July 15, 2022

Leaving marks: my experience as a data scientist in residence

Our mentor in residence, Jan Ravnik finished his term as a data scientist in residence on the 27th of June, 2022. With a sad but full heart, he left our fellows with a lot of knowledge and confidence for the last four weeks of their fellowship. Take a look at what he has to say about his experience.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do as part of your career

I am a physicist by education. I did my PhD in physics in my hometown Ljubljana and continued my work as a postdoctoral researcher at Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland. I enjoyed working in both places but have learnt that lab work is not for me. Coding and looking at the data are things which I enjoy much more and that’s why I decided to pursue my career in data science. I currently work as a data scientist at Credit Suisse, one of the major global banks.

2) What made you decide to volunteer with Ishango.ai as a Data Scientist in Residence (DSiR)?

There is not a single reason why I chose to join, but rather a combination of them. I have always been passionate about volunteering and I have done it in many different settings so far. I also strongly believe that good access to education and equal job opportunities are extremely important and I believe Ishango is striving to achieve that. Mentoring students is something that I have always enjoyed, especially on interesting projects such as the ones that Ishango fellows work on during the fellowship. I believe through mentoring one can learn a lot, both on the technical as well as on the inter-personal side. I am really looking forward to continuing to be a part of the work Ishango is doing.

3) What did your role as the DSiR entail? What did you find most interesting? Did you face any challenges?

I had various tasks as a mentor but none of them were clearly defined. I was basically there to help where I was needed. To put it more specifically, I could say I had two main tasks, which were helping the fellows to get onboarded to the projects and data science support. The first task included bits of everything: project management, mentoring, coaching (1 on 1 sessions and sessions with the teams), joining the project meetings etc. The fellows were mostly young professionals fresh out of the university and for some of them this was their first experience in a working environment so I was there to help them get settled in. On the data science side, I helped them define the problem and find solutions. We were brainstorming, researching the algorithms and coding together. They were all amazing students and I (quite stereotypically but nevertheless) have a feeling that I actually learned more from them than they did from me.

4) What was your overall experience in Ghana like? What other activities did you do outside of the fellowship? What is one of your best memories from this experience?

It was great! This was my first time in Ghana and I really enjoyed it a lot. I met new friends (data science aside) and feel like I got much more out of the experience than if I had gone just to travel. I was immersed into the local life and culture and had much more authentic interactions with local people. We mostly did what normal people would do on a working day. Sometimes we would go for a dinner, sometimes for a drink, sometimes we were tired and went home. We went to the beach, or we stayed at the workplace just to hang out a bit. Since I currently live and work in Switzerland, I brought some fondue with me for a social evening. It was interesting to see them try food that was completely new to them and completely different from the African food that they are used to. Just like African food was different and new to me. I think we all enjoyed it a lot. On one of the weekends, I was invited to a wedding, which was an interesting experience and one of the weekends we went to a surfing beach.

5) How has this experience influenced you and contributed to your personal and professional growth?

I am deeply touched by the experience, and I think it will resonate with me for a while. It was an amazing personal experience, and I would recommend it to everyone. Professionally I learned a lot as I was exposed to various data science projects, and I got a deeper insight into many things that I so far knew only theoretically. But the new friendships and new perspectives that I learned from the fellows are by far the best thing that I got from it.

6) What advice would you give to any other person that is interested in becoming a mentor in residence?


Could you be our next Data Scientist in Residence?

If you are an experienced data scientist out there who wants to have an experience that will change the way you view the world, we would be more than glad to have you! If you are interested in applying as a mentor in residence you can do it here.