Growing Data Science – Countering Disruption with Numbers (Part 2)

August 31, 2016

In the first part of this series, Poinwest’s budding Data Scientists talked about how they got introduced to the world of Data Science. In this second of two parts, we will see how they fared in the bootcamp, as well as their thoughts on its implications to the state of Big Data in the Philippines.

Data Science – By the Numbers?

The bootcamp involved many of the basics in practicing Data Science: Statistics, Programming, and translating the processed data into useful results for decision-making.

Most of the exercises were familiar to the bootcampers, having learned some in college. In contrast, the participants all note some difficulty with the programming classes, which could be attributed to the lack of coding units in Statistics courses in the country. Rustico added that some of the difficulties he encountered in the Python part of the bootcamp was in the way the language was being taught, which was from the point of view of a programmer. Franz, Bianca, and Micah echoed the challenge with the same classes as these were not part of their undergraduate curriculum.

For Micah, she got over the difficulties of programming class through sheer determination.

“I learned that the key to developing your programming ability is to keep on doing it. I did practice exercises to familiarize myself with the language.”Micah, Data Analytics bootcamper

She also mentioned that being part of a supportive group helped her ease through the hard parts of the program, a sentiment echoed by her colleagues.

Working Together During the Bootcamp
Working Together During the Bootcamp

Many of the participants noted enjoying parts of the bootcamp where managers and trainers assumed the roles of clients and the team would roleplay how things would go if it was an actual, live project.

“One noteworthy exercise is when Sir Isaac played the role of Bart, a businessman with data science needs. We have to do the roleplay starting from interviewing Bart to get his requirements up to presenting the results within a short period,” Marianne shares. “This particular exercise showed the advantage of being with Pointwest managers. They even came up with pricing and NDA on the spot!”

Bianca agrees, but wished for a more “realistic” way of dealing with project requirements. She even suggested having a real client on board. “I think roleplaying could still work, but maybe with a more realistic portrayal of how pitching really goes.”

Through the group presentations and simulations, the group says they were able to see different ways of tackling particular problems. “You get to see different ways to attack the same problem and also you get to know what you did right and what you could have done better through comments from the class and the facilitator,” Juan Gabriel said.

“There are infinite number of possibilities that could happen and there are also infinite number of ways one can solve a problem. And, in order to find the most appropriate approach in solving these problems, one must always read, study, learn as much as possible and be able to apply all the things she/he learned.”Cristine, Data Analytics Bootcamper, echoes with her take-away from the bootcamp

On Learning the Fundamentals of Data Science

In his LinkedIn pulse , Isaac Reyes talked about the success of the 5-week bootcamp, despite it being thought of as something akin to Mission: Impossible. With just over a month of training, the men and women who now comprised Pointwest’s Data Team managed to place highly in a Kaggle competition.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

(Image) Teamwork, Teamwork. Insights and Analysis.
Teamwork, teamwork. Insights and Analysis.

But can it fill the need for Data Scientists in the country? The answer from the attendees themselves appears to be yes… but only within certain conditions.

“The bootcamp is enough to teach the basics of data science. But I personally think that non-stat students would not grasp the concepts entirely.” Rustico, Data Analytics bootcamper

He explains that this would be due to the inability to grasp fundamental principles and concepts in the math involved. He adds, though, that while the bootcamp could produce Data Scientists, who have the requisite statistics and/or mathematics background, it could be used to make Data Analysts from people without such training.

Cristine and Bianca agree that the bootcamp gave them the fundamentals of Data Science. But both opine that the more important thinking should be in making the “state of Data” in the country better first.

“For the Philippines, I think (more than Data Scientists) what we need is to first organize our data,” Cristine says. “We have so much data on hand but it is not stored and managed properly. Data Scientists are only as good as the data they have on hand.”

“The bootcamp is still very much removed from the current state of the industry in the country. It relies on the assumption that organizations here are already mature enough with their data management, which doesn’t seem to be the case,” Bianca points out. “This makes us poorly equipped to handle their data unless we learn data management skills as well.”

“On the bright side, the company has started another bootcamp to remedy this,” Bianca adds, pertaining to an upcoming Data Management bootcamp.

Countering Disruption with the Analytics Bootcamp

In her talk on 27 July 2016 in the 2016 Asia Tech Summit, Poinwest President Ma. Cristina “Beng” Coronel talked about how it was important for organizations to find ways to embrace the future. She repeated this in a Thought Leadership piece, emphasizing her message with the phrase, “you evolve or die.”

(image) Bootcampers at work.With its innovative bootcamp, Pointwest showed it could take on the future in a very bold way. With young people like the graduates of the Data Science bootcamp more than living up to the expectations of their instructors, Pointwest is confident that it has the numbers to start growing, and eventually fill the talent gap.

“Having a sound number of young, talented Data Analysts and budding Data Scientists ensures that we can help businesses make optimized decisions based on carefully analyzed data.” Veck Basinang, Chief Technology Officer


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