It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, … it is a time like any other time.
When Charles Dickens wrote the introduction to a Tale of Two Cities, he was writing a historical novel about the French Revolution. Many times since first reading his gripping story, the first sentence in the book has resonated with me when the present has presented itself from its worst and best sides. Trump, Brexit, and Corona, but also smartphones, drones and internet everywhere.
For me personally, Corona Time has meant lots of quality time with my wife and kids. After the initial disruption and the re-discovering what is valuable, important, meaningful and possible right here, right now, we have enjoyed many great moments.
We live in a beautiful spot with forest and lakes close by, in a suburbia with bike lanes, play grounds, shopping facilities, and still close to nature. A few weeks ago, I took off the supporting wheels on Sofie’s bike at her own request, and soon after she was biking on two wheels. This Sunday, we went to Hågelbyparken, a 3 km ride each way, to enjoy the afternoon sunshine with Sofie biking herself both ways. Saturday on the way back from a car trip to the south tip of Botkyrka, a mother elk and her young kid were grazing in the evening sun right next to the road as we passed by.
It is more than 2 months since I’ve been in the city center of Stockholm and I don’t miss it.
From change comes opportunity
I was laid off from my job a few weeks ago. It’s never fun, but it was the right decision for the company. I was in a strategic position with a short notice period. It was great to get to know the company, but also great now to get to re-invent myself. At work, I had a colleague argue “it has been like that for 15 years, we can’t change that”, while at the same time, outside, people stopped going to concerts, movies, and plays, and stopped visiting relatives and holding parties. A time of change is a time of opportunity, rules are being rewritten.
I’m half way in my professional life, I’ve worked in the space between technology and business for 20 years. I’ve written code, designed libraries, frameworks and tools, I’ve initiated, executed and closed projects. I’ve set up a company to launch a hobby project. I’ve picked up countless new technologies (and vaporised buzzwords) and I’ve worked with lots of smart people. I’ve met my wife at work and we moved to Stockholm to explore new opportunities.
And still the best is yet to come.
So I’m discovering the job market in Stockholm (again). We hear a lot about the companies that are hit hard by the crisis. But there are winners as well as losers. Plenty of open positions are being posted on LinkedIn, at least the kinds I qualify for. So, to land a good next job, is like playing a game or optimising a process, both of which I enjoy!
Here are some insights I’ve gotten so far:
- Python & Data Science is hot!
- LinkedIn Learning does have good quality content!
- Covid-19 has shown that working full time remote is possible! But companies and recruiters have not yet found out!
Getting into Python and Data Science could be great fun — let me explain why.
Python is huge
I first came upon Python 20 years ago. I was fascinated with the core design principle, the Colombo egg of having white space replacing the semantic meaning of curly braces and semi colons. And then, having learned Matlab at university, it felt very familiar.
Then I joined SimCorp and became an APL programmer for 10 years. APL is one of the inspirations for Matlab and Python. APL has a run time interpreter and awesome native array support for working with vectors and matrices. The one thing that puts most people off is the non-ascii characters, which certainly impose a learning curve for newcomers. For SimCorp, this meant establishing its own training programme and developing lots of libraries internally.
I revisited Python last week. I installed Visual Studio Code and took an online training course to brush up on my skills. Some takeaways:
- Great interfacing capabilities (want to run your own analysis of Covid-19 data? https://covid19api.com)
- Great libraries for calendar and dates.
- Great community of Python lovers.
I also came upon Daniel Ross’ talk from PyCon Sweden 2019 on why Python is huge in finance, well worth half an hour of your time.
Data Science is all around us
Well, what is data science? Beyond the hashtag and buzzword, it is about using domain knowledge and statistical and mathematical models to understand and analyse data. Funny enough, back in my university days, I put together a master program in applied mathematics for myself with courses in numerical analysis, optimisation and data fitting, and a thesis in stochastic calculations. So getting into data science is quite like going back to the roots.
And although I visited the Swedish Workshop on Data Science in October 2019 (https://www.kth.se/en/eecs/om-oss/konferenser-och-event/sweds19), I have a thing or two to catch up on, so I’ve set myself up for a self study of An Introduction to Statistical Learning (http://faculty.marshall.usc.edu/gareth-james/ISL/index.html) and R for Mac (https://cran.r-project.org/bin/macosx/).
The arrival of Covid-19 has popularised modelling and data-driven decision making as never before and correct understanding of a phenomena and the data are crucial for life-and-death decisions these days. In the next Netflix drama, a Data Scientist will be played by cool, young, diverse actor and — in the voice of a prophet — correctly predict the consequences of messing with the laws of nature.
Let me leave you with one final link, an extraordinarily informative presentation of the concepts of epidemiology we now hear every day: https://ncase.me/covid-19.