Our new cohort of data talent was given the warmest virtual welcome
On Wednesday 28 October, we welcomed the year of 2020-21 onto The Data Lab MSc Programme. In a year like no other, in a global COVID pandemic, ensuring that this cohort of new data talent gets the maximum from our programme is more important than ever. So our packed Zoom agenda was launched by Gillian Docherty, the CEO of The Data Lab, with a virtual equivalent of a Mexican wave. We may not be able to meet our students at the moment, but we are working hard to make sure that they feel part of The Data Lab and Scotland’s strong and growing data community.
The Data Lab MSc is a collaborative effort between The Data Lab and 12 Scottish Universities with the aim of developing talented data scientists and engineers to support the Scottish economy. We enter our 6th year of the programme with our largest ever intake of 160 new students, and a total of 720 students funded since 2015-16.
We are creating a pipeline of data talent moving from our programme into research, jobs and start-ups in the data sector in Scotland
The programme is funded by the Scottish Government through the SFC and ESF-DSW, and for the first time this year HDRUK who are supporting scholarships on 2 new health data courses. The SFC/ESF-DSW funding stream has given The Data Lab the stability to grow the MSc programme, and to create a portfolio of courses which meet broad data science skill requirements as well as niche and specialist courses in AI, data science for health and social sciences. This range of courses recognises that there is a need for data science practitioners across all sectors of the economy.
We were pleased to hear from Robin Lee, Senior Policy Analysis Officer at the Scottish Funding Council, who outlined the SFC’s commitment to “Making Scotland the best place in the world to learn, educate, research and innovate” and his endorsement of the pipeline of data talent moving from our programme into research, jobs and start-ups in the data sector in Scotland.
For any universities who would like to join our programme The Call for Funding 2021-22 is now live and will close on 11 January 2021.
In addition to fully-funded scholarships, students on The Data Lab MSc programme join a carefully curated programme of networking and activities designed to equip them with the wide-range of non-technical skills that are sought after by employers in our data community. The programme includes sector-specific training in employability and communication skills; access to networking and collider events; the opportunity to apply to undertake a paid industrial placement in Scotland; an industry sponsored innovation challenge; a certified MOOC on Data Ethics and Responsible Innovation; and membership of The Data Lab MSc Alumni group.
Becoming a data scientist is “Not just about the Data”
This unique programme has been developed in consultation with government, academic and business experts. As we heard from Joanna MacKenzie, Principal Data Manager at The Data Lab, becoming a data scientist is “Not just about the Data”. This message was explored in more depth by industry experts from Amazon, Gartner and Public Health Scotland in “What are the skills that employers are looking for?” Students were encouraged by the panel to fully participate and engage in the programme: this would put them in the strongest possible position to stand out from the crowd and help them find that first job in an uncertain job market.
Our alumni panel “Meet the Data Lab MSc Alumni” included alumni 2015-16 to 2019-2020 now working in Scotland in a range of organisations including Accenture, Nude Finance Ltd, Tesco Bank, Barclays Corporate Banking and the Scottish Police Authority. Stories were shared about journeys through The Data lab MSc programme into the data community in Scotland.
Short Data Science projects in the real world
The Data Lab MSc Placement Programme matches students to organisations looking to inject some data science thinking into a project of real business value. Students get the opportunity to apply their academic skills to the organisation’s real life challenges, learn how to work in a team and use this experience to deliver their MSc dissertation. John Bell, Data Scientist at Sustainably and a The Data Lab MSc alumni, chaired a panel on “The Value of The Data Lab MSc Placement”. We heard engaging stories from four very different organisations, TL TECH Smart Home Solutions, CNRI, Sea Spyder and NatureScot all of whom had hosted a The Data Lab MSc student on placement during summer 2020 with very positive outcomes.
Short video featuring some of the organisations who hosted students last summer:
Our fabulous 2019-20 MSc Data Science alumnus Karen Jewell, now Data Scientist with Effini, shared an inspirational presentation on “How to be a student in a global pandemic”. So many top tips for facing the challenges of being a student in 2020, so relevant also to those of us who have been working from home since March. The tips that have most resonance for me are “close your tabs” and “minimal progress is still progress”.
Students need to embrace continual learning
Public Health Scotland (PHS), as a data and intelligence-driven organisation, is at the forefront of supporting the Scottish Government and the Health Board with responding to the COVID pandemic. Caroline Crocker, People Development Manager at PHS delivered our Key Note presentation, outlining PHS’s data journey, and its current challenges. A career in PHS, or other public sector organisations, offered the opportunity for students to engage in real and pressing societal problems. Students should embrace continual learning – the skills and technologies of today become the skills of the past all too soon. Effective communication, through team work, visualisations etc are key: she ended her presentation with the words of Albert Einstein “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother”.
We opened The Data lab MSc Programme Launch zoom experience with virtual waves, and we ended with a rash of lovely, positive comments from our students posted in the zoom chat box. Many of them said that they felt inspired by the event – we do too! We look forward to delivering The Data Lab MSc programme to our students, to supporting them on their journey towards becoming Scotland’s next generation of data scientists, and we welcome them all to our The Data Lab community.
If you would be interested in discussing the opportunity of hosting students on a summer placement in 2021, or in sponsorship of the programme, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, we would be delighted to discuss this with you.
You can also read more about our students placements.