Keith Beggs was looking to upgrade his data analysis skills and earn a credential that would help accelerate his career. He found he could do both in the Certificate in Data Science.
“There are always new things to learn, and this certificate was an opportunity for me to get some specialization,” said Keith, a 2014 graduate. “From a career development perspective, I took this program to unlock certain doors to new leadership roles or opportunities.”
Keith, who landed a higher-level position with a larger company after earning his certificate, talks here about what he gained from the program and how it helped him reach new professional heights.
Tell us a bit about your current job.
As a senior business analyst and ScrumMaster, I lead cross-functional teams spanning multiple technical disciplines at Accenture. We’re tasked with upgrading and reinventing various IT capabilities within the federal government. I am focusing in the short-term on leveraging data science, machine learning and geospatial technologies to unlock new insights and analytical capabilities.
What appealed to you most about the program?
Good academic rigor, practical application of skills and industry best practices. The program hit a good, solid balance of those three things.
Are you using skills you learned in the certificate program in your job today?
Yes. Model development, machine learning and also some core statistics around data science — I'm trying to solve problems in a better way using those techniques. In fact, I’m using these skills currently in some internal innovation initiatives. My new skills expand the solution options I can envision and implement.
I'm also using skills from the certificate program outside of what I'm doing professionally for work. For example, in the program we participated in online competitions through Kaggle, which is a platform for predictive modeling competitions. What I learned in the program allows me to actively participate and collaborate in various professional communities like Kaggle.
Were there classes that stood out as particularly interesting or useful for you?
Each of the classes had a different focus. The program helps build a foundation of core skills and then provides practical application.
There’s a good blend of academic theory early in the first two classes. The last class, in particular, was very application focused. There's a really good balance of best-practice sharing, practical experience and also theory that was welded together. It resonated very well.
Did you get hands-on experience using data tools and algorithms?
It’s a little bit of unemployment insurance. Being current and learning relevant skills is a great way to be in demand.
Keith Beggs, Certificate Graduate
Yes, both. We had a lot of hands-on experience. The instructors showed us the practical reality of things as opposed to the theoretically pure and pristine data that always works. They gave us the opportunity to stub our toes in a safe way, which is very useful.
There are certain academic activities you can learn from a book, and there are certain practical applications you need to learn by doing. I don’t want to have to spend 20 years to get relevant, deep experience. I can spend one year learning best practices and short-circuit a lot of that journey. It was helpful to get the best practices as well as the hands-on experience.
What do the instructors bring to the program?
The instructors bring solid academic understanding of data science as well as good, practical experience solving challenging data science problems. They provide valuable feedback to unblock you and help you learn — you can talk with them to make sure you’ve applied things correctly. That combination of practical application, practical experience and industry best practices is something valuable and unique.
Do you feel earning the certificate will help your career in the long term?
Yes. There's direct applicability for me to do my current work better, but I'm also thinking several moves down the road. It’s a little bit of unemployment insurance. Being current and learning relevant skills is a great way to be in demand.
What would you say to somebody who's thinking about taking this program?
Jump in and explore the options. Initially, the landscape may be a little intimidating. But the program provides you with a practical, pragmatic foundation of knowledge that allows you to continually refine your plans and goals as you get more perspective and a deeper knowledge base.