FD Career Stories – Insights from a Data Scientist
By: Alex Hayden
Following her graduation from Maynooth University in September 2017, Alex started her career at First Derivatives as a Data Scientist on the Options Graduate Programme. Below, Alex shares her insights on her career journey so far, her role as a Data Scientist and her advice to students currently entering the job market.
My Career Story So Far
After graduating from Maynooth University in September 2017, I started my career at First Derivatives in October 2017 as a Data Scientist on the Options Graduate Programme. As part of my first role, I spent six months in Belfast working for a cognitive health client who were building their first database using kdb+. After that, I started a role with one of the world’s leading Tier 1 Investment Banks in May 2018 and have been in this position ever since. Most of my team are based in Glasgow, and I have been travelling between there and Newry in Northern Ireland where I usually work remotely.
My Role as a Data Scientist
My current role with my client mostly involves kdb+ developer responsibilities for an application that monitors the firm’s commitment to risk by calculating actual and theoretical profit and loss. This entails maintaining and constantly improving the pre-existing database, QA testing, developing functionality that will fix bugs or fulfill user requests and business requirements and communicating with users regarding issues or queries about the app.
Outside my role with my client, I have other duties as an FD consultant. Before graduating from the Options Programme, I had training and assessments to complete under my own steam (the requirements vary depending on which stream you are on). After graduating from the training programme, I took on additional responsibilities such as Month 1 Interviews with new graduates, which helps to train and assess their ability to interview with FD’s clients. I’m also a mentor as part of FD’s Mentorship Programme. Additionally, I am hoping to take advantage of the additional training on offer which includes Machine Learning (Python) and AWS training.
FD has a global client base and tries to cater to both people looking to travel and stay closer to home. There are employees from all age groups in different home situations including many who have families, so FD try to be as accommodating as possible while matching the right skill set to each client. There are many roles in different verticals and locations.
The Most Interesting/Challenging Parts of My Job
I love to learn, so learning a coding language from scratch really spiked my interest with this position. It also helps that I really like q/kdb+ as a language too. I find how it can be applied in so many different fields fascinating and love the idea of being part of a team that makes a difference using technology like kdb+. Things that I have found challenging include working remotely and working with data from different sources and time zones.
Working remotely is a big challenge. I’m the only member of my team that works from Newry. However, this has helped me to improve my communication skills by exposing me to a different form of communication than I would use if I worked on client site. We communicate via phone, email and instant messaging platforms, so I need to be more explicit and descriptive but also choose my words carefully because of the lack of body language. This may sound like a nightmare to some but it does have perks that many would find appealing. For example, because I don’t work from the client’s office on a regular basis, where I work is more flexible. It means that working from home is a much more viable option for me and I already have the skills that allow me to do that.
The app I work on for my client provides time-series data to users across the globe, which is impressive, but it can bring new challenges I never thought I would need to consider to light. The problems and solutions to working with different time zones can be difficult to comprehend but also very interesting.
My Advice to Students Entering the Job Market
Personally, I found looking for a job very difficult so the advice I would offer is to never give up looking for a job you enjoy. Even if your circumstances mean you need to accept a job, any job, don’t give up the search for a career in a field of your choosing. It’s important to recognise if you’re finding it difficult or feeling disheartened. If you can take a short break from job hunting and return to it later then do, but don’t let it stop you from finding a career you love.
If you have a broad degree or you want a study break before doing a Masters/PhD, then it can be difficult to figure out what field you want to go into, which can cause anxiety and/or procrastination when it comes to applying for jobs. If that’s the position you find yourself in, then the best advice I can offer is to apply for anything that peaks your interest. This is where graduate programmes or apprenticeships can really help. They can also be an excellent foot in the door so don’t exclude them from your search. The worst that can happen is you don’t get offered an interview or a job.
If you can, talk to someone who works for the company you’re applying to in order to get an idea of what it’s like to work for them.
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