After 18 months of working from home, we decided to take the plunge into the real world and welcome our new 155 MSc data science and AI students onto The Data Lab MSc Programme 2021-22 at live, in-person events across Scotland. Planning these networking and information sessions at four city hubs – Aberdeen, Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow – seemed daunting from our kitchens and home offices, but we were determined to take on board the feedback from our COVID-struck 2020-21 cohort, who told us how much they missed the opportunity to meet like-minded people and build their data communities at The Data Lab live events.
So we started our grand tour at Aberdeen’s Siberia Bar, and continued through Scotland to the other three city hubs, meeting our students along the way. Hitting the road with a newly expanded The Data Lab Skills team felt unusual, but fun and really important.
What has The Data Lab MSc programme done for students?
In its eighth year, The Data Lab MSc programme provides full fee scholarships and training through networking and other events designed to equip students with the wide-range of non-technical skills that are sought after by employers in the data community. 884 students have been funded through SFC/ESF and HDRUK to date (including this year), and have participated in a programme of events developed in consultation with government and academic experts, to enhance and boost their employability.
New Placement Team members getting into the nitty gritty on their first few days of work!
Each Launch Event took our students thorough our programme, introducing them to the team, our partners and the data science community. Kudos to the new members of The Placement Team, Max Baczynski and Sara Orr Saiz, who had been in post for an average of 2 days before we started our tour!
Reflecting upon the success of the programme and student benefits
The Data Lab MSc programme is unique in that it supports students with full fee scholarships as well as investing in their development of the soft skills which we know are essential for future success as a data scientist. Students heard about our networking and community building activities, which include Data Talent, The Launch and Closing events and membership of The Community Platform. But more importantly, they met their course leaders AND each other!
There was a lot to get through, new systems for our events management and development journey through Inkpath, our newly launched The Data Lab MSc open badge, and our varied programme of Lunch and Learn events.
Boosting our students’ employability is a key part of The Data lab MSc programme and Sara and Max outlined their bespoke programme of training covering CV skills and Interviewing, which will put the students in the best possible position post-graduation to achieve their first career goals. Students also heard about how to apply for a paid industrial placement. This opportunity is one of the corner stones of our MSc programme, giving students the option to undertake a paid industrial placement in a Scottish organisation. 83 students enjoyed a placement last year, working with organisations of all sizes and sectors including first-timers Filament, Peachy Mondays, MedKal and FanDuel; SMEs EGG Lighting and STMicroelectronics; as well as regular participants Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland and Nat West group. Students heard from placement hosts and students on how the placement programme worked for them, and how the experience has led to permanent data roles, either with their placement company or another organisation.
Organisations, we need you!
For any organisation interested in learning more about they can take part in The Data Lab MSc Placement Programme, and receive an injection of enthusiastic and highly skilled data science into their business, we are holding an information session on Wednesday 1 December – register here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
At The Data Lab Innovation week, we bring our entire cohort together to experience a week-long networking and skills development event. This starts with a two day residential element, focused on networking, team building and including a workshop on design thinking in a data context. Students then move onto a 2-day remote data challenge delivered by Filament. The Filament team, CEO Euan Wielewski and Annie Sinclair (MSc alumni,) were on hand to explain the aims of the experience, and how they will prepare students for, and support them through, the data challenge.
We are looking for Scottish organisations with real business problems to work with us to provide data challenges for our Innovation Week. Contact email@example.com if you would like to know more about this great opportunity to have 155 data science minds interrogate and propose solutions for your live business challenge.
Networking in our tight-knit community
Community and networking is key at The Data Lab, so we were so pleased and proud to invite so many of our alumni to speak about their The Data Lab journeys. This included presentations by Thanos Tsiaras (alumnus 15-16) on “5 rules for a Career In Data”; Charlotte McLean, Senior Manager-Analytics, MERKLE (alumnus 18-19) with lots of tips and anecdotes in her “All roads lead to Data Science” presentation; and Scott Dickie, Data Scientist at Visit Scotland and soon to be Data Engineer at Skills Development Scotland (alumnus 18-19) on his journey from Data Analyst to Data Engineer.
We only filmed one of our events but you can view the inspirational address from Laura Hepburn, Policy/Analysis Officer at the Scottish Funding Council (alumnus AY 17-18)
Our students are now well into The Data Lab MSc 2021-22, balancing their academic work and interaction with The Data Lab MSc programme with everything else in their busy lives. We are so impressed to see well how they are engaging with our programme, and wish them the very best as they move up a gear towards Christmas. And we would like to remind them, as one of our alumni Anna Marek puts so well in her blog “Grab onto the exciting opportunities The Data Lab offers and don’t let go”.