Data Science Bootcamp Review – Data Science Europe

Thank you Miguel Pelaez-Fernandez for taking the time to do this review. He attended Data Science Europe in early 2015.

Q : Can you tell us a bit about your background before the bootcamp?
A : I studied Physics at the University of Granada (Spain) and did my PhD in Physics there as well. I define myself as a scientist more than a physicist since in my early days I had a lot of interest in any type of scientific discipline. I believe Science is the most beautiful area to conduct your professional career and I pursued that. After the completion of the PhD, I came to Georgia Tech to work as a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Physics.  After 2 years of postdoc,  I realized that I did not want to limit myself to just Physics but also apply Science to other areas (more focused to society). At that time (2014) Data Science became very popular in the US and I found a perfect match with my personal interest. Then, I began investing my free time to get in shape for a transition. I knew I could get a job as a data scientist coming from a PhD and postdoctoral experience but I wanted to get more formal training. And this is how I ended up at Data Science Europe.

Q : How did you find out about the bootcamp?
A : During the period when I started reading about Data Science to get more familiar with what it was, I learnt about the emergence of Data Science bootcamps. I believe that participating in a Data Science bootcamp is a great idea if you’re looking to transition from an academic “job” (like PhD/postdoc) to a data science job.

Q : What was the application process like?
A : I started applying during fall 2014. I applied to 3 bootcamps (2 US and 1 Europe) and got accepted to DSE for the winter 2015 batch.

Q : Was there any pre-course work you had to complete before the bootcamp?
A : I completed some Coursera Data Science courses to get more familiar with typical programming languages and Machine Learning. It gives you a flavor but I have to say that you don’t learn as deep as you do in a good Data Science bootcamp (or at least the one I participated)

Q : Why did you choose to attend a bootcamp ?
A : I thought that formal training in some specific topics related to Data Science will put me in a good position to perform well in my first data science job.  Moreover, people with the same profile (more academic than industrial) are not really junior data scientist when they get their first jobs except for the fact that they don’t really understand the business side of things. So in general, this situation can cause some frustration and I did want to bypass that by participating in a bootcamp where I can sharpen my skills and also get a smoother introduction to the business side of things.

Q : Did you get admitted into other bootcamps? (if applicable, elaborate)
A : No. However, I was applying for new research opportunities in Physics as well. Actually, I got an offer to work in a Swiss research institute in the fall 2014 but in the period of a week, I also got accepted to the DSE bootcamp. The decision was hard to make but I opted for starting a new professional career. The DSE interview process was something that made me decide to attend since at the other bootcamps I applied for, I never had the opportunity to interact with the professional data scientists in charge of our instruction (it was a colder process). Instead at DSE, I did have the chance to be interviewed by one of the mentors and I did learn a lot more from that interview than in the previous months reading blogs about this new field.

Q : Why did you choose to attend this bootcamp (over others, if applicable) ?
A : This is the only one I got accepted to.

Q : Did the whole setup feel organized ?
A : Although I was in the first batch, in my opinion, it was very well organized. We had everything we needed to work on for the next 6 weeks: from concepts to real cases, from sharpening programming skills to interviews. I also liked the informal environment. We were living in a big modern house and where we could eat, chat and joke while we were learning. This, in my opinion was a great idea from the organizers. We also had some data scientists visit from Europe and US and did presentations on what they were working on, gave us advice and answered all our questions.

Q : In your opinion what were the most interesting part of the curriculum?
A : We got a formal training in SQL, R and Machine Learning as well as a lot of statistical puzzles but I think the most important part was the insight about data scientist jobs that we got from the great instructors we had. I take that over the rest.

Q : Do you feel you were able to learn things you couldn’t have learned on your own ?
A : As I mentioned before, the insights about data science jobs (how to position yourself and approach interviews and avoid usual mistakes) is something you can’t learn from  books on the internet.

Q : Are there any changes you’d like to see made to the curriculum?
A : No

Q : Did the program have a capstone project ?
A : It was a personal choice. We all did work on a personal project that was lined up with the industrial sector we were interested in. The idea was to have a portfolio related with the industry although we all had the options to instead use our time in learning more machine learning if we wanted.

Q : Are you currently employed as a Data Scientist ?
A : Yes, I am.

Q : Did you find employment within three months of finishing the bootcamp program ?
A : I had an on-site interview the next week after the end of the program and one day after the on-site I got a phone call telling me that they liked me and wanted to hire me.

Q : Do you feel the bootcamp hiring day was helpful ?
A : Yes, I do. I was well prepared and I was extremely satisfied with my performance during the interviews. I found the interviews were extremely easy but the reality is that the previous 6 weeks of work put me in the position to go with confidence and do a great job. It was also helpful to understand my role from the beginning and how it fit with the company’s vision.

Q : Did the bootcamp assist in setting up interviews or making introductions to companies after the program?
A : Yes, I did a couple more interviews after the first one. The instructors helped a lot setting up the interviews for us as well as preparing for it. We were also visited by data scientists working in companies we were interested in. So we got introduced to the company as well as we had the chance to discuss future opportunities.

Q : Did you feel the bootcamp helped you prepare for the interview process?
A : Absolutely, one of the things I like of this bootcamp is the emphasis they place on preparing you for interviews as well as performing well during the first 2-3 months on the job, which is very important to give a good impression to your team. We did interviews and puzzles almost every day as well as discussed what different companies do and what they could be looking for in a data scientist.

Q : Does the bootcamp have an active alum network ? (please elaborate)
A : We keep in touch from time to time via  e-mail or chat. Each one of us  is lives in a different country and in my case, in a different continent, so sometimes it is hard to communicate, even more when life gets busy. However, we still try to update our status and share our successes. We also try to help each other if we see that there is an opportunity that the other person may be interested in. Even more surprising is that we keep in touch with the instructors as well. That tells a lot about the good relationship between alum and instructor during the bootcamp. In addition to that, I was in the 1st batch and we all helped the 2nd batch in their training with relevant advice as well as sharing our initial experience.

Q : Do you feel alums are actively involved in the program through mentoring, giving presentations or in other capacities?
A : Yes, but this is a more personal decision. Some alum like focus on their professional career and others like to keep that mentoring attitude. I think because we all came from academia, we all like mentoring and participating in conferences, so it is a common interest.

Q : What do you think was unique about the program ?
A : The interaction with the instructor sand the help they provided to find you a great job.

Q : What are the weakest aspects of the program ?
A : I don’t see any weak aspect. We all got jobs after the bootcamp. Of course, you could do other things like spending more time in the training but the results were satisfactory. In my opinion, if something works well you must keep it the same way.

Q : Can you comment on the overall strength of your cohort class ?
A : We all were postdocs but we came from different backgrounds, countries, education, so it is not easy to compare. However, the process of selection was good enough to bring a class of 5-7 students that are ready to get a great job after 6 weeks of training. Having a PhD and postdoc experience give quite a lot of skills to work as a data scientist, this is why 6-weeks bootcamps are suitable for postdocs.

Q : Were you satisfied by the overall quality of the instructors ?
A : Yes, I was. I learned a lot from them about Data Science. They helped me to visualize how my first months at work would look like, what to expect and how to do my best.

Q : Any regrets ?
A : Not really.

Q : On a scale of 0 -10, would you recommend this bootcamp program ?
A : I am very happy with the results so I give a 10

Q : Why or Why not ?
A : Because you learn what you need to learn to start your career and because you get the exposure you need to the industry to have a global picture that can help you in the future.

Q : Anything we missed / Other comments?
A : No

If you have attended and graduated from a Data Science Bootcamp and you’d like to do a review of your experience, we’d love to hear from you. Please fill this form and we’ll reach out to you to conduct the interview.

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