The voice of contact centres and financial services

News & Blog

Here you’ll find the latest events and happenings from contact centres in Wales, as well as food for thought from the people who know the industry best.

Data/AI Spotlight: Gwilym Rees

After completing a degree in Natural Sciences at Exeter University in 2019, Gwilym found himself wondering what to do next.

He opted to combine his passion for cooking and skiing and embarked on a ski season in Tignes, France to gain life experience and the space to consider what career path to take.

“Having enjoyed my time as a chalet host in Tignes, when I returned to Cardiff I applied to work as a chef; I was lucky to get a great opportunity at a luxury spa hotel where I worked for a year, developing my culinary skills. I later began studying for a degree in Hospitality Management at Cardiff and Vale College with the view to becoming a restaurateur. It was here that I was first introduced to the capabilities of data science through a marketing module focusing on Customer Relationship Management.” Gwilym told us.

Having decided to pursue a career outside of the hospitality industry, Gwilym started working as an Administrative Assistant at ACTA Planning when he was introduced to Pete Sueref, Co-founder of Empirisys, one of our Graduate employers and long-time supporter of the Graduate Programme.

“Pete gave me the opportunity of a work placement at Empirisys, where I became fascinated by the vast applications of data science. Pete also introduced me to the Data/AI Graduate Programme, which I applied to immediately given the opportunity to gain a paid-for degree alongside professional experience. When I was offered a place on the Programme, it was a no-brainer and I was thrilled to be placed with Empirisys, who are the only start-up business on the Programme.” He said.

Like many other graduates, a career in data wasn’t always the end goal for Gwilym, until he “stumbled” upon the opportunities it poses.

I had previously done some Python programming at university, although I’d hardly describe it as love at first sight. The focus on the academic aspect rather than the industry applications left me feeling underwhelmed; as a result, I chose not to pursue this further during my degree.

It wasn’t until after my degree, once I’d gained an appreciation of the applications of data science, that I sought a career in data.” He reflected.

Since being on placement with Empirisys, Gwilym has been involved in a major project. He explains:

“I’ve been heavily involved in a project with a consortium of oil companies, providing a statistical analysis of their data to drive improvements in personal and process safety. We also have some very exciting client-driven software development projects underway, which show great promise in improving process safety (reducing financial losses, injuries, and loss of life) more broadly in high-hazard industry.

I think it’s easy to be swooned by the idea of working for the big corporate names. On the contrary, I would highly advocate working for a smaller company given my recent experience at Empirisys. So far, I’ve enjoyed the following:

  • Directly working with and learning from industry leaders e.g. the CEO and CTO who between them have over 50 years’ experience in data science and process safety/engineering

  • Responsibility and ownership of projects from start to finish (rather than working in a big team on a small aspect of a project and never seeing the project through to completion)

  • Tailoring my personal development (and project allocations) based on my interests

  • The variety of projects and flexibility that comes hand in hand with working for a start-up

  • Trust: holidays are not tracked; my manager is very receptive and encouraging of feedback

  • A hybrid working approach where we do what suits us best; I tend to prefer working in the office (I arrive between 9:00am-9:30am and finish at 5:30pm) however if I decide to work from home there’s no need to ask anyone

  • Being kept in the loop and involved in business-wide issues and the strategic direction

  • The office building (Sbarc | Spark) is also a plus!”

One of the biggest challenges of the Fast Track Programme is balancing full-time work with studying for the Postgraduate Diploma.

Gwilym said: “It’s hard work but it’s worth it. If I need time to focus on university work, especially around deadlines, my manager at Empirisys has been very understanding.”

As he looks to the future and post-Programme, Gwilym told us:

“Beyond having a huge kitchen, a place in the French Alps and multiple canine family members, I’d like to develop professionally, with the view to completing a full MSc after my Postgraduate Diploma at the University of South Wales.

I also want to further explore my interest within areas such as Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning and UX Design, all the while maintaining my current work-life balance.”

To any other graduates thinking about applying for the Programme, Gwilym’s advice is to:

“Apply! It’s an unrivalled opportunity to gain a (paid-for) university degree alongside industry experience. They do use online tests in the initial stage, which I’ve found can be a bit finicky, so do some practice tests first.

Ultimately, the focus of the application process is getting the best out of candidates rather than trying to catch you out. Finally, regardless of whether you pursue a career in data, the skills you gain from the Programme can ‘fast-track’ you into a variety of industries, so don’t hesitate! Even if you aren’t successful, unlike with a lot of companies, you’ll get detailed feedback to ensure you learn from the experience.”

Thanks for sharing your experience Gwilym and best of luck for the future.