A Story of Career Resilience – Zhang’s shift from Government to Data Science

A story of career resilience - Zhang's shift from government to data science.

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Zhang Jiaming’s career journey into data science began with a diverse background and a rich skill set, including experience in both the government and commercial sectors.

But, like many others during the pandemic, Zhang found himself job-hunting.

This challenging period exposed him to the harsh realities of job security and the importance of resilience in one’s career.

Motivated by a desire to build transferable skills and secure a robust career regardless of the job climate, Zhang decided to take action.

He enrolled in the Institute of Data’s Data Science & AI Program, determined to transform his career trajectory.

Read on to learn more about Zhang’s journey, his experiences with the program, and his recommendations and words of encouragement for anyone considering a career in data science.

1. Zhang, please tell me a bit about yourself.

I live in Singapore.

My interests are quite varied, including anime, video games and theology.

I’m a Christian and enjoy Bible studies. In my spare time, I enjoy writing fiction.

I also pay attention to artificial intelligence (AI) trends and how they can assist me in my work and daily activities.

2. Can you tell me about your career before you moved into Data Science?

I graduated from the National University of Singapore with a major in economics around the time the Lehman Brothers problems occurred.

The job market at the time was stagnant, but eventually, I found work at the government Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), assisting with data analytics.

In that role, I learned how data is analysed and presented to decision-makers.

Some people may be very clear about what they want their career to be, but I am not one of them.

My career moved from government data analysis to handling government programs and financial analysis.

Although my roles have been varied, allowing me to gain valuable experience and see different perspectives, they have not been particularly useful for my career progression.

3. How did you first become interested in technology?

Technology and data science are the current frontiers of what will be trending in 2024 and beyond – It’s difficult to avoid them!

I consider technology an enabler. I like the analogy of using a rice cooker, for example, as it drastically reduces the bar and skills required in cooking rice.

Data science is a tool that can assist us in every area of life. It can help senior management make decisions or help politicians better gauge the sentiment of the voters they represent.

What I find interesting about technology, especially data science, is its importance to our everyday lives and how data and its findings can improve them.

4. What motivated you to study Data Science & AI, then?

My main motivation was necessity.

I enrolled in the Institute of Data’s Data Science & AI Program during the most severe period of COVID-19, which just happened to be when I was searching for work.

Circumstances led me to review my options critically, and I assessed that I needed more specialised skills for my career to be more resilient.

Given my economics and data analysis background, data science looked to have the most synergy and potential.

5. Why did you choose to study Data Science & AI with the Institute of Data?

There were two main advantages the Institute of Data’s Data Science & AI Program had over its competitors.

The first reason was timing. The program was about to start just as I was considering what course to take.

Secondly, the Institute of Data’s Data Science & AI Program did not involve a barrier to entry. No qualifications were necessary, and applicants were not required to take additional tests (though there is pre-course work to complete).

Choosing the Institute of Data with these two advantages over other providers was an easy decision.

6. How did you find the program overall?

I found the program overall well executed. Highlights included the presentation and how well-organised the course materials were.

The trainer and trainer’s assistant were excellent at guiding us through the material, and I didn’t feel helpless or unable to progress at any point.

That’s crucial when you are learning a new skill. The guidance by the teaching staff helped make all the difference to the learning experience.

I found the trainer’s industry experience particularly useful. He was able to link our lessons to real-world experiences he’d encountered in the industry.

This was a real advantage to our learning.

It kept our lessons grounded in practical applications, and we were encouraged to find realistic, commercial applications for the material we learned.

This led to lots of interesting and practical projects proposed by our class.

7. Was there anything else that stood out to you about the program?

The trainer and trainer’s assistant were very approachable and available.

It was very helpful to be able to contact them with any issues or ideas we had about projects.

We were also given comprehensive tutorials to review, and an answer key was provided for us to compare with our answers.

Seeing past projects helped us with inspiration for what we could do for our projects.

The Job Support Program guided many of us on current job search trends, which I found very useful.

8. Can you tell me about your current role?

I work at the Building and Construction Authority and assist in data analysis and presentation.

My role uses, in particular, the data preparation and visualisation aspects of the Institute of Data’s Data Science & AI Program.

It’s a supportive role, and I enjoy turning raw data into something my supervisors can understand and use to make better decisions.

I enjoy being mostly focused on computer work. I find it more relaxing than managing multiple stakeholders, which I experienced in some of my previous roles.

9. Do you have any advice for those applying for jobs after graduating?

The skillset we acquired during the Institute of Data’s Data Science & AI Program was comprehensive and a great starting point.

Your future goals may require more specific skills, which you can learn independently once you identify them. I’m still working on that myself.

I’m interested in learning more about visualisation and artificial intelligence (AI) research, and I’m considering further studies in statistics.

10. Do you have any advice for those interested in joining the Data Science Industry specifically?

The Institute of Data’s Data Science & AI Program is an excellent way to get started.

The program is aimed at both novices and those experienced in data science. So, depending on your background, you may need more time on pre-course work, but it is achievable.

I’d like to encourage anyone out there struggling with job searching to know that the Data Science & AI Program is an excellent launch point and might just be the program you’re looking for. You should check it out!

11. How do you envision your professional future?

I hope to become more specialised and expand into AI, which seems to be one of the more in-demand skill sets.

This will require specific additional skills that I am working to acquire.

I hope to have a resilient and stable career in five years that will allow me to support my loved ones.


If you’d like to learn more about our Data Science & AI Program, please consider downloading a course outline.

Alternatively, you can speak about the program directly with a team member by booking a career consultation to start your journey with an actionable plan.

You can connect with Zhang and follow his professional journey on LinkedIn.

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