Apprenticeship update: predicting the future
The ten months of my Data Fellowship Apprenticeship so far have flown by.
After applying in March last year and then starting the following month, the final training sessions took place this week. Two days were spent talking about how time series analysis can be used to try and predict the future, once again returning to Python.
Regular readers will be aware of the love-hate relationship I’ve formed with this language since October. It has taken me far longer to pick up than expected and hasn’t come anywhere near as naturally as SQL. I’ve struggled to use it for analysis, data mining and machine learning over the past few months and have spoken about these challenges in previous posts.
In my last update, I talked about my decision in November to focus on having a more positive mindset. I’m pleased to report this is still going strong in January and the difference is becoming noticeable. After taking a step back from the prescribed learning in December thanks to some advice from my other-half and instead concentrating on self-learning, my relationship with Python is improving.
It’s beginning to be more like how working with SQL is for me. When looking at a chunk of code, I’m now able to pull out the important parts without getting overwhelmed by the whole. I might not know exactly what all the functions are doing without a little help from Google, but the general structure is familiar and not something to be feared any longer. It’s nice that Python is starting to feel more comfortable even if I’m still an incredibly long way away from being an expert.
For me to truly understand something and get it firmly stuck in my head, I always need to know the reason for doing it and why it’s so useful.
The thing I need to get to grips with next is the ‘maths’ side of the data analysis. During the pre-work and the training sessions themselves, our coaches show us a lot of methods for doing this and the functions required to implement them using Python. However, the information about the ‘why’ side of the equation is often lacking. For me to truly understand something and get it firmly stuck in my head, I always need to know the reason for doing it and why it’s so useful.
This means I’ve got a load more self-learning ahead. I’ve downloaded all the Jupyter Notebook files used for all the learning over the past three months and am going to work through these with my own data. This will help me to properly wrap my mind around what’s going on. The next few weekends will therefore be spent at my desk with laptop and books, so apologies to anyone who’s hoping for more Saturday afternoon streams (these will be moved to the evenings).
Speaking of data, the dataset I’m using is five-years’ worth of customer feedback ratings and comments. This extra work will hopefully enable me to produce the last project needed for my apprenticeship portfolio, which so far has been coming along nicely. It must be completely finished around April so I can go through what’s called ‘gateway’. I can then start working on my final work project before undergoing the end point assessment (EPA) interview, to be graded for my certificate.
The initial feedback analysis has proven useful for my Service Management Improvement Lead secondment. Knocking up some rudimentary graphs revealed that the response rate had dropped off significantly over the past several years, so I’ve recently been working on increasing this and persuading customers to submit comments more frequently. We’re starting to receive way more feedback now and using this information is helping my team make improvements to the services provided by the department.
What I’ve found to be most rewarding is getting these chances to help others, particularly those at the start of their learning journey or career.
I haven’t had this much fun at work in years. Working as a Database Platforms Engineer almost felt like treading water, just doing what was needed to be on to keep systems running and the lights on. I really missed the element of being able to take something and make it better – and now I get to do that every day. I’ve just got to keep reminding myself that there may not be a permanent position at the end of the secondment, so it’s important to make as much of a positive impact in the role as possible.
While the apprenticeship has been difficult at times, I can’t deny it has been incredibly beneficial in terms of both development and opening up opportunities. My second article, about how volunteering and other activities can increase your confidence, was published on the company’s blog at the start of January. I was also invited to speak as part of a panel to around 230 new apprentices, a nerve-wracking experience with a few mistakes but one I’m so pleased I went through with.
Most recently, I had the pleasure of hosting a small meetup for apprentices who work in IT and IT service management (ITSM) on Wednesday evening at the Science Museum Lates event (I’d highly recommend going if you can). All except one of the attendees were in the first month of their course having only started in December, so there were lots of questions about what it’s like further in and how to manage the workload. I hope I was able to reassure some of them with my answers.
I think this has been the most surprising outcome of my own apprenticeship for me. Sure, the data side has obviously been interesting. But what I’ve found to be most rewarding is getting these chances to help others, particularly those at the start of their learning journey or career. It’s something I’m going to take forward with me and try to incorporate into the ITSM work I’m doing and who knows, maybe there’ll be some more public-speaking in the near future too.
My new positive mindset is telling me I’ll still be able to take something useful from the experience.
With the last training session now behind us, February’s dates are instead going to be devoted to another hackathon. The first in September was a mixed experience and I guess this has dampened my enthusiasm for the next. Still, my new positive mindset is telling me I’ll still be able to take something useful from the experience. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it at the end of the month.
Savior6992 months ago
Has it really been that long already? It seems like only yesterday you were just starting.
Kim2 months ago
Time flies when you’re having fun… and messing around with spreadsheets. 😆
Savior6992 months ago
Seems like it lol tho I avoid spreadsheets, messed with them in college and decided they weren’t for me
Kim2 months ago
Although I don’t mind spreadsheets, one thing the apprenticeship has taught me is that I probably won’t be switching to a career as a data scientist any time soon!
WCRobinson2 months ago
I’m glad to hear you’re having such a positive experience at the moment! It sounds like you’re learning a lot of really fascinating skills and also making new human connections whilst you’re at it 😀
Kim2 months ago
Some parts of the apprenticeship have been a bit of a slog, but I think I’m going to miss it once it’s over. My coach is trying to talk me into applying for the next level but I’m not sure my brain could take all that math!