Building Strong Foundational Skills in Data Science – Joshua Benzon’s BDS Journey of Passion and Resilience

From his early interest in data science to his ventures in game development, Joshua Benzon’s Bachelor of Data Science story speaks volumes about his determination and passion for exploration. Join us for a quick chat with Joshua as we discover how he overcame challenges, found guidance, and forged his career path, all while enjoying the bustling campus life at SP Jain Sydney.

Q. Why did you pursue SP Jain Global’s Bachelor of Data Science degree?

Joshua: A data science bachelor’s degree was something that I was interested in towards the tail-end of my high school journey. I also wanted to experience studying in another country. Hence, SP Jain Global was apt for me. An additional bonus was – it also didn’t require the foundation year that several Australian universities required.

How did your academic and extracurricular activities prepare you for your career?

Joshua: SP Jain Global pretty much covers all the ground to be a data scientist. They teach you strong foundational skills. But it also depends on you – if your heart isn’t in it, it’ll be tough to keep up. 

Moreover, I think many of my programming and problem-solving skills come from my hobby – game development. In game development, you go through a lot of debugging. About 50% of the time, you spend programming for a game, you spend debugging. Going through the laborious task of debugging helps you learn a lot about fixing things and solving problems, so, I’d also like to attribute a lot of my skills to that. 

I’m also a big fan of YouTube channels that provide the latest updates in the AI space. It helps you stay in touch with the state-of-the-art tech in your field. 

Would you like to share about your internships or work experiences?

Joshua: During my third and final year in the BDS program at SP Jain Global, I interned at Adaptive Investments Solutions, a fintech startup headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. It was the first time I had to deal with a cloud platform, an essential skill as a data scientist. I was tasked with learning the ins and outs of the Google Cloud Platform and even wrote documentation for setting up instances. Once that was all done, we finally got to the part you learn in school: Machine Learning. 

Well, I say almost—we spent a lot of time data cleaning. It turns out that a lot of time spent practising data science is just checking for edge cases in your data and deciding whether it’s worth keeping. Add the bureaucracy of meetings checking with higher-ups to see if your conclusion is sound, and you spend a lot of time in data cleaning.

In hindsight, I think that is what people mean when they say “real-world experience”. It’s not just dealing with non-toy datasets, it’s dealing with the applications that the real companies use. It’s learning how to present your insights in a way that’s easy to understand. Who knew data science was a lot more than Python and SQL?

How did networking and mentorship experiences at SP Jain play a pivotal role in your career?

Joshua: There were a few professors who particularly inspired me. It was those teachers who had a lot of passion for the stuff they did that always came through. Your professors are your most valuable networking partners. If your professors are impressed with your work, they might just put in a recommendation for you at one of the companies their connections work at. But don’t be a bootlicker; no one likes a bootlicker.Just do your best.

How did SP Jain Global help with your placements?

Joshua: I started looking for full-time roles in April of 2023—a month before my graduation—and it was unfruitful for a while. Fortunately, I had SP Jain Global provide helpful resources such as mock interviews with faculty and a placement officer to help find job openings at different companies. Our placement officer ma’am, Mohini, was extremely helpful. I wouldn’t have gotten this placement without her, and her persistence made up for those low times. I landed an internship in October 2023 with a promise of full-time employment if I proved competent. I officially signed a contract for full-time employment with the same company in March 2024.

What are the challenges you encountered in your BDS journey?

Joshua: I think the biggest challenges I faced when applying for jobs were demotivation and the world’s economic condition when I graduated. Around that time, the job market was starting to freeze. On most of the job sites I searched, I’d come across quite a few “expressions of interest”, which some (including myself) consider to be a euphemism for, “We’re not hiring, but we’d like to rack up a list of prospective candidates just in case.” 

It can get to you, especially when you don’t hear back for months and just get a templated email that usually goes along the lines of – “Unfortunately, we’ve decided to continue with another applicant”. That is where Mohini ma’am really helped, as she could find job openings that aren’t easy to find on sites like Seek and Indeed.

If you’re lacking motivation to practice or partake in data science, you should try and find a data science application for the specific field that you’re in. The best thing about being a data scientist is almost everything is data; you can use what you’ve learned for anything, anywhere. In my case, I developed machine learning models to predict the winner of Counter-Strike games. I studied how AI can isolate different instruments in a song because I love music. I learned about the different denoising AI used in modern 3D graphics rendering pipelines today. I’m sure there’s something data science-related to a thing you’re passionate about. The world is your oyster.

Could you share some of your fondest memories on the campus?

Joshua: My fondest memories of SP Jain Global were the Global Learning and Student Life experiences because most—if not all—of them were great. The opportunity to explore Sydney with friends and for free was one of the best parts of my tenure at SP Jain Global. It helped balance the stress of working on projects and studying for exams. I’m sure around 90% of the things I experienced during the Global Learning and Student Life trips were things I never would have done myself, so I’m glad that SP Jain Global helped push me to be more adventurous. We went to the zoo, whale watching, the museum, among many other things. It was all great fun.

Of course, academics was also a huge part of the journey. If you are like me and make school projects about things you like and care about, working on academics can be a pretty fun task. 

Do you have any advice for students interested in data science?

Joshua: If you want to practice your programming and problem-solving skills, try It’s a fun way to practice your coding. I used to be absorbed in it for hours on many occasions. I believe that the best way to learn is by doing. So, do data science projects related to the things you love and are passionate about. Even if you’re not successful, I’m sure you’ll have learned something.

I highly recommend picking up a part-time job while you’re in school, as not many places will hire you without prior experience. Still, keep in mind that your degree is your main priority.

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