How I spent my last summer before graduation?

Will I be happy with the career path I choose after my graduation? Will I love or hate my career after spending 4 years in university? What can I do differently than an internship to showcase my potential to my future employers? These thoughts were troubling me as I sat my third-year examination at Trinity College Dublin in April 2016. I was a little lost about what I would like to do after graduating from college. Therefore, I was looking forward to my last summer before graduation to discover exactly what I would like to do.

I am working as a Head Chef and determined to have a career in Information Technology (IT) as the next stage in my life. After doing my groundwork and online research, I divided my aim to learn more into three areas: Start-up, Data Science and Software Development. I wanted to explore these areas and decide which one was the right choice for me. Moreover, I wanted to discover the IT ecosystem in Ireland, meet experienced people working in the industry and learn from their experiences.  Also, I felt there were some knowledge and skills missing from my college education.

Consequently, my few months of self-education, working on my personal projects, volunteering, attending meetings began along with a full-time job. I decided to make it happen by having a positive attitude, putting a lot of work and have a no fail attitude.

I started a blog  to keep my notes for everything I learn. The topics varied from strategy to machine learning. I also developed personal website myself using Bootstrap and CSS3. My portfolio website showcased my work from my learning. I completed a course in Inbound Certification by HubSpot and The Digital Garage by Google to learn, improve my digital skills, share my passion and grow my online presence.

For the start-up, I was interested in discovering the environment. I wanted to see the real start-up community in Ireland. In recent years, the start-up has become a buzzword with billion dollar companies such as Uber and Airbnb becoming so popular. Likewise, a lot of students choose to work in start-ups as these companies are cool and hip and not the traditional companies. Furthermore, I wanted to have my start- up so I wanted to discover what support is available to the founders.

I joined a hackathon at NDRC for InsureTech as a skilled participant. It was a new experience for me and I learnt a lot. The team I was part of won the first prize. If you want to read about the lessons I learnt from the hackathon, please read my story on Medium.

It became clear that the industry believes in Lean Start-up method for developing business. Hence, I decided to do a Udemy course in Lean start-up by Ash Maurya. The only way to learn is by trying. Therefore, I got a chance to practise the method by attending the Start-up Weekend. I met some like-minded people.  It was a great experience in which I pitched my idea, made sure people understood my idea, chose my team with the right people and resources, validated that my idea is a valid business proposition and presented my last pitch in the Google Auditorium in front of 300 people. I got to experience first-hand highs, lows, fun and pressure that make the life of the start-up. Here are more details about my idea. I am planning to develop my idea as my final year project in college.

I volunteered again in NDRC’s pre-accelerator for HealthTech in September as a skilled participant to improve my knowledge and enhance networking skills.

In addition, I volunteered for Inspirefest in June. It was a two-day event that places diversity at its heart and was full of inspiring talks and discussion with international thinkers.

Data Science needs familiarity with statistics, data munging, linear algebra, data visualization, programming and data visualisation. I started with an in-depth research about what should I do. I set up a target for myself to make a submission for Kaggle’s Titanic Competition.

I have to say a lot of resources are available online and it took me at least 3 weeks to plan an exact course of action. I started with Udacity’s Intro to Statistics and read a linear algebra book to act as a refresher for a module I studied in the first year. I also read various blogs, books and completed an edX course to increase my knowledge.  I completed an online course on machine learning from Coursera. Also, I started attending few events about data visualization, data analytics, machine learning and deep learning. For the programming aspect of data science, I chose to learn Python even though it is not taught as a module in my course in College. The main reason being my wish to develop a web application in Python in future.

I also learnt more about Java and algorithms to fill the knowledge gap and refresh myself with the concepts before I am back in the class in September.

To extend my knowledge about machine learning, I started with an online course in Weka. Weka provides a graphical user interface for easy access to visualization tools and algorithms for data analysis and predictive modelling. I also read various books about machine learning and data analysis along with some online courses.

I was really delighted when I submitted my first Kaggle competition after 3 months of perseverance and hard work. I enjoyed the experience and submitted my entry for two more competitions. I also explored the area of Big Data and analytics with Spark.

I decided to join a project at DataKind for Concern for understanding the potential impact of political conflicts. Datakind utilises the pool of local data professionals and supports charities to improve people’s life. It is an ongoing project which I am willing to contribute my time for next few months.

I really found enjoyed data science field in IT.  I found data science is a combination of software development with the management of data in business.  I plan to keep on learning more about the field and complete few more projects even when the college reopens to build up my portfolio.

Over the summer, I attended events to learn more about software development, UX/UI, data analytics, machine learning, start-up, inbound marketing, big data, deep learning, marketing, DevOps, Blockchain, Google I/O extended and programming languages such as Ruby, Python, Scala and Java. The range of topics I chose is not limited to those which proved popular over the years but also reflects the need to adapt to ever-changing educational and training needs.

Four months is a short time to explore everything. Unfortunately, data analytics consumed a lot of my time to develop a web application to further help my experience of building my own responsive website.

In the end, what did I learn during my last summer before graduation?

I met a lot of people and improved my communication and networking skills. Also, I believe that I have made a lot of friends. What I learnt by attending various events is that Dublin offers a great resource for whole IT community to satisfy the need for learning and presents an opportunity for increased enthusiasm and inspiration. Inspiration from movers and shakers of the industry is within reach. The community is easily accessible and offers a range of opportunities to help people with career development or their personal growth.

I have a clear vision of what I want to do as my career, where I would like to work and what sort of job should I aim for. I am more focussed in the job hunt and devote my time to study strategically. Finally, nothing is perfect and I need to keep on improving on what I learn.

If you liked my article you might want to check out my blog and leave a comment. Or Come say hello on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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