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Jack Mallows - IBM Strategy Consultant: Data Science

What degree course did you study and when did you graduate?

I graduated from Warwick in the summer of 2019 having studied Economics, and began working for IBM in November of that year.

Why did you choose that particular degree course?

I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do for a career when I chose my degree, nor when I graduated! I chose Economics because of its real-world practicalities and relevance. Everywhere you look Economics is dominating headlines, from debt crises to unemployment to a behavioural study on what makes employees tick. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career, but the place I wanted to start was to understand what these headlines meant and how the world worked.

Tell us about your employer

IBM has been at the forefront of technology for over 100 years. Probably most famous for its 20th century innovations and 90’s computer hardware, it has since developed into a market-leading consultancy, developing innovative solutions for clients in all sectors.

What was the position you were recruited for?

I work in IBM’s Advanced Analytics Practice as a Data Scientist. In my 18 months I have already been a part of a broad range of projects, from using machine learning to build a ‘recommender’ model for a major mobile network provider to performing complex data analytics for a government health care department.

What attracted you to this position?

Naturally, as someone who didn’t really know what they wanted to do I was attracted to the field of consultancy, seeing it as an opportunity to dip my toes into as many different industries and sectors as possible to try and find my fit.

What are the key skills you learnt at Warwick that have helped you with your career to date?

My dissertation prepared me well for a career in data science, teaching me critical thinking and problem solving skills, but also working with data to provide insights. However, if you have no experience working with data don’t let that put you off, IBM is a great environment to learn and they provide you with loads of opportunities to tailor your projects and learning to the sort of career you want.

What has been your greatest career challenge to date?

Comfortably the biggest challenge of my career to date has been overcoming the intimidation of working around such talented and technical people- the person I sat next to on my induction had spent their summer developing an app, I vividly remember sitting there thinking ‘what have I got myself in to’! From day 1 I felt as if I was playing catch up, but I quickly learned that you are not constrained by your degree and the environment at IBM is not one of intimidation but opportunity. Just 18 months into my IBM journey I am confident using multiple programming languages, something I would never previously have thought possible for me.

What top tips would you give to students looking for a career in your market sector?

Don’t be afraid of code! There’s a lot of people who are put off data science by the daunting prospect of learning programming languages and I was no different! When I first started learning Stata during my degree I was really intimidated by it, and sought to avoid it as much as possible for my whole time at uni, but code is now probably my favourite part of the job.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs?

They do not expect grads to be the finished package. When I was applying for jobs I spent a long time stressing about being thrown in at the deep end, feeling that my sole employment experience as a football referee wasn’t ideal preparation for the world of work. IBM spot potential and nurture it, they are not looking for the finished article, and had I known that when I was applying I would have put much more effort into showing off my strengths rather than trying to cover up and justify my weaknesses!

However, if data science really isn’t for you, at IBM we offer various consulting, technology and design graduate roles to kick-start your career in the industry. You’ll work on real projects, with real clients, all whilst being supported to gain as much as possible from the experience.