Meet Francisco 👋, a Brazilian-German graduate of Spiced Academy’s 12-week online Data Science course. He talks about how he found Spiced, the surprising benefits of studying online and how the bootcamp helped him find a job!
So first off, could you tell me a little bit about you, about your educational background and your professional background as well?
I’m a German-Brazilian citizen, and I have lived most of my life in Brazil, in Rio De Janeiro. I studied economics in my bachelor’s, and in my master’s, I did something related to political science. I worked for about seven years in the energy industry in Brazil and in 2015, I decided to pursue a PhD in economics here in Germany. Since then, I have been working as an external PhD candidate in economics. In 2019 I was working on my PhD thesis, and I needed software to solve some economic models. I stumbled upon Python and I kind of liked it. Throughout the next months and years, I was thinking more and more about what my professional career would be about. I started researching because the academic path is quite difficult. Because I had the Python interest I started researching IT. I never knew that there were data bootcamps. But when I saw the course offers, I immediately liked the prospect of doing it.
That was late 2020. I was researching this and then I saw three or four bootcamps in Berlin. At that time, I was a bit scared about the course competence from Spiced. I thought my level in programming was too low. I thought well, that’s not for me, and so I enrolled in a different bootcamp.
It was from March to May I did the bootcamp there in data analytics. It was nice but it was a bit low level I would say. It didn’t do a deep dive into these topics that I most like, which were chiefly machine learning because in economics and in my PhD I worked with econometrics and statistics already. Machine learning was the topic that already attracted my attention because it’s kind of a continuation of the topic, but with another technology and other goals. Then after this first bootcamp, I looked for jobs and it was kind of difficult.
From June until September, I applied for several jobs and only got rejections. I was a bit frustrated. Then I thought, perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea if I did another bootcamp in this thing that I really like, which is data science. The idea actually came from one of the rejections, from Research Gate. I had an interview at Research Gate and I was rejected, but the job would be only one year, a fixed-term contract. And I thought, well if I get this job, it would be perhaps a good idea to after the job do another bootcamp and develop myself. When I got rejected, I said, okay, why not? Let’s do this. Let’s level up my skills in this thing that I really like, which is data science. This is what I really like to do, code and statistical models within codes. This is my top preference in the field. And then I took the decision.
So, you took the course online. Could you just tell me a little bit about how you found the online learning experience? What are the upsides and downsides?
I never had an online learning experience before my first bootcamp. Before it was always on-site. At first, it was a difficult thing to adapt to this new format with not having the people around. Also, what I always thought about bootcamp is that people would just sit at their tables and code together. That was my fantasy about what a bootcamp is. So, you don’t have this in the online version. You can’t substitute the face-to-face online, it’s very difficult. Although you can, of course, call. In the first moment, it’s difficult to interact, to make this direct contact with the other students over zoom.
But as time passed, I came to realize that doing the course online was a tremendously good format. When you are doing the course onsite, you have the problem that you have to take the bus or the subway or the train to get to the sites. And this is the time that you invest in learning instead of being on the bus. Also, I think, particularly in the Spiced bootcamp it was also a cosy thing because there was a group thing, and the people were so nice and helping each other. So, I would say that it also depends on the people which surround you. There has to be a certain group for this to work. I think Paula, Arjun, and Joseph were also responsible for creating such a nice and warm learning experience.
Could you take me back to the moment when you thought “this is what I want to do”? When you wanted to go deeper into data and make the switch.
The reason why I decided to go into data was that I previously had a role that was kind of data-related, and, of course, for an economist, there’s an affinity between the subjects. I have already read that for economists doing data science is kind of a normal career path. In my case, there was also a pragmatic decision. It was a jobs thing, the search, and because I had done something with Python in my PhD thesis. I decided to look up IT courses or something like that. I never had heard that there was a data bootcamp or something like that, it was new for me. When I saw that there was something like a data bootcamp, I saw that it was perfect for me.
What was it about our bootcamp, about Spiced Academy, that attracted you?
Like I said before at first, I thought that the bootcamp was too hard for me. But then when I looked back at what I had learned at my first bootcamp, I actually thought that I needed something that was more high level. Then I researched again some other competitors. I saw that Spiced appeared to be the more high-level, more quality qualified course in Berlin.
You said that when you were initially thinking about it, you thought you might not be qualified. Now retrospectively, do you agree with yourself, or would you maybe have just done Spiced directly? Do you think you could have managed that?
I would definitely have done Spiced directly. Because the stuff that I learned on my first bootcamp, you can do it via Udacity or Udemy. You can learn it on these little, all-night courses. I had a colleague in our course. She did some small courses. I don’t know where, but it was sufficient. She was sufficiently prepared to do the bootcamp with the small courses. So, I would simply recommend not to do another bootcamp.
So what would you say were the most challenging aspects of the course?
There were two or three weekly projects that were quite challenging, particularly one project where I had some difficulties with the computer. I had some difficulties with installing the software and getting it to run. And at the end, it didn’t work as I expected, but I wasn’t really frustrated because yeah, you cannot master everything, and okay, I can look up this later if I need it.
On the contrary to that, what would you say were your favourite aspects of the course?
The thing that I most liked was that I had the opportunity of deep-diving into some things that are really, really important and are also fun, in the machine learning part, for example. In the previous bootcamp, we basically only learned that you have to put the model regressed or fit or something like that and get one or two statistics that the model is robust. But in the Spiced bootcamp, we also used some techniques like grid search or feature engineering, hyper-parameter tuning, and all that stuff that is necessary for a model to be good. And it was so good that we actually did this in the bootcamp. What I like about Spiced is that, at the same time that it is very high level and detailed, it’s also doable. It’s a combination of the do-ability and the high level, that you manage to convey on the course.
Great, and could you tell me a little bit about your instructors?
I only had classes with Paula, Arjun, and Joseph. They were great instructors. Besides being a very knowledgeable person, Paula knows a lot about data science, she is also a very kind and warm person, empathetic. That’s what makes her great. Arjun is also very knowledgeable and very helpful and diligent. Joseph, I cannot say very much because I only had him for one week or something. What I can say is that Joseph gave me the impression of being a very good person and a guy with whom I would like to work with or something like that.
So, you’ve landed a job, well done! Tell me a little about the job hunt?
It was quite easy after the Spiced bootcamp to land a job. After it ended, I sent around 15 or 20 CVs and I got quite a few interviews. I got two offers and I chose this one over another.
And did you find yourself well-prepared for the interviews?
If someone’s thinking about joining a bootFromcamp, why would you recommend Spiced?
There was this guy who was in a call one day with us there and he was considering to do a bootcamp. And we said definitely do it because not only will you feel well about doing the course and have a nice time, but also because you’re going to garner the skills that you need to land a job in this interesting career. You will land the job, and everything will be okay.
Ok, just one more question: Spiced in three words?
Family, Excellence, Cosy 🙂