How to Become a Data Scientist in Nigeria

How to Become a Data Scientist in Nigeria

What is community? It was Saturday and few days earlier on LinkedIn I saw a post on Linked by a contact, Adebayo Aderibigbe, about a Meetup for data science. I am very interested in data science although I was more interested in learning programming. Python programming language to be exact. It has been a long term goal of mine that is yet to be accomplished and is burning a hole in my mind. So, I asked how to register as the post did not show the registration process and but required it. 

Adebayo sent me a message asking for my email. I was a bit hesitant on giving my email when the registration process was not made available but I still gave it. He promptly sent me a google form by e-mail and my registration was completed. As stated on the LinkedIn post the venue was on the Island. It was changed for a reason I didn’t know. But, that didn’t bother me. I was more curious and interested in attending the meetup. It was the first meetup I attended in Nigeria. I had used Meetup.com a lot in England. I tried going to one in Nigeria but it was a strange experience since the organizers refused to reveal the venue for “Security Reasons”. This data science meetup was at Seed Space in Park View so there seemed to be some gravitas behind it. I decided to make sure I came early.

I left to go for the meetup an hour earlier than the stated start of the meetup. It was a bit surprising to me because I encountered just moderate traffic but I got there ten minutes late. Just coming in, I met a very jovial and congenial Adebayo who informed that although more people were to arrive, we would start in 20 minutes. He was not lying. He started by presenting a QR code on the huge projector screen to use a poll for some questions in the presentation and informing us on the inferiority of telecommunication devices other than iPhones. It was already starting to be obvious that this was one of the most well organized Meetup I have ever attended. He gave the brief history of the meetup which was for the Lekki Data science, which was aiming to become the Deeplearning.ai chapter in the Nigeria. Deeplearning.ai is an organization started by the famous Andrew Ng to develop data science and AI and also create groups and content for the advancement of data science. Adebayo played a short video which featured Andrew and his organisation.

After the video, he then told us about INDABA a convention for data science for Africa. It’s also a response to the difficulty of African Data scientists have in securing visas and other resources needed to attend other international data science focused events. Finally, by Skype, he introduced the key speaker of this meetup, Freddie Odukomaiya. He was streaming from UK live. The topic as stated in the flyers was how to get into Data science.

Freddie introduced myself and his brief history starting with his degree in Aeronautical engineering. After having a few jobs he wanted a career in something that combined his previous interests: math and physics. Something that was more challenging that what he was encountering in his work at the time in AirBus. Coming across guides to data science by articles in “Towards Data science” he decided to begin his quest to become a data scientist. One of those articles was “How to Become a Data scientist” written by Marcos Silva.

Now, this journey was by no means easy. He had to make hard choices and really work hard balancing self-study and holding down a full-time job. I would say his background in math and his passion for science really came in handy. He used free online sources such as freecodecamp.org to learn JavaScript which he left to pursue Python. Python presented more opportunities as it used for software engineering and data science. To expedite his progress he also attending a data science boot camp on the weekends. Even though all this was very tasking, he participated in a “hackathon” that resulted in getting him a job in data science. He was able to build a model in the hackathon. Although, he admits it wasn’t not a very effective model, it still got him the job as they company was very interested in the direction he was going and saw potential.

To become a data scientist, Freddie said you would need some tools and resources. The skills he stated are programming skills. He recommended ability in Python, SQL, and Docker. Docker is really important for deployment and makes one a very valuable data scientist and it makes gives them the ability to deploy projects on their own. The mathematics needed are: Linear Algebra, Probability and Statistics, and Calculus. These are required and one can brush up on them even though they have a history with weakness in mathematics. Currently there is a vast abundance of tutorials and lessons that would gift one with competence in this area. They are usually available on-line for free.

Finally, Freddie explained the need for business and problem solving skills. These skills include developing questions and metrics for the business. They include problem identification, Domain Expertise and Presentation Skills. Presentations skills also include explaining data science to lay people or people who don’t care about tedious statistics but want to know how the information changes their bottom line. Does it increase revenue? Does it reduce cost or waste? Does it make a difference to the business or organisation? These are questions you must be able to ask and answer for you to progress in your career in data science. 

Freddie also listed out some key takeaways:

  • Pick One Programming Language- He promotes Python
  • Find your WHY – If you are tired and fed up, what would keep you going?
  • Don’t get stuck in the tutorial carousel – Avoid the situation on doing tutorials or not completing any.
  • Pick a small set of resources – Makes it easier to start and focus.
  • Immerse yourself in a community – Gives motivation, support, and even competition.
  • Find a Mentor – Find someone who knows more than you and is interested in seeing your success.
  • Apply Deliberate Practice – Freddie didn’t speak much on this but this is a massive. All I can say is ignore Malcolm Gladwell and pick up books such as Peak by Anders Ericsson, Deep Work by Cal Newport, and Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer.

After Freddie’s talk, Adebayo and his colleague, Ayo, then organized the questions and answer session where the guest to the meeting could ask questions about opportunities with data science in Nigeria. He outlined what people could do in Nigeria to improve their opportunities as also stated that his current company, Oakam, is considered coming into Nigeria. We then had group pictures. Yes, with a big screen projection of Freddie, we could take a group pictures. 

Adebayo outlined his plan for Lekki Data Science Meetup: to make it a Deeplearning.ai group for Africa and have a livestreamed conversation with Andrew Ng. He also presented a plan for 2020 and recruited personnel and volunteers to manage LDS. Very soon LDA would organize competitions for DevOps in Data Science. This was a very packed and interesting event. But, apart from Adebayo and Ayo, I didn’t really talk to anyone. But, that is my personality quirk. This was, by far, one of the best meetups I have ever attended.

So, I am starting on my python journey with data science clearly in my future and a very important thing Adebayo and LDS has given me is a community I belong.

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