Learn about CodeClan’s instructor team – their career journey so far, their passions and interests, as well as their day to day work life.
Aileen McDonald is an assistant instructor on CodeClan’s Data Analysis course in Edinburgh.
How did you become a CodeClan instructor?
I worked as an actuary in pensions and investment and then an analytical consultant for a customer analytics firm. I left because I wanted to get more involved in the use of data within the charity sector, with a focus on impact analysis. Through going to meet-ups I found out that CodeClan needed a technical assistant for the first cohort of students for the course. I was drawn to the content and CodeClan’s reputation from the Professional Software Development course – and they are a non-profit social enterprise so I was on board with its mission! I’m now an assistant instructor and we are about to start our third cohort of data students.
What would you say is your CodeClan career highlight so far?
The first was when some of our first data graduates came in to speak to the current students about their journey through CodeClan, and we heard how much they are loving their new jobs in data. The second has got to be after I taught a full on few days of statistics lessons a student said to me ‘Ah – now I get statistics’. Can’t beat that!
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
Students come from such a wide variety of backgrounds and industries, they always have lots of different experiences and skills to share throughout the course, which makes it a really collaborative and open environment.
Also hearing from students that the skills we are covering in the course could have improved previous roles they have been in or areas they are interested in is hugely rewarding (and reassuring to know we are covering useful stuff!).
Finally, I really couldn’t have asked for a better bunch to work with than the other data instructors Del, Steph and Mhairi – I’ve seriously lucked out with them!
What’s the most exciting thing about data analysis?
Being able to dig and investigate into the data to then tell a story through visualisation to reveal information that can have real impact on decisions within organisations is hugely exciting. I think that it spans every industry is also really exciting for anyone interested in data. It means your skills are hugely transferable and you’re not constrained to a single area.
What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of studying data at CodeClan?
If you’re even a little curious I would highly recommend coming to one of our open sessions (lunchtime or evening) to meet and hear from instructors to learn more about what life is like at CodeClan and the data course.
Now is a great time to get into data. The amount of data being collected across every industry continues to grow at a vast pace the demand for people with skills to draw insights and value from this data does too.
Our course caters to the vast vast range of areas of data analysis – we cover topics such as exploratory analysis, statistics, text analysis, predictive analysis, time series, mapping, ethics, visualisation, dashboarding, story telling… the list goes on. There’s really is something for everyone, and I think covering such a range of areas allows people to see what they like (and don’t like!) and apply that to whatever industry or sector they may be interested in (e.g. finance, environmental, marketing, policy, sport). So my advice is to come along and ask us some questions, you’ve got nothing to lose!
Where do you hang out in CodeClan?
I like the main breakout area – I like that there’s always something going on there, whether it be groups of students discussing concepts they have learnt that day, or working together on a projects or even presentations by students or industry speakers. There’s always something happening and it’s a great environment to be in.
What do you do in your free time?
Most of my free time is spent with friends and family (which is really just darting about the central belt of Scotland!). Outside of that I really enjoy art, design and illustration so I like messing about and going to classes/courses to learn about different techniques and medias – I’ll caveat that doesn’t mean I’m any good!
I also do some side projects doing data analysis for a few local charities, and I am currently a DataKind (a charity which helps social change organisations to transform their impact through data science) volunteer too. I try to get to some data meet ups, to learn about what’s going on in the industry and to meet others. I’ve recently begun to attempt yoga classes…but that’s another serious work in progress!
What’s your favourite book?
Factfulness by Hans Rosling. It’s all about how although there is still a lot to be done, there has been so many positive developments and progress in the world that seems to get overlooked. It’s really eye-opening and is underpinned by data evidence to show that often our views on how things are not the same as the reality – which in these cases are that the world is maybe not in as bad a state as you think.
Also have to give a shout out to Weapons of Maths Destruction by Cathy O’Neil – great book about the impact of use of algorithms within society. Data ethics is one of my favourite days on the CodeClan data course!
Tell us something surprising about yourself!
I am also a published author… I once had a limerick I wrote published in the Beano!
Find out more about the Data Analysis course here.