If you notice your job description is becoming more technical, know that there are still ways to make things work for you. Regardless of your background, you can learn new skills and get that promotion or better job. Unsure if you can do it? Check out the story of Practicum student Pedro Giestas Gomes, who came to Practicum to acquire missing skills for his job in financial analytics. For several months, he immersed himself in the intense study of data analysis, completed several projects based on real business cases, and ended up with a new career in tech.
Clouds on the horizon
For over three years, Pedro had been working at an international consulting company, where his tasks involved drawing up financial data for corporate pension funds. While manually sorting through large Excel files, he was responsible for checking how much money companies needed to invest in their pension funds and which employees had the rights to their pensions. "[Manual search] took a lot of time," Pedro recalls. "I used to work 10-12 hours per day and I was like, 'Jesus, this is awful, I need something different.'"
He also noticed that financial analysis jobs had started requiring technical skills he didn't have, like proficiency in Python, R, SQL, and Power BI. His company didn't provide any learning opportunities to its employees, and Pedro realized his role would eventually be automated. As prospects of unemployment started to loom over him, he decided to do some research to see where he could take his career. The search returned terms like data analysis, data science, and machine learning. Since he had a master's degree in financial mathematics and a bachelor's in engineering, it seemed like learning them wouldn't be too complicated. However, he had no idea how to go about it. ''I was kind of lost because I didn't have any friends who worked in the field. I didn't know anyone," he says.
The more he searched, however, the more overwhelming things became. "You get so much information, you don't really know where to start," says Pedro. First, he downloaded some books and started doing exercises, but quickly realized this type of learning wouldn't be effective. Then, he briefly considered going back to college, but at almost 30, it didn't sound exciting. And online courses? They were basically e-books in video form. Still determined, Pedro's research finally led him to Practicum's Data Analysis program. When he worked through the free trial, he liked that the course made him think, instead of just asking him to replicate code from examples. "I just said, 'I'll give it a go'," he recalls. So, he enrolled.
Once Pedro decided on Practicum, things started to come together. "It was the perfect timing because I really had the motivation and wanted to learn something," he recalls. "And it was winter, so I didn't really do much besides sit at home or watch TV." Also, working remotely (due to the pandemic), afforded him some extra hours to dedicate to his studies. Even so, his work schedule was demanding and oftentimes unpredictable. Pedro was working eight to 11 hours a day, and then logging on to study late in the evening. The program included several two- or three-week long sprints that consisted of theory, coding practice, and project assignments. Pedro could read up on theory and practice whenever he wanted, but projects had strict deadlines.
His job wasn't the only source of difficulties. The program material demanded a high level of focus. "The course is not something that you can do without thinking," says Pedro. "You need to be into it, you need to be focused on it. If I wasn't working outside of it, it would be much easier. I would have already finished the course."
However, Pedro discovered he felt great satisfaction when his code worked, and it helped him to push through. "It was like playing with Legos and building up things. The most motivating thing was the feeling of accomplishment when I finished something, it worked and did what I wanted it to do. Even if it took hours." This was a far cry from his days of solving complex calculus problems in college.
Pedro advises people to approach data analysis with an open mind and be prepared if learning takes a bit longer than expected, "You need to understand that you're not a machine, that this is going to take time, and that it's challenging."
Stepping on solid ground
Pedro still has three sprints to go, but has already started a new job. While he originally wanted to learn the skills he lacked in his previous role, he decided to find a role that is better suited to his new interests.
So, he started sending out his CV. "If [a job ad] said 'data analysis', I sent it." He didn't expect very many callbacks, but the fact that he could write code in Python had them coming in. Unfortunately, most of the job leads were fruitless, with recruiters citing they wanted someone with more experience. However, he caught the attention of Teleperformance, an international company that offers business process outsourcing and consulting. They were looking for data analysts when Pedro sent them his CV and they asked him to do a test assignment. Luckily, Pedro had already done a similar project for Practicum, so he aced the task. "They liked it and offered me a position there," he says. "And I said, 'Yeah, why not?' I saw it as a first step to get more skills."
Now, Pedro is working on a project for a social media company. He must analyze the performance and KPIs of employees who manually check abusive content published on the platform. "I need to understand the trends and find ways for them to be more efficient," he explains. In addition, he does small automation projects, like writing Python scripts to make it easier to transfer raw client data to his reports. "Little things show up that need to be automated and I got those skills from Practicum." He plans to get more experience and learn new instruments. Now, who knows what opportunities life will present to him in the future.
If Pedro’s story resonates with you, come see what new skills you can acquire with Practicum!