How Jillian became a Data Scientist

Hear Jillian’s story from growing up in Huddersfield to studying Biochemistry and later becoming a Data Scientist working in Vienna.

Celebrating local Black voices in business

Jillian’s story

Working with young people, we know how important it is to see role models and people from your community succeeding in jobs and business. Our ‘Celebrating local Black voices in business’ series shares the career journeys of Black people from our local area.

In the series, we find out how each person found what they love doing and what steps they took to get there. Our hope is to share more Black voices from a range of professions to inspire some future careers.

Next up is Jillian Augustine. Jillian is from Lindley, Huddersfield and went to Greenhead College. Jillian studied for a degree in Dietetics, before graduating in Biochemistry. She went on to begin a PhD and finally moved into her chosen career path.

Hi Jillian. Please tell us a bit about where you grew up and where you’re living now.

I grew up in Lindley, Huddersfield and attended Lindley Junior School followed by Salendine Nook High School. To complete my A Levels, I went to Greenhead College and left with As in Chemistry and Biology, and Cs in French and Psychology. I now live in Vienna, Austria, and I moved here for my job.

Please describe your current job and a bit about your day to day working life as a Data Scientist?

I mainly work with manufacturing companies and other large businesses to use the data they collect to improve their business. I try to spend most of my day coding, but I also spend a lot of time talking to clients, understanding their business needs, and getting feedback on my data analysis.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I most enjoy working in an international environment with people from all over the world. I also like working with clients on customer projects in completely different industries. This means no two projects are the same and my work never gets boring.

Your job involves specialist skills. When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in data science? And what steps took you there?

I've changed my mind a lot but have always been getting closer and closer to what interests me. After my A-Levels, I started to study Dietetics at Coventry University but realised I was more interested in the Biochemistry lectures than the Dietetics ones.

I left that degree without finishing and moved to the University of Leeds to do Biochemistry. As part of this course, I did a year in Canada where I learned more about developmental biology. Following this, I started a PhD in Developmental Biology after my bachelor’s degree.

There wasn't a good fit with my PhD supervisor, so I started my PhD again in the Biochemistry department. Towards the end of my PhD (after 2-3 years) I realised I didn't want to stay doing research at a university, so I started to look for other opportunities.

I always liked answering questions and understanding why things are as they are, which is why I decided to move into Data Science.

Data Science allows me to solve lots of real-world business problems like ‘How many products am I going to sell next month?’ or ‘When should a factory replace its equipment?’

Did you require any additional qualifications or training to pursue your career?

The career I am in now requires no formal qualifications. But I think education teaches you a lot; it teaches you how to learn and how to get answers to your questions.

As part of my undergraduate degree and PhD I had to work on longer projects which helped with managing project requirements, deadlines and working in teams. These are skills I now use every day.

Did the support from anyone help you find your path?

I was always encouraged to continue studying something that interested me, and I was never told that I was not capable of doing something. At university, my personal tutor was very supportive to help me gain more experience alongside my degree through things like internships.

What goals do you have for your career in the future?

My main goal is to keep having fun. I really like what I'm doing so I want to continue with that. I also like guiding people and helping them improve their data science skills so something that allows me to do that is probably where I'll end up.

In my career, it's possible to become more and more technically specialised without necessarily becoming a manager, so I’d like to keep that as an option.

If you could, what advice would you give to yourself when you were at school?

1) Do what you enjoy. This will keep you going when things are tough.

2) Keep laughing as nothing is as serious as you think.

3) Make a plan. But don't expect things to go to plan. Plans guide you in one direction but sometimes you need to change direction.

4) When you stay open to change, the opportunities are endless.

Thanks so much to Jillian for sharing her journey and her wise words on staying open to change. Her story goes to show that you might set out on a certain path and discover something new you enjoy doing more along the way.

Leaving one stream of training, education, or employment for another opportunity is not a negative thing but is a natural part of progression. Finding a career we enjoy and excel at is an ongoing process and nobody should feel stuck in the industry or field they started out in.

We spoke to Jillian as part of our ‘Celebrating local Black voices in business’ series, which shares the career journeys of Black people from our local area. First up was Imani – we heard about her baking business, Coco's Corner, which you can read about here. Next, we spoke to Reon, who is a digital marketing apprentice – read his story here.



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