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Data Analytics helped open career door

By Scott Dickie - Posted on 18 June 2020

MSc Data Analytics student Scott Dickie explains how his desire to develop professionally led him to Strathclyde, and his programme placement led to a new job - and an award along the way!

I think it was around this time two years ago, give or take a couple of weeks, that I was applying to Strathclyde to join the MSc Data Analytics class in 2018-19. Having been following talks about data science and AI for a while, I felt like I wasn’t developing the professional skills required to remain relevant as a data professional, and on paper this MSc ticked all my boxes. I applied for - and was awarded - a scholarship from the Data Lab, quit my job and began my course in September 2018.

Fast forward to one year ago, I was getting ready to begin the industrial placement for my MSc, which would also form my dissertation. I had interviewed for the placement in April with the data team lead at STV and data engineer; which was more like a discussion around what we all were hoping to get out of the project. On their side they were looking for something could use enhance the user experience on the STV Player app, and for me a challenging and interesting piece of work that would form the basis of my dissertation.

The Data Analytics course itself consisted of classes from Computer Science, Maths & Stats, and Management Science. To grossly understate a year’s worth of learning, I did a lot of Python programming for data analysis and a bit of databases in the Computer Science classes, a lot of R in the Maths & Stats classes, and worked a lot more on ‘softer’ skills like problem structuring methods in the Management Science classes. A class which aimed to bring all this together, aptly named “Data Analytics in Practice” brought in external clients which gave the class an opportunity to use these skills we were learning to tackle real life business problems. One mantra continuously repeated over the year was “real life data problems are messy and complicated”, which I found to be true within a few hours of starting my placement and looked at the data ingestion process for the STV Player. Fun times!

As soon as I got started at STV the team welcomed me with open arms and were a great help in helping me put together a big, chunky question to explore for my project. They were incredibly generous with their time throughout by sense checking what I was doing, and really helped me get my head around what data was collected and what it meant. After spending a couple of months banging my head against the keyboard and screaming internally, I had put together a couple of pretty nifty models which offered some explanation towards some nuances of user behaviour. I made a model called a decision tree; which, to oversimplify, creates some if-then-else rules which say “if user does A, then 1; else if user does B then…” and so on, and made another model called a random forest; which is an aggregate of multiple decision trees. Thankfully all I need to know about them is how to run them and evaluate them, people much smarter than me have kindly written and published open source code which actually runs under the hood. My manager and I filmed an entry for the Data Lab MSc project of the year which was shortlisted for the finals but didn’t clinch the title.

Following the success of the project I was offered a permanent position within STV Digital as their new Junior Data Scientist, which seemed like a natural progression to make given I had settled in well with the team and had proven capable. (absolutely nothing to do with bringing in home baking every other Friday!)

Based on my own positive experience, if anyone is considering the MSc Data Analytics programme to move or advance their career, my advice would be to take the plunge and go for it.

After the project marks were finalised, my dissertation supervisor got in touch with my line manager to say they were putting my project forward for the May Hicks award from the Operational Research Society, which is an award given for student projects carried out in a client organisation. For my project to be awarded the runner up prize and have it recognised with such high esteem is fantastic.

A massive thanks go out to my team at STV for being amazing during placement, Data Lab for funding me, MBN Solutions for placing me at STV, Strathclyde for the great course, and everyone from the MSc Data Analytics 2018-19 class for an amazing year; this award is the culmination of all of these different moving parts falling into place at the right time. 

Under normal circumstances I would be at the graduation ceremony next month but given the pandemic I'll be raising a glass from home to toast the occasion!




Contact details

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 +44 (0)141 548 4114
 sbs-adviser@strath.ac.uk 

 Postgraduate admissions
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 sbs.admissions@strath.ac.uk

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