March 26, 2018

Meet the TAs – Brad Carruthers – Data Science 2018

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As any college student knows, teaching assistants can make or break a class. That's why we put a huge amount of effort into finding inspiring college grads who have secured jobs at some of the world’s top companies. Not only do they bring their expertise on the course material and job interview process, but they also help make the time in and out of class  close-knit and fun.

In this next series, we'll introduce these classroom superstars, beginning with Brad Carruthers – our guitar-playing, longboarding Data Science TA with passion for education.

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Brad Carruthers – Data Science TA, iXperience 2018

Brad was recently accepted to study a Master’s in Statistics at the London School of Economics in September, and hopes to use data science to tackle education and other development issues worldwide. He also lives for teaching, and is currently 'having a blast' lecturing first-year microeconomics at Stellenbosch University.

1. What are you working on now? Tell us about an exciting project that you’ve recently completed or are currently involved with.

I’ve actually just finished my Economics Honours thesis where I looked at how teachers influence learner educational outcomes in South Africa. I used a programme called Stata (the economist’s version of R) to analyse 100 000 students from 1 000 public schools to try and find out how teacher job satisfaction interacted with learner test scores in Maths, Science and English.

Working with real-world data and finally ‘getting my hands dirty’ really taught me a lot about data wrangling, cleaning and analysis, and further intensified my passion to work with big social science data with the potential to address pressing issues around the world.

2. What do you enjoy most the Data Science industry?

I enjoy the volatility, sheer exponential progress, and overwhelming practicality of what Data Scientists are observing and creating world-wide. This really is the science of the future and it is astounding that it is already impacting our everyday lives. While I think it's impossible to stay up to date with every new development and technique (let alone know what is going to become popular moving forward), it is great to just be riding a fraction of this tsunami of a wave.

3. What are your career goals? How are you planning to achieve them?

I'm still a bit undecided as to whether to go the academia and PhD route, or to possibly start my own Statistical Consulting company in the private sector, but I definitely hope to have a measurable impact on social data science with in the next 10 years. The plan to achieve this is just to keep following what I'm passionate about and trying to solve problems that interest me!

4. Why did you decide to get involved with teaching?

I’ve taught and loved teaching since high-school (much to the annoyance of my younger brother who just wanted ‘30-second explanations’ for things), but only fully realised how much I enjoyed it when I found myself spending my free-time learning the names of the 300 or so students in my first-year Mathematics tutorials at Stellenbosch University in order to be a better teacher. From then, I’ve endeavoured to include some form of teaching in everything I do.

5. How do you see the Data Science industry changing the world in the next 10 years? 

A world filled with fully-autonomous vehicles; more accountable accounting, law, and politics thanks to blockchain and big data; the overcoming of poverty and illness (physical, emotional and mental)? The possibilities really are endless, and the only thing I know for sure is that it will be one hell of a ride!

6. What are you looking forward to most about iXperience this summer?

I look forward to getting to know over 300 new iXers come June and July, and to seeing the creative ideas and projects that the Data Science classes come up with. It would also be great to take some students to explore a few hidden Cape Town surf spots that have been on my list for ages!

7. One piece of advice that you have for the iX class of 2018?

Take time to go for a walk! As cliche as that sounds, there really is a trend in the world to being the most ‘knowledgeable’ and ‘smart’, but I believe one of the most neglected skills at the moment is the ability to quieten your mind. Whether this is during an early morning walk up Lion’s Head, surfing Llandudno beach or just sitting in a Woodstock coffee shop observing what’s happening around you, make sure to make the most of being present in the city.

8. Hidden talents, an unusual past, a hobby?

I’ve tried to not be hesitant in trying new hobbies. This helped me discover surfing, longboarding, geeking out on Maths and Stats theorems, meditating with Hare Krishnas, finance and the markets, trance festivals, Dungeons and Dragons, Computer Science, indie folk music, yoga, and more recently guitar.

Our Data Science course in Cape Town is just about full. Apply now to be considered for one of the last spots.

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