As part of our Tales in Tech series we’ve been catching up with members of our tech community throughout lockdown to share the journeys, lessons learnt and advice that has helped them through their careers to date.

This week we sat down with Senior Data Scientist at Purple and long-standing advocate of Burns Sheehan, Mathew Savage. A trusted partner of our Manchester office, Purple has uncapped the potential of offline data collection and established a market leading guest WIFI, analytics and engagement platform.

Mat took us through his journey from chemistry student to Data Scientist and shared his recommended online learning tools if you’re looking to upskill or keep busy during lockdown.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey into tech?

I studied chemistry at the University of Nottingham and then went on to do a PHD. I'd learnt bits of programming during my studies but not a lot. As I was working on my PHD I lost interest in being in the lab and became more interested in helping people understand why things were happening and focusing on data processing.

I was in a research group of about 25/30 people and I became the go-to data modelling guy, which is when I started looking into data science as a career. I did some online learning and then went looking for my first data science job. It was quite hard at first to get any interviews because of my background, as most people were looking for a physics or maths degree, so chemistry was a bit of a curve ball, but after I landed my first interview I got the job! I’ve been in data for three years now.

Companies we’ve spoken to recently have opened out their application processes now to accept people with degrees other than just computer science. Have you noticed that the landscape is changing?

Yeah and I think that's the right way to go. Just because you're good at computer science doesn't mean you’re necessarily going to be good at data and vice versa. Chemistry was a good background as everything is real world data and very messy, whereas in computer science the data might be more straightforward.

You initially taught yourself the basics of data online, are there any learning resources you’d recommend, or any advice you have for others looking to do the same?

I used DataCamp at the time which was really good, but there’s absolutely loads out there. I think what's interesting to me, especially if I was looking for someone I wanted to recruit, is to have some sort of personal project alongside those online courses which you can apply what you’re learning to, I think that’s really key.

What would you say is the best part about your job?

I like being able to have a lot of freedom in what I do. I’m a Senior Data Scientist at Purple and currently there’s just the two of us in the team. We work with internal data, with our customers, and we perform research on how to make new products; we’re involved all across the business which I think is really important and it makes our job really interesting.

What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during lockdown?

I’m on furlough at the moment, so I’ve been doing lots of self-learning and training hackathons in my spare time. I’ve been taking courses on the Google Cloud Platform. I think lots of people are taking this extra time to really skill up at the minute.

Do you attend any meetups or virtual meetups? Are there any you’d recommend?

I’ve been going to lots of virtual ones recently, PyData Manchester is good & there’s also a PyData London.

I think it's interesting to go to non-data science talks too. I like attending DevOps events as they talk about making stuff happen on scale so I can apply it to my work.

What advice would you give to a Junior Data Scientist who’s looking to rise through the ranks?

I’d say try and think ahead. Identify what you’re not doing as a business that you could be doing and come up with ways you could solve this. If you pitch your idea to the business and they agree it’s a good idea, it will ultimately be your project.

A massive thank you to Mathew for taking the time to speak with us. If there are any additional useful tools or platforms that you’re using to update your skillset during this time, let us know! We would love to share them.

If you’re currently hiring and need any help, advice or support on your hiring needs, we're here to help. Get in touch with our Managing Director, Chris Spranklen, at 

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