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Pop quiz: How do you stand out to a potential employer, convince them you can put your hard skills to work, and land a tech job? According to Practicum Data Science graduate Andrei Batomunkuev, bringing a portfolio of projects to the table is a great start. We spoke to him about choosing a career path, learning to work in a real IT environment, landing an awesome internship, and his future. Disclaimer: he plans to apply his new DS skills to outdo the great Tony Stark. 

A programmer by nature

Many people stumble into the IT industry after years of working in other realms. Andrei's passion for tech, however, had long been brewing inside him. "I used to watch conferences like the Worldwide Developers Conference, and it ignited an interest in me. I thought, 'Why don't I become a developer and build cool stuff like Apple?'" he recalls. He was especially interested in front-end development, and even taught himself some skills to take on freelance web dev projects. So, it was natural to him to enroll in a computer programming and analysis program. While Andrei enjoyed his tech studies and development, at some point he felt he needed to decide which direction he wanted his life to go. 

"There was a moment where I was considering what to do in the future and if I should keep studying web development," he explains. After weighing all the pros and cons and talking to his family, he realized there was another opportunity he never considered: data science. It was a new, lucrative niche where he could both create something innovative and get successful quickly. "I didn't know much about data science before. I only saw some glimpses of it on YouTube. [But] I decided to challenge myself. I thought that with data science and machine learning, I [could] create lots of amazing programs like recommendation systems, computer vision models, and virtual assistants," Andrei says. "These potential opportunities gave me motivation."

However, entering this field without support was easier said than done. Although his college program provided practice-oriented education, it didn't include subjects like data science or machine learning. Andrei realized he had to search for other ways to educate himself. First, he looked through some online resources that were helpful when he was learning web dev, but didn't find anything suitable.

An all-around skill upgrade

Andrei commenced the Practicum Data Science program when he was in his third semester of college and mid-lockdown. This was no easy feat. Practicum program consisted of many two to three week-long sprints that included reading, coding practice, and project assignments. Though Andrei could read and practice whenever he wanted, assignments had strict deadlines. To make them, he had to study for college during the day and log on to learn data science at night. 

This led to quite a few sleepless nights: he was a complete newbie to data science, plus there was virtually no overlap between his college and Practicum curriculums. However, Andrei managed to turn this into an advantage. His tight schedule became a crash course in time management, "I needed to solve this problem somehow, so I started using Google Calendar and blocking [off] time for my college projects and Practicum. It helped me graduate."

Still, the study at Practicum was "a very engrossing process," Andrei says. "We had a Slack channel where I talked to my peers. We shared links to helpful resources, which was very cool." Moreover, he received feedback from professional code reviewers, who checked his project assignments. He also communicated with his tutors weekly via Zoom. For Andrei, the open communication with real people is what distinguished Practicum from other coding schools.

An internship and a job

When you're fresh out of college, finding a decent first job can be a real pain. But Andrei's efforts certainly paid off. He applied for and landed a four month-long internship at a company, doing analytics for esports and building virtual companions for gamers. His job was to suggest new spheres where the company could expand. "It was more research than analysis," he recalls. "In the end, I made a presentation and pitched my ideas to the CEO, and he gave me positive feedback."

How did he get it? Well, firstly, the projects he worked on during his time at Practicum made for an impressive portfolio. "Industry-level projects helped me stand out among other candidates," he shares. Secondly, he leveraged the resources of the Practicum Career Acceleration track. This track not only helped him construct a great CV, but also develop strong interview skills, giving him the confidence to do well and land his dream role!  

Practicum student-centric environment proved helpful as well. With it, he learned valuable soft skills, such as teamwork. "We had weekly meetings with the tutors and peers where we presented our projects, reviewed each other's code, and gave feedback [...] It was very easy to blend in [during the internship] because there were many other students [interning], and Practicum's weekly meetings [had well prepared me]."

Once his internship ended, Andrei landed a full-time role. He got a Data Scientist Summer 2022 Internship position at Nestle! While it was a long process that took three months and involved multiple interview stages, he was supported by the Practicum’s Career Acceleration track team the whole time. His portfolio, strengthened by his internship experience, played in his favor once again. 

“I was able to answer behavioral questions with the experience that I have acquired with the industry-level projects in Practicum,” Andrei shares. “The interviewers were impressed with the projects that I did, and also with their technical parts.”

What next? Andrei’s plans are truly ambitious. "Now, I would like to be a machine learning engineer," he says, “Next, I want to shift to MLOps. It's a sphere where you work on end-to-end machine learning projects: you start with business goals, acquire and pre-process data, build and deploy models, and so on. Then, I'll move on to management roles and maybe open my own company." The products he wants to build are truly, well, marvelous. "I've had a couple ideas since school. I've wanted to build myself a virtual assistant like the one in "Iron Man". With the knowledge I received at Practicum, I think I'll be able to do it."

Think you have what it takes to surpass Tony Stark like Andrei? Take a look at our top-rated Data Scientist program.

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