What motivated you to pursue postgraduate study?
I wanted to divert my career path to the financial technology field where I can utilise and apply the latest developments in computer science and data to other domains, such as finance.
Moreover, in today's world, a diversified background could provide me a broader horizon and a more sophisticated skill set. It would be helpful for me to take ownership of a bigger project.
What were you doing before applying for a postgraduate degree?
I was working as a researcher in a precious metals exchange company. This was my third job since I started my professional career in the financial industry five years ago.
In those years, I worked in a global bank, an American investment bank and a Chinese financial institution with responsibilities ranging from front to back office.
During that time, I gradually understood the importance of being able to get to the right data and process them.
Were there any challenges affecting your decision to study a postgraduate degree? If so, how did you overcome them?
I faced a number of challenges when considering to study a postgraduate degree. First of all, I come from a non-STEM background both academically and professionally so I had to self-learn programming before applying for my master's degree.
Secondly, I had previously studied for a master's degree in the UK so I had to overcome a visa challenge as in most cases, you can only apply for a student visa to study at a higher level than the qualification you already have.
Thirdly, although the Data Science programme is aimed at students with basic knowledge of programming, being able to code doesn't mean that you can fully do projects with your limited coding skills. There is a lot of knowledge about hardware and software to acquire that was totally new to me but crucial for my programming language to run.
There were many more challenges on the way but I overcame them simply by being persistent and patient. Studying this one-year programme also requires a lot of hard work and effort to be put in, but it will all work out and be worthwhile.
Why did you choose City?
One of the main reasons why I chose City was for its master's course content - the modules taught were what I was looking for. For me, I really needed to know what is Data Science and how to deal with it in a systematic way. The Data Science MSc at City seemed to offer me such knowledge and skills.
Another reason to choose City was its location. Being in the heart of London is important to me not just for a more convenient life, but also because it opens up more opportunities. Last but not least, City has strong connections with the industry.
Data Science is a domain closely depending on practical needs. Good relationships and connections with the industry could provide students with more first-hand information about what is needed in the market and which direction we would like to go further.
How are you funding your studies – did you secure any financial support?
I used my savings from my previous job for paying the tuition fees and I was very lucky to get a scholarship from City, which in a way lessened my financial burden. I also work part-time to fund my daily life.
How are you finding studying in the UK – either in person or remotely?
I have done most of my studying in person with face-to-face classes. I have spent a lot of non-lecture time doing independent study in either the library or online, to either have a basic knowledge of the topic or dig down into a certain area the lecturer mentioned in the class.
During the class, it is very useful to see the lecturer laying out all information in a logical way and be able to ask questions. What's very good about this system is that we also have tutorials and office hours so that many questions can be answered and that's very important for truly understanding something.
We all learn things in different ways and may have different questions that stop us from grasping the whole picture.
What does a typical week at university look like for you?
Normally I have lectures three to four days a week as a full-time student. I have around 16 hours of lectures and tutorials. Apart from that, I spend around the same amount of time doing independent study and I work part-time for about 15 hours per week.
In my free time, I play badminton once or twice a week and hang out with friends whenever the weather is good or convenient.
What has been your favourite module or aspect of your course so far?
I like most of my modules as they turned out pretty much exactly what I thought they would be about. My favourite one might be Big Data so far, as my current work is related to it and I find it so practical.
Other modules such as Machine Learning and Deep Learning are very important as they are the base of most of the algorithms we use. Data Visualisation is also another very practical and important module. It helps the data to speak out.
What knowledge and skills has your course helped you develop?
During the course, I have been learning how to complete a data science project from the designing stage to final production, applying machine learning algorithms and presenting the final report with data visualisation tools.
Almost all modules taught in this programme involve an actual data science project for me to either work on my own or with a team, with a different focus.
I have also learned how to do quick literature reviews on specific topics for the purpose of writing project reports or finding the most cutting edge way of processing data.
What opportunities and experiences has City offered you so far?
We had weekly Data Bites seminars with data scientists from the industry who gave us an insight into what is it like to be in this role in the real world. These provided us with opportunities for internships and jobs by reaching out to the speakers and building up our network.
In terms of programming training, we've been offered DataCamp online courses for free to practise our coding skills which I find very useful and necessary.
What are your career plans and how has City prepared you for them?
I am going to pursue a PhD after my master's in Data Science specialising in Natural Language Processing (NLP) research. My supervisor has provided me with support for my dissertation, which is the base for my PhD application and research, and helped through my PhD application. All the lecturers are very helpful and kind in providing reference letters.
What advice would you give to someone considering a postgraduate degree?
I think it is important to know the purpose of doing a postgraduate degree. It doesn’t matter that in the end, you may change your mind after completing your degree. Having a clear goal will definitely help you get through the hard times and stay focused on the matters that interest you the most.
There are lots of aspects you could learn more about. Given the limited time of a postgraduate programme, it is necessary to have a clear purpose and know what you need to gain from this degree to achieve your goal.
Apart from this, even though the workload is heavy, student life is still full of fun. if you try your best and make the most out of what you learn.