This year’s PWC Data Analytics Academy concluded last Friday (25th September), with an award ceremony at PWC’s Belfast office.
The 8 week course was funded by the Department of Employment and Learning, and hosted at Belfast Metropolitan College’s e3 campus.
In attendance were the 16 course delegates, representatives from PWC, Mary McIvor (Director of Further Education at DEL), and Jonathan Heggarty (Director of Curriculum at Belfast Metropolitan College).
The students comprised an eclectic bunch. All had a 2:1 degree or better, but that was where the similarity ended. Some had come straight from university, others had worked for a few years. One was a former primary school teacher, another had a degree in Computer Science, and a PhD in Business this is indicative of the broad range of backgrounds that people had.
The nature of the work that PWC do is that there is a role for all these people; in fact diversity is a good thing. You may think that putting such a diverse group into one classroom to study data analysis techniques wouldn’t be a good idea? You might expect that someone with a Computer Science or Maths degree wouldn’t be challenged, while those with an English or Arts degree wouldn’t be able to keep up?
This isn’t the case at all. I teach SQL (a programming language used for querying databases) it is widely regarded to be the hardest part of the academy. Those coming from a background in computing have probably encountered SQL before, however, in my experience, the Universities only cover the topic superficially. Given the depth we go into, you can really consider SQL a new topic for everyone in the class.
Not only did we spend a lot of time writing queries, but we also considered how the database thinks and operates, how to write queries for performance, and good coding standards for SQL that help eliminate common mistakes.
This is the benefit of the Academy model: students are prepared for the job they will do. The course is short and intense, so there isn’t time for training fatigue to set in. And because the course moves at pace, the students learn to rely on each other to get through.
One of the students gave a speech recounting a story from the first week, “During an icebreaking session and we were asked whether we thought we were a ‘group’ or a ‘team’. Opinion was split, and I wandered to the side of the room that thought we were a ‘group’. Having got to the end of this academy I can affirm we’re definitely a team!”.
This week, all 16 students should be receiving formal job offers. This is testament not only to how rigorous the selection process was, but also how hard everyone worked.
A final word to the students: to wish them well in their new careers, and every success for the future.