How I became a data scientist at Gofore [EN]

I came to Gofore as a trainee six months ago. Now that I have started as a full-time employee here in the growing cadre of data-oriented people, I can shed some more light on how a former physicist found his way to an IT consultancy company.

My journey to Gofore started at the end of 2017. Having been unemployed for quite some time, I heard from a friend that he had found his workplace through a training/recruiting program at Saranen Consulting. I had been vaguely aware of the existence of these programs, but after this, I started keeping my eyes open for one that would fit my professional profile. Sure enough, at the end of the year, I noticed Saranen had a program starting in early 2018 called AnalyticsPro. With a focus on developing competency in the field of data analytics, this seemed to be right up my alley. The program consisted of some training days and, most importantly, working as a trainee in a company doing real work for the duration of the program. Just what I had been looking for: an opportunity to do actual work in the field of data analytics and show that I can deliver real results. I attended an information event about the program mid-January, and, convinced that this would help me find a career, I sent in my application.

A variety of skills

The process started well for me. I received an invitation to an interview at Saranen a few days after submitting my application for the program. The first interview was a group interview with about two dozen people participating. When we were going around the table, each person introducing themselves, I was quite amazed at the variety of skills people were bringing to the program. There were coders, mathematicians, engineers, marketers. There was even one former professional poker player. As there were many people, the interview was quite short, focusing on our strengths and personal development expectations. I remember being a little nervous about the event, hoping my scientific strengths would carry me through to the next step.

And proceed I did. The very next day I received an invitation to the second round of interviews, carried out as video interviews. So, I put on a nice shirt (wearing comfortable college trousers under the table), and answered a few questions into my laptop’s video camera. This was a new experience for me, and it took a few tries to get good enough videos for my liking. I sent the videos onward, again hoping for the best.

The next few weeks were a harrowing time for me. Time went on, the application period for the program ended, and the good people at Saranen were hard at work finding companies for all the people in the program. Though there were weekly information emails from Saranen reassuring me that I was still in the program, no further interviews at companies were coming my way.

Until the very end of February. I finally had interviews in two places: THL, a large governmental installation, and Gofore, a consultancy company that I had never heard of until this time. THL was the second interview; they didn’t seem too happy with me, and in the end, decided to proceed with someone else.

The contract was signed

At Gofore I had two interviews. The first one was more general and focused on the company and what my role here could be. The interview went well, and I would proceed to the second one. This was more technical with some analysis problems. I felt a bit clumsy with my solutions, but I got to the end and did convince the interviewers that I could contribute. I was in the program. The contract was signed by all parties and I started my traineeship.

I was a bit late to join the program, the hiring process having taken some time, and I missed the first few training days at Saranen. I joined the training days shortly before starting my time at Gofore, at the end of March. The first training I attended was for Hadoop and Spark in the cloud, very much big data. All in all, as the training consisted of single days dedicated to one technology/concept (the exceptions being three days for data visualisation with different BI-programs and two for web analytics). As a whole, they proved to be a good introduction to the wide field of data science today, with plenty of information and examples. As a tech-savvy hands-on kind of guy, I would have wished for the training to be a bit more challenging and deep, but I understand the training had to be suitable for people with various backgrounds. And it did provide plenty of information for anyone to go further on their own, were they interested in doing so.

I got a free hoodie!

On my first actual working day at Gofore, I got a backpack full of Gofore clothing (hoodie!), and had my induction at the company by my ‚people person‘ (PP) and a culture coach, with a free lunch. I was also introduced to my mentor during the traineeship, Juho Salmi. My trainee project would be to analyse user data in the company internal personnel tool, Hohto, and develop analytics for various purposes. To this end I was attached to the Hohto team, to learn how to access the data and to see how Hohto was being developed.

As someone with an academic research background, this was a bit of a culture shock for me. I had no experience in software development, and even though I learned much about this work in the following weeks, I felt like I was not contributing much. I was mostly working with the data by myself, giving regular updates to my mentor about my process, and trying to follow the work of Hohto team. My biggest contribution was participating in their daily standups and saying something along the lines of “Still working on the data, nothing new to report”. Looking back, I feel this is the biggest area of development for Gofore concerning onboarding people with my background. Then again, I cannot say how things could have been done better at the time, as there were not many people around focusing on data analysis. And I was not left alone: I was in constant contact with my mentor and had regular checkups with my PP about my progress.

Things improved considerably for me at the beginning of June when I and a few other analytics oriented summer trainees who were rounded up by Juho to form the Gofore X team to work on internal proof-of-concepts. I was joined by Tommi, Max and Teemu, and we started a scrum of our own, with Meeri as our scrum master. For me, this was the time when things really started to fall into place. I was now surrounded by people working on subjects similar to my own, ready to discuss and comment on the work, and the sprint structure with dailys and weeklys gave structure and focus to our work.

Work was not the only thing that was flowing nicely at that point. After I got used to showing up at the office every day and started to get a feel for my surroundings, I came to like the company. I had a lot of freedom in my project, the people around me were professional and helpful, and the office and equipment were excellent. I had a good time with my work and training, I was learning a lot and even producing results with my analysis work (to be made public in the near future).

Looking forward to what the future brings

When things got flowing, summer went by surprisingly quickly, and it came time to finish and evaluate the traineeship period. Being a little stressed about the meeting with all the stakeholders that would decide my near future, I was relieved to hear everyone (including myself) was happy with my progress during these months here. There were also interesting sounding analytics projects lined up for the autumn in which I could participate, so it was unanimously decided I would continue working with data at Gofore.

And here I am now, a data scientist in an IT consultancy company. Looking forward to what the future brings!

Final addendum: As I was writing this blog post, a colleague got ill, and I volunteered to take his position in the team interviewing a potential new employee. I would administer the same interview task I worked on myself some months ago, having moved from one side of the table to the other. The circle was complete.

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