student story

Waqas Khan

Senior Data Scientist @ Sanofi
Data Science Bootcamp, 2022
Diploma Program

Data Science Bootcamp

Waqas Khan - Senior DS at Sanofi

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1. How did you hear about WeCloudData?

Online research

2. What made you decide to choose WeCloudData’s Data Science program over other companies? Was there something that stood out to you about our program that solidified your decision?

When I was researching for data science bootcamps in Canada, I found program offerings by several big institutions. For me, the main deciding factor for choosing WeCloudData over others was the actual work experience through client projects, the hands-on experience, and the Big Data curriculum covered as part of the syllabus is what really stood out to me.

3. What was your career background before enrolling in our Data Science program?

Coming from an engineering background, I was already working as a Data Scientist since 2017. After relocating to Canada late last year, this program served as a means to build and expand my network with the talented Data Science community in Toronto.

4. What made you want to pursue a career in Data Science?

During my MSc I took a Geo-statistics and Data Analysis course; it was during this course that I first realized my passion for data science. Over time, with work experience and self-learning through platforms like Coursera, Udacity, and Udemy I transitioned into data science roles and lead the Digital Transformation Initiative in my previous company.

5. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your journey to where you are today?

I started my journey with a bachelor’s in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Manchester, England in 2010. During this period, I won several academic scholarships and gold medals for academic excellence.

Right after my bachelor’s, I received sponsorship for MSc at KAUST, Saudi Arabia where I completed my master’s in Earth Science in 2011. Here, I took courses on numerical computing and fluid flow, but there was one particular course “Geo-statistics and Data Analysis” which I really enjoyed. At that point, I wanted to pursue a career in data however, back in 2011 data science as a field was not evolved as it is today and there weren’t many opportunities for data-specific roles. However, I was fortunate that my first job involved gathering data, analyzing data, and making analytics dashboards for decision-making. Over time, with work experience and self-learning I completely transitioned from engineering to data science.

During this transition, I found that most of my skills were transferrable since in my master’s I already had good coding and data experience. Learning new concepts and skills was made easy by online platforms such as Coursera, Udacity, and Udemy but it wasn’t until I applied them at work that I really mastered the skills. Four years ago, I got an opportunity to join the Digital Transformation team and it was a perfect playing ground for me to put my skills into action. My work here lead to the adoption and deployment of a digital platform across the company. As of today, it is being used by thousands of engineers in their daily business and was recently awarded the CEO’s excellence award. I also received 8 US patents for my work on this project.

After relocating to Toronto, Canada last year, I had to start from scratch to build my local presence in the vibrant Data Science and AI community and the best option I found was to enroll in WeCloudData’s Applied Data Science and Big Data Bootcamp. The program not only connected me with the talented Data Science community in Toronto but also provided me with an opportunity to work on some interesting projects to build my portfolio. Overall, the course was very well structured and balanced between theory and hands-on work and all the instructors were really knowledgeable and supportive. The experience I gained and the opportunities I was provided eventually helped me land a Senior Data Scientist role with a big multi-national company. I am really glad about my decision of joining the program.

6. What did you find most enjoyable or interesting about the Data Science program at WeCloudData while being a student? Was there any aspect of our course curriculum or teaching style that stood out to you?

I found Web Scraping and Big Data topics as the most interesting aspects of the program. In particular, I really liked doing hands-on projects using web scraping tools such as Beautifulsoup and Selenium to extract unstructured data from web pages for analytical purposes. I also enjoyed the Big Data project where I had to utilize tools such as Spark, Databricks, and Amazon Web Services (EC2, EMR, S3, Kinesis, QuickSight, Athena, etc.) for performing and deploying an end-to-end sentiment analysis on live tweets.

7. How did the Instructors and Teaching Assistants (TA’s) support you during the program? Did you find their knowledge and expertise helpful?

All the Instructors and TA’s are very knowledgeable and are always available for any clarification or support. There are dedicated TA office hours daily to assist students if there are any roadblocks in their assignments. Students are generally from very different backgrounds and experience levels but the Instructors and TA’s do a great job to make sure that everyone is following along and is on the same page.

8. Based on your previous education experience, how did online classes compare to learning in-person?

With so many companies moving to hybrid and remote work, this question becomes less relevant today as compared to a few years back. With a plethora of tools and software available nowadays to enable remote collaboration, for me, online learning was better because it saved me commute time and I was able to concentrate more and follow along with the course content much better.

9. Do you have any tips for current students on how to be successful in online classes?

My advice would be to always read up on the topic before the online class and prepare a list of questions to ask on concepts that are not clear, this will help you better understand the lecture and you will be able to get a deeper understanding of the topic.

10. How do you feel the real client projects helped you when it came time to find a job?

During my client project, I built a Marketing Attribution Model using Markov Chain to optimize marketing channel spending and also developed a Supervised Learning Model to optimize the ads revenue for the client. Both these projects were directly relevant to the job I received and I had a detailed conversation about these projects during my interviews.

11. How long did it take you to find a job after graduating from WeCloudData?

I got it within 2 months of actively applying for jobs.

  • How many jobs did you apply for?
    • Around 50
  • How many interviews did you receive?
    • 9

12. How did your mentor support you during the career mentorship?

I had a couple of sessions with the mentor where I had a detailed review of my resume. I made these changes and it helped me in getting more responses from the recruiters.

13. Finding a job during the pandemic has been a challenge for most, what aspects of your resume and portfolio do you believe helped you secure a job so quickly?

My previous work experience as a Data Scientist as well as my client project work which was closely linked to my new job description mattered a lot.

Most importantly, the internal reference I received for this job from WeCloudData really made a difference.

14. Can you give us some insight into what the Data Science interview process is like?

The interview process is generally comprised of the following steps:

  1. Initial phone screening by HR, where they ensure a match between your experience and job requirements
  2. Timed online exam covering Coding, SQL, Statistics, and Machine Learning
  3. Technical interview with the team
  4. Final interview with the hiring manager

Sometimes instead of a timed exam, you may get a take-home assignment or have a live coding session.

15. What sort of impact do you feel your Data Science diploma from WeCloudData made on potential employers?

The real impact comes from the project portfolio and the real client projects you get from the program. This is where employers really see your skills in action in solving real-world challenges. I shared my portfolio projects on GitHub and my personal website and provided these links in my resume for potential employers to explore.

16. Do you have any words of advice for current or future students planning on pursuing a career in Data Science?

My advice would be to invest some time and build a solid foundation in Statistics and Machine Learning theory rather than simply building models without knowing what factors are controlling them. Having a strong foundation is going to take you much further in your Data Science career. Apart from that, just be curious and learn how to tell stories from data.

17. How has your life changed since you graduated from WeCloudData and got a job in the industry?

Today, I am very well connected with the talented data science community in Toronto and have come to know some of the bright minds in the thriving AI industry, thanks to the networking opportunities that were provided by WeCloudData.

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