series of five-minute presentations in front of more than 450 representatives from start-ups, established companies, public sector and financial institutions; all potential employers. In each presentation, fellows explained their six-week project, the challenges they encountered and the solutions they came up with. It was a brilliant public speaking experience, and the staff at Faculty were very supportive while putting together these presentations during the week leading to Demo Day. The rest of the evening on Demo Day consisted of chatting with leaders of industry, CEOs, CTOs and start-up founders; the ultimate networking event.
During my six-week project I was offered a permanent position at Vodafone which I accepted. I left the fellowship feeling that this was a pivotal move in my professional life, the first step towards a career that satisfies my appetite for knowledge and has great potential for growth. I would recommend the Faculty fellowship to all PhD graduates looking to move from academia to industry. This is an exceptional program that definitely lives up to the hype.
To find out more about the fellowship and apply to our latest programme visit here.