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Sasha Westlake

Job title:Current student

Studied:MSc Applied AI and Data Science

Progressing onto a master's in computing… from a hair and make-up design course. Read Sasha’s story on her postgraduate conversion course.

Sasha Westlake studied BA (Hons) Hair and Make-up Design, then took a few years out before deciding she wanted to do a master's. She took the plunge and studied something completely different – MSc Applied AI and Data Science. She now works as a business analyst on a graduate rotation scheme at Boeing. Read about her decision to study something unrelated to her undergraduate degree, receiving a scholarship, and how her master's helped her in her new career.

Why did you decide to do a postgraduate course?

I took a while considering if a postgraduate course was the best option for me. I wanted to change career paths but at first really had no idea or what direction I wanted to follow. I knew I enjoyed problem solving and I was good with numbers - this led me to researching into how to pursue a career in data analytics or data science. After completing a Google-certified data analytics course, I knew this was the path I wanted to go down. I knew that a postgraduate course was going to provide me with the fundamentals and structure I needed to switch into the data field.

After finding out Solent offered a data science-related conversion course, I immediately booked an open day and was sold on entering back into education.

What was the best thing about your course lecturers?

Our course lecturers knew how to challenge us to the best of our abilities; while we’re studying a conversion course, there are people from varying levels of experience and I feel the lecturers were very good at tailoring to that.

It was great to hear about how successful they’ve been within the industry - this motivated me to work harder to be able to achieve similar goals. Aside from this, all the lecturers I had the pleasure of interacting with have been more than approachable with a very open-door policy. This level of support, I feel, really aided me throughout this course and helped build my confidence.

Sasha Westlake

Our lecturers know how to challenge us to the best of our abilities; while we’re studying a conversion course, there are people from varying levels of experience and I feel the lecturers were very good at tailoring to that.

How did your postgraduate course differ from your undergraduate studies?

I think I couldn’t have possibly picked two subjects that differ more. At undergraduate level, I studied hair and make-up design. Studying AI and data science was a completely different experience.

My postgraduate course combined both practical, presentational, and theoretical elements, whereas my undergraduate was heavily project-based.

However, there were some similarities in the structure of the courses. My undergraduate in hair and make-up focused on projects where the end product would be a visual outcome paired with a follow-up report; my postgraduate course was very similar in this way, producing artefacts combined with reports.

What’s the most important thing you learned in your course?

Confidence. I think having confidence and believing you can achieve what you set your mind to is so fundamental for success in this industry.

Our lecturers worked hard to build our knowledge and confidence within the field of data science and AI. We were regularly asked to present our work to build our presentational skills and to learn to be comfortable with explaining complex information. It’s important to have the knowledge but without the confidence of being able to relay this, it could have prevented future job opportunities.

How did Solent prepare you for your career?

Solent provided skills that helped me obtain and excel in my current career field. For example, whilst there was a big focus on technical and practical AI and data science knowledge, there was always a subsection that involved developing our soft skills, from having to conduct presentations to showcasing demonstrations. This gave me the confidence needed when having to present myself and my knowledge to possible employers in a professional manner.

How important was the scholarship to your study experience?

The scholarship was honestly fundamental for me to be able to complete my course and I'm so grateful I was awarded one. It aided me in getting a new laptop fit for coding and it also allowed me to reduce my hours at work to part-time so I was able to fully engage and attend university whilst staying financially secure.

What’s been your proudest career achievement?

I've only been in the company a few months, I've not had many achievements as of yet! However, I was enrolled in a BSC-certified Business Analyst Foundation Qualification and passed the exam with high marks, so I am very proud of that given my short time in the role. I’ve also been accepted to present my thesis abstract to a healthcare AI conference in January which I've been supported by my lecturers and my current employer who are funding it.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of studying a postgraduate course?

I think there are a few things I’d recommend if you’re considering studying a postgraduate course. First, don't let the length of time you've been away from education deter you. There is no 'right' moment to resume learning. Also, don't be afraid to explore an entirely different field of study. If I can go from hair and make-up to AI and data science, then I believe you just need to be willing and passionate about the area you’re applying for.

Come to an open day; it’s the best way to get a feel for the course and meet the lecturers to find out if this course would be the best fit for you.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with prospects looking to get into the industry?

I think a key bit of advice I would give is to not underestimate your value and skills when applying for jobs within your chosen industry. It's often easy to deter from applying for a role if you don't believe you have the full skillset within the job listing. However, a lot of the time employers will not expect you to have the full set of skills advertised and you have a good chance of being a perfect candidate for the job based on the knowledge and experience you already possess.

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    Course Studied

  • MSc Applied AI and Data Science

    Immerse yourself in the in-demand fields of AI and data science. Using problem-based approaches, your studies will equip you with the knowledge and skills to open doors to a wide range of careers.

  • Related courses

  • MSc Computer Engineering

    Bring your problem-solving skills to both existing and emerging technologies on this highly practical, industry-led conversion course, ideal for students from non-computing backgrounds.

  • MSc Cyber Security Engineering

    Gain the essential skills and knowledge to become a cyber security specialist, and learn to tackle cybercrime and manage security systems on this cyber security engineering master’s conversion degree.

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