MY COVID-19 CAREER CHANGE: FROM IN-HOUSE DATA SCIENTIST TO DATA SCIENCE CONSULTANT

COVID-19 certainly took people by surprise and disrupted billions of lives. Like numerous others, career progression was certainly not the top of my mind during such a time of great uncertainty, but I can honestly say that having taken the plunge into a new role here at Capco, I have no regrets.

I always knew what I wanted - a diverse set of interesting projects instead of working on the same sort of tasks day in and day out. Not only has that added in some much-needed variety in the monotony of lockdown life (variety is the spice of life, after all...), but also to borrow a term from data science, help me to not ‘over-fit’ to a particular set of skills. 

I had spent the last few years at a large corporate, where I built numerous reusable data assets to help scale and optimise the development of various products. Those experiences helped me to gain a lot of deep domain knowledge and established myself as the go-to SME (subject matter expert) in certain specialist areas, from the technical, such as database infrastructures, to the softer skills such as project management. 

Whilst all these skills were valued by my former employer, I also realised that they are very much ‘local maximums’, and not necessarily best practice in the industry. To prevent over-fitting myself and tailoring my skills to match the exact domain of my employer, I decided to explore and aim for the ‘global maximum’ to make sure that my skills and expertise are transferable and applicable to a wider range of areas. This naturally led me to the life of being a consultant. 

Capco certainly ticked all these boxes and gave me exactly what I wanted. My first assignment has been a project led by our office in the US (and so working remotely, of course), which helped a large US bank to design a brand-new digital proposition completely from scratch. This involved using data science techniques to help with everything from customer prospecting and product features to revenue projections and more. 

Working closely with other Capco consultants from different functions, there were numerous opportunities to step in and help others as we worked towards the same deadlines, all of which gave me valuable exposures into areas that I never had experience in before. This, in my opinion, is an extremely important consideration for any data scientists out there. Regularly interacting with senior stakeholders enables you to transition from being back-end ‘data support’, to someone who can help shape and influence data driven decisions. These are exactly the skills you can learn as a consultant!

That is not to say that you don’t learn more technical skills on the job – far from it. After all, clients don’t use Capco data scientists to do work that they can do themselves! Capco are often brought into a project because it is challenging and high impact, so you also have the opportunity to excel and grow in the direction you want.

Aside from career opportunity, culture is another aspect that also stood out for me so far. Despite having 1000+ employees in London, you may have heard that it’s still a very much start-up mentality within Capco, and you definitely won’t feel like just another cog in the wheel. In fact, I would say it’s the best of both worlds, with a solid structure to provide support when needed, yet also fostering opportunities to innovate and make your own footprints. 

Despite joining amidst lockdowns and that I am still yet to meet anyone in person, I have connected with many great people virtually and had plenty of occasions where I felt appreciated and part of the team. Receiving a hand-signed Christmas card from the leadership team through the post was most unexpected but certainly warmed me up during a freezing cold December day!

Of course, different people have different goals to achieve in their career, so I would urge anyone either in or considering a data science career to think carefully about what type of role you are looking for. If you do wish to further explore life at Capco, then please feel free to connect over LinkedIn or email, chaoran.Shen@capco.com.