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Sumi Lee shares her experience as a Graduate Data Scientist with Principality Building Society

Choosing a subject to specialise in for a degree was a challenge for Sumi who enjoyed a range of subjects at school including art, English literature, biology, and maths.

“After a lot of thought, I decided to study Mathematics at Swansea University and now I feel it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

As an undergraduate, the more I learned about mathematics the more I enjoyed it. Studying eigenvalue decomposition in linear algebra, the epsilon delta definition of the limit in real analysis, and the measure theory behind probability spaces were all highlights.”

After reading ‘Introduction to Statistical Learning: With Applications in R,’ Sumi knew she wanted to pursue a career in data science so chose her modules for years 2 and 3 with this in mind, focusing on statistics and probability. As she approached the end of her degree Sumi started thinking about life after university and she discovered the Fast Track Programme.

“I was conflicted between pursuing further higher education and graduate employment as a data scientist – so when I saw the Programme combined work experience with postgraduate study, I knew I had to apply.”

On successfully joining the Programme, Sumi was placed with Principality Building Society as a Graduate Data Scientist.

“My first project with Principality Building Society was completing statistical analysis on the metadata of the chat messages with customers. This provided insights into customer communication patterns (timings of messages, etc.) which were used to aid the resourcing of the customer service team.

My current project focuses on savings behaviour analysis, seeking out the trends behind how customers are moving money within and between savings products. One of the biggest lessons that I have learned so far is about the significance of the underlying process that leads to formulating a question answerable through data, in the context of a given business problem.

There is a big difference between learning about statistical methods through textbooks, theoretically, and working with applied statistics on real data, practically.”

The employer consortium involved with the Programme are all unique and all have their own cultures and ways of working.

Speaking about Principality Building Society, Sumi said:

“The people I work with are really friendly and I have enjoyed collaborating with other teams to learn more about the various aspects of the business. The best thing about my placement has been the opportunity to gain domain knowledge about the company and industry by learning from those who know it best.

Principality also has a lovely, newly renovated office space in their headquarters in Cardiff that is really nice to work from!”

The nature of the Fast Track Data/AI Programme means graduates work and study simultaneously, but Sumi has taken this more challenging element of the programme in her stride:

“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to study and work at the same time, especially because the content covered in lectures can be directly translated to the work completed on placement. Balancing both certainly requires time management and I spend some my evenings or weekends on coursework – but it is an enjoyable experience because I am learning so much.”

In the short term, Sumi’s goal is to develop herself as a skilled data scientist.

“For the next few years, I see myself working and developing my programming/technical skills as much as possible and gaining practical experience with applying statistical analysis and building models.

In the longer term, I would love to return to academia to complete an MSc in mathematics, possibly with a focus on statistics because I am interested in the underlying statistical processes that generate the data.”

Asked whether she would recommend the Programme to future graduates Sumi said:

“I would highly recommend this programme to anyone who is has an interest in data. My one piece of advice would be to do so with a learning mindset. The academic side of the programme covers many topics in a short space of time and the placement requires you to learn quickly. It will keep you busy!”

Thanks for sharing your experience Sumi and good luck for the future.