Want a data science job? Use the weekend project principle to get it

Online course certificates are great. But projects of your own are better.

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It took me too long to learn courses are great for foundation knowledge. But the best knowledge, specific knowledge, knowledge which can’t be taught, comes from working on something of your own. Something which doesn’t have a criteria.

You walk in. Henry’s there too. There’s a grey table in between you and the lady in the green t-shirt. Sandra. You remembered her name. She’s the one who invited you in for an interview.

You met Henry in the lobby. You’re both going for the same role. Henry’s a nice guy. Really nice. He’s like you. You’re even into the same things.

Sandra starts talking.

‘Welcome boys, thank you for coming in.’

You both smile.

‘Your applications were incredible. You’ll be glad to know you’re the last two candidates. We’d hire you both but for now, we’ve only got one position.’

You glance over at Henry. War has been declared. Not really but it might as well be. If getting hired was the goal, there has to be a winner and a loser.

You remember talking to Henry in the lobby.

Henry was telling you about the web application he’d been working on. You could even start using it on your phone. It wasn’t much but it was there. The yellow symbols on the screen were cafes which served gluten-free meals. Henry’s girlfriend couldn’t eat gluten so he built it for her.

‘How’d you do that?’ you asked.

‘I’d done some courses online so I decided to try and build something. I got the data from some local websites, looked at the menus and if they mentioned gluten-free options, made sure they were visible.’

Sandra starts talking again.

‘Henry, I checked out the website you built. My daughter is celiac. It’s always a pain if we get somewhere and she can’t eat.’

Henry starts talking.

‘My girlfriend can’t eat gluten either. There’s a few bugs but I’m working on fixing them.’

Sandra turns to you.

‘Now, Daniel, I saw you’d done a bunch of courses online. Some of them from Coursera and edX looked great.’

‘Have you had a chance to use those skills you’ve been learning yet?’

You glance back over at Henry. The war has been lost.

You speak.

‘Not yet, I’m still trying to figure out what to make.’

‘It can be hard to choose!’ Says Sandra.

The interview goes for another 15-minutes. The standard questions.

‘How do you work in a team?’

‘Name a time you’ve struggled and talk through what you did in that situation.’

Henry talked about how he struggled with his app. Sandra was interested the whole time.

The interviewed ends.

Sandra calls out as she ushers you and Henry out the door.

‘Thank you both for your time, today was a blast. We’ll be in touch.’

Henry turns towards you and stretches out his hand.

‘All the best man.’

‘Thanks, you too.’

The email comes a couple of days later. You know what it says.

‘While your credentials were impressive, we’ve chosen not to move forward at this stage.’

Henry got the job.

You keep reading.

‘Some feedback for next time and please don’t take this as negative. We’d love to see you back here.’

‘We’d like to see what you’re capable of with all the knowledge you’ve gained from your impressive list of certificates! Let us know if you make something. One of the best things about working here is we offer help towards your own projects.’

You smile. You knew it. You knew it from the time Henry told you what he’d been working on. You knew it from the time you read the blog post on how to prepare for your first interview.

Why’d Henry get the job?

The weekend project principle.

Most employers (the good ones) will put more emphasis on the things you’ve done rather than the things you’re capable of.

Certificates are great. They’re a form of a proof of work.

But the weekend project principle is better.

The weekend project principle is working on anything you can say, ‘I’m working on my project X’ or ‘I built this.’ And then being able to tell a story about it. The important thing is, it’s something which doesn’t start with criteria, you make it up as you go.

Don’t be tricked by the name either. It doesn’t have to be on the weekend. It could be anytime. A weekend is a good amount of time though. Because if the initial concept takes longer than a weekend, you’re probably overthinking it.

Do the courses on Coursera and edX, get the certificates, get the skills but more importantly, use them as a foundation to make something.

Six weeks pass. You took Sandra’s advice.

You decide to send through an email, reply to the one she sent you.

The subject reads, ‘What I’ve been working on.’

The first line, ‘I took your advice and decided to make something with what I’ve been learning.’

The next morning your phone starts ringing. You answer, say hello. It’s Sandra. She starts speaking.

‘Hey! We got your email! What an effort! Do you want to come in tomorrow and tell us more about it? We may have some positions opening up soon.’

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Daniel Bourke

Written by

I play at the crossroads of technology, health and art. Broadcasting from: www.mrdbourke.com

Towards Data Science

A Medium publication sharing concepts, ideas, and codes.

Daniel Bourke

Written by

I play at the crossroads of technology, health and art. Broadcasting from: www.mrdbourke.com

Towards Data Science

A Medium publication sharing concepts, ideas, and codes.

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