What does EvolvE look like from the developer’s point of view?
Don’t have a typical developer background? In this Q&A, Adam Fletcher from our EvolvE programme explains how consultancy skills can sometimes show up in surprising career paths, and describes the learning opportunities he’s had on his way to becoming a consultant at Equal Experts.
What was your background before joining the EvolvE programme?
Before joining EvolvE I was a lab scientist. I have a PhD in structural biology and did a postdoctoral research project at Cancer Research UK exploring lung cancers. I have also worked for industrial laboratories developing medical devices.
What skills did you already have that Equal Experts knew would make you a great match?
Most academic projects are self-directed which is similar to how both Equal Experts and the EvolvE programme operate. In both my PhD and with EvolvE, if I wanted to learn how something worked I was given the freedom to learn it. I felt my consulting skills were also good from presenting data at both academic conferences and at non-technical business events.
How did you find out about EvolvE, and what attracted you to the programme?
I found out about EvolvE from a friend who was an associate at Equal Experts who mentioned that they were growing their data capabilities. After hearing about the ethos of the company, I could see that Equal Experts ways of working and mine were aligned. The most appealing aspect was that Equal Experts genuinely treats everyone like adults and trusts in your ability.
Who has been instrumental in your learning during your time on EvolvE?
There have been several people who I feel have been instrumental. The first is Simon Case (who runs our data practice). He has helped me throughout my time at Equal Experts to develop my machine learning, data engineering and good software practice knowledge. Steve Morgan, Director of the EvolvE programme, and Geraint Dawe, DL CoP Lead, have also been instrumental in helping me fit into Equal Experts , learn who’s who plus they’ve both introduced me to agile delivery methods.
What’s been your most exciting project to date? What role did you play, and what did you learn from it?
I very much enjoyed building a data ingestion, processing and machine learning pipeline to predict the sales price of used machinery. I was responsible for all aspects of the data, and there was a steep learning curve for learning data engineering and integrating it into a CI/CD pipeline. I learned key engineering skills to complement my analytical skills.
What was your biggest challenge?
One of the biggest challenges, which I have had to face several times, is a lack of infrastructure to help with data science practices. I therefore had to rapidly upskill myself in data engineering techniques to make sure I had a good grounding to perform my analysis. This was initially quite a daunting task as it was an area I had little experience with. But with the help of other associates within the Equal Experts network I was able to upskill myself quickly.
Has anything surprised you about the programme – or have you learned anything about yourself that you didn’t realise before?
I was surprised by the amount of freedom I was given about what projects I wanted to work on and what I wanted to learn. I could take days away from client work to learn new skills. What I learnt from being surrounded by experts is that I frequently had imposter syndrome so I worked really hard to address this.
What are your goals now?
I am looking at two different types of goals. 1. How can I upskill myself to be the most effective data science consultant I can be? And 2. How can I keep up to date with the latest data science innovations? Other goals include looking at how I can make Equal Experts (and especially EvolvE) be the most successful it can be. I am very passionate about the EvolvE programme’s success, as they saw my potential as a consultant and I want to make sure we can continue doing that for other people.
What would you say to anyone who might be considering applying for the EvolvE programme?
My favourite thing about the EvolvE programme might be, to someone else, a negative. What I call ‘freedom to learn whatever you want’ might be too unstructured for anyone looking for a more structured development and learning programme. I can always get advice from anyone about the key skills I should have, but it was up to me to upskill myself – be that building a project or doing a course.
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