Guest post: A CV of Failures in Data Science

As I recently shared on Twitter, my husband Mattias Hansson recently found a senior data science position, after a year long job search process in The Netherlands. He doesn’t really do social media, but you can see his profile on LinkedIn. In this special guest post, I invited him to share something about this process.

[The text from here on is from Mattias’s perspective] 

A bit about me

I grew up in the forests of Sweden in the region of Småland, but I was born in the capital Stockholm. I received a master’s degree in Mathematics from Linköping University, and a Ph.D in Mathematics from Lund University. The title of my Ph.D thesis is ‘Statistical segmentation and registration of ultrasound data’. I did a post doc at the University of Copenhagen at the Department of Computer Science, where I constructed algorithms for defect detection in lumber (a collaboration between university and industry). During my time there I met Veronika, and in 2015 I moved to the Netherlands where I started working at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam as a scientific programmer and researcher. I worked on setting up infrastructure for imaging genetics research, as well as doing research. Additionally I have briefly worked in digital marketing and with my own company. 

Currently my interests are primarily in computer vision, machine learning and statistics. I love to dig into the mathematical details. I am an old rock-climber (20 years experience), but since my shoulder started bothering me I have now transitioned to long-distance walking and running. I love beer festivals and I used to travel every year to Germany (yes, I own a pair of lederhosen), even though this seems like a thing of the past. We also love BBQing, which fortunately we were still able to do during lockdown. 

My job search

I started my job search in November 2019, with the pandemic hitting a few months later. In total I estimate I applied to at least 50 positions, but probably closer to 75 positions, since I didn’t always keep track and never heard back from some applications. Most of these were data scientist positions, unless mentioned otherwise.

  1. Roamler International
  2. FindHotel 
  3. PlotWise 
  4. Amsterdam Data Collective
  5. ABN Amro – Junior Quant
  6. Gemeente Amsterdam 
  7. Quantillion Technologies 
  8. Werkspot
  9. WCC 
  10. Catawiki 
  11. Domino’s Pizza 
  12. Ydigital 
  13. Erasmus MC – postdoc
  14. TU Delft – postdoc
  15. TU Eindhoven – postdoc
  16. Achmea
  17. ASML
  18. Danone
  19. DSM
  20. Elsevier
  21. e-Science Center
  22. Fugru
  23. Numbrs
  24. Quades
  25. SwissRE
  26. Tripaneer
  27. ViQtorDavies
  28. Wikimedia
  29. Aon
  30. CoolBlue
  31. Adyen
  32. Alt
  33. Beat
  34. Bol
  35. CasparAI
  36. Exact
  37. Greeniant
  38. Itility
  39. NCCGroup
  40. RijkZwaan
  41. TU Delft – scientific programmer
  42. Geronimo AI
  43. Lely
  44. PrimeVision
  45. Qualogy
  46. Riviq
  47. Agro
  48. LINKIT
  49. WinBee
  50. Forecast
  51. Mollie
  52. Huawei
  53. MyTomorrows
  54. Priva
  55. Agap2IT
  56. EMEA

There were a number of bad experiences, which I summarize below. 

Problem 1: Level of interviews

Something that happened in several places is that all interviews were conducted by somebody without a mathematics/computer science background. At one company I had 5 interviews, of which 3 on-site. These were led by a consultant which said some incorrect statements about mathematics, and did not appreciate me correcting these. 

At a start-up, I was quizzed using typical “Google interview questions”, and they expected that I would know many of these answers by heart. Of course, the salary was nothing like at Google. A similar thing happened at a large financial company, where I was expected to answer a question about a specific bug in a Python library. 

Problem 2: Profiting from your work

Other companies had a more fitting process, involving some kind of take-home programming assignments. These were interesting, but would take me 2-3 days each. Some of these companies then completely ghosted me, even though I’ve had several interviews. I’m also suspecting that some companies use this to get free quick solutions to their problems (these were not entry-level programming assignments). 

I’ve also only had bad experiences with recruitment consultants, who promise to find you an assignment and call every week, which costs you time, but never gets you anything. It’s a mystery to me how they stay in business. 

Problem 3: Not honoring agreements

Several companies ghosted me after having several interviews, or would only get back to me weeks or months after what was agreed upon. The most memorable example is a multinational company where we had agreed I was interviewing for a mostly-remote job. Once I had finished the interviews and assignment, they announced they wanted me to move to a different country anyway.  

Lessons learned

If I had to do this again, I would avoid recruitment consultants – they are the true definition of a waste of time.

I would probably apply to less jobs, and would step out of the process as soon as there were any bad signs. But I understand that not everyone is able to do this, and might need to take a job as soon as possible.

Maybe the best tip is to avoid the “sunk cost fallacy” – don’t think because you spent a lot of effort on getting a job, that you should stay there – things may still go differently.

***

Thanks for sharing your story Mattias, nice to have you on the blog <3

2 thoughts on “Guest post: A CV of Failures in Data Science”

  1. I am in a similar position, applying even for traineeship programs (which would be less than junior) although I hold a PhD in experimental particle physics. And I can also check out at least 50% of the places listed in the post (for some companies I even applied to more than one role). So far my experience doesn’t include being ghosted: just no replies or replies after less than one hour from my application, with a “careful consideration of your CV” (yeah right!).
    however it happened to me as well that some recruiter/consultant don’t like being corrected, even if they just they speak with a foot in their mouth (regarding technical topics). :_(

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing! I feel that for traineeships more people may be applying, so it may be more difficult than for more senior positions? No direct experience though. Good luck!

      Reply

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