In Conversation: Thuto Masole (Student, Ed-Tech Africa)

BW TechZone caught up with Thuto Masole, a student at Ed-Tech Africa, during the Gaborone Consumer Electronics & Technology Show, to know more about his journey in learning data science and analytics at the institution.

Could you start by telling me your name and what you study?

My name is Thuto Masole. I’m a student doing data science and analytics, and I’m also a part of the sales department.

What’s your experience with the institution in general?

Well, I’ve only been studying with them for about 2 months. I Just finished my economics degree at the University of Botswana (UB). After leaving UB I realised that I’m vested with more theoretical knowledge and less soft skills. I didn’t feel like I was industry ready, and I wasn’t confident in what I could bring to the table as an employee in any company.

One day, I saw an ad for the school on social media and I reached out to them on WhatsApp. At this time, we had just closed schools so I was back home. I had a conversation with someone from the school and after 2 or 3 weeks later when I was back in Gaborone, we kicked it off. They put me in a meeting where I was able to ask questions about their course outline, the lecturers and their qualifications, whether or not the school is accredited, the essentials to tick off before enrolling. I wanted value for my money as a consumer.

After that meeting, and a bit of internet research about their syllabus, I eventually enrolled in their 6 months program. But I began to ask myself how they were going to fit such a well vested program into a 6-month period. What happened is that as soon as I started, my lecturer threw me into the deep end from the first lesson. We use a system called Kaggle that uses artificial intelligence (AI) as assistance in the beginning to help you figure stuff out. The AI could provide hints on how you can approach your problems. It’s not nice when you want to understand a concept but it’s just too foreign to your mind. It was explained to me that when you’re introduced to information that’s foreign, it’s okay to feel a bit puzzled or struggle to understand. So, I guess you can say it’s an engaging environment. There’s progression in a very subtle but efficient manner.

And do you feel that the things you’ve learnt so far are skills that you could apply in real life?

Yeah. Like I said, it’s only been 2 months, but I’m seeing the vision much clearer now. We’ve been working with dummy data. Dummy data is like information from a recognised institution. Right now, we’re working a project using e-commerce data. We’re supposed to perform what is called exploratory data analyses. We’re supposed to interact with data to come up with some insight. We interact with this data using Python. Using Python, you can call a function instructing your editor to look for data that you want to work with. This is kind of like cleaning, sorting and arranging the data before you can even come up with insightful statements.

So you do feel like the things you’re learning are beneficial for you and what you want to do?

Yeah, yeah. Of course.

Okay, so, you spoke about soft skills earlier. Do you think Ed-Tech does a good job of teaching soft skills for young people who want to enter tech-related fields?

I think it’s doing a really good job. Let me give you one classic example. The school admin and the course facilitator know people in the industry, so they engage us in activities like hackathons. We’ve been put in a group and we are going to participate in a hackathon. We have a team, and each team member has a specific role. These roles are assigned to us by our natural abilities, that the course facilitator has recognised in the last two months of engaging us.

These group interactions have a competitive edge to them. Introducing the element of competition tends to bring out the best and the worst in people. You find that you may be prone to explosive bursts with your colleagues, or even on your own. You’re not content with the co-operation among your team members. That becomes a problem in your daily life as a data science student. You end up having to apply soft skills like having to meditate on a more diplomatic way of communicating your concerns or suggestions. You pay attention to your teammates and their personalities and choose the best way to interact with the person. You learn how to think on the spot, cause it’s like a replica of a real work environment.

In your opinion, do you think that there is enough demand for young children and recent high school graduates to have space to join the profession of data science and analytics?

Yes. I mean, I’ve enrolled because I see value in it. I see value in having the skill because I appreciate that I would be able to apply my skills in various industries. I could work with healthcare industry data, or retail industry data. The example I have in my mind is being a policy consultant to private organisations, NGOs or even institutions. It’s not like there’s only a few niche research studies that they focus on. There are different things you could do.

Do you have any advice to give to youths who are thinking about entering a tech-related field?

Yes! This is the time you should use to get some technical skills!

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