The plans for a very own Joint Bachelor Data Science study association were made already in the first months after its official launch. A couple months later, its first board was filled with Nadine, Eva and Daan. In May this year a new board was elected existing of meme-king and chairman Leon Willems, overly enthusiastic secretary & external affairs officer Michael Heine, highly determined education officer Jasmin Kareem and rational forward thinking treasurer Robin Verhoef (same order on photo above). A few weeks ago, Rick and I met with the new board of Pattern, and asked them about upcoming events, finding sponsors, memes and the future of data science.
Advertising for Segafredo
On a Tuesday afternoon, we visited the four board members. While we were reading through our questions, three board members entered the room; Leon came in a bit later after getting a coffee. “Advertising for Segafredo”, he joked as he saw our cameraman, Fabian, standing in the corner.
Rick and I learned that they just came out of a board meeting and decided to dive deeper on this topic: “We try to meet once a week in our boardroom in Tilburg”, Leon says. “Because of the exams we had a break, which is why this meeting lasted a bit longer than usual. We typically start off with approving the minutes of the last meeting. Towards the end of the meeting, we usually start stressing out because there are still a lot of points to discuss and time is running out.”
Swimming in money
After having organised plenty of successful events last year, such as the cantus and the game night, the board members seem to disagree on the best one so far. Michael: “I don’t think there is like one event of the year. That said, for next year we have big plans: organising both a study trip and datathon.” Jasmin adds to that: “The datathon may be of interest to many more associations which I think it will undoubtedly be a popular event.”
To finance all these events, Pattern needs to raise money and this is where Robin comes in. Together with Michael, he regularly visits potential partners for the association. Since the study and association are still new, it is — even for data science students — hard to predict which companies are interested in sponsoring and what amount they are willing to contribute. That’s why Michael and Robin are currently doing this difficult but truly necessary job together. Robin elaborates on the main struggle as treasurer: “Setting up a good administration is difficult without documentation to fall back on. I cannot go two years back to see the progression. We are just at the base layer of the board experience and I try to build on top of that. It is a trendline with only two points, it can basically go anywhere. At this moment, we are like fishers standing at the side of the pond, there are a lot of fish swimming, we just haven’t reeled in the rope yet. We’re already more than halfway there with more than five companies.”
It is a trendline with only two points, it can basically go anywhere.
At this stage many companies are interested in partnering with D.S.A. Pattern, but it has not yet come to the point of selection. We aim to set-up partnerships with both start-ups and corporates so that members get a broad exposure to everything that is out there, Michael explains. “For now, any company that’s interested and has incorporated data science to some extent is regarded as a potential partner. At some point in the future, we hope to have the luxury to select which companies we accept as industry partners.”
Learn from the past
As any data scientist will admit, it’s critical to learn from the past to prepare for the future. As the educational commissioner of Pattern, Jasmin worships this idea by building on top of the foundations of the course evaluation system that has been in place since last year. She notes that other study associations in Eindhoven have learned from Pattern’s evaluations process which is why she hopes to set-up a similar structure for the master at JADS shortly.
Although it may seem like students have always something to complain about — which may actually not be far from the truth — we also asked the board about their favourite courses so far. Both the Statistical Computing and DBL Data Challenge receive plenty of compliments which may not be surprising given the question I asked you before:
Hot chocolate and meme kings
Of course, all board members have their personal favourite Pattern moment, and that is why I asked every one of them to bring a picture that shows this unforgettable experience to the interview. Michael shows me a picture of the introduction camp crew. “This is the committee and all volunteers who helped during the intro camp. It was really nice and enhanced the team spirit.” Next picture is Robin’s. “Michael and I were drinking hot chocolate between two company visits. Going to all these companies and talking to the representatives is what makes me excited.” Jasmin reveals a picture of Leon ‘paying’ for his members’ weekend ticket using the D.S.A. Pattern debit card. “Of course, he did not actually pay for it with the card”, she quickly adds. Last but not least is Leon, also known as the meme king of the board. His favourite picture was actually one of those memes. “My friend David created it and I am proud of him. I especially like this picture because the board members should be accessible to everyone and a good way to do so is by making fun of yourself.”
The future of Data Science
Regarding the future of the bachelor, all board members are on the same page: “We should probably add a few more basic courses, for example, linear algebra or other statistics courses. Then we’ll be on the right track for the bachelor with all the courses in different fields that are offered”, Robin says. Jasmin elaborates on this, saying she would really like to add a linear algebra course to the first-year curriculum, but because of the different views of the two universities, it is hard to realize that at this moment. “I think it is a political issue, and I hope that in the near future this will be less of a problem, the programme should not suffer from politics.”
While discussing the future of data science, Leon and Michael expect the job offers will be more in line with the actual content that the bachelor and master Data Science cover. “In the future companies will better understand what data science is really about and what the students actually learn. Nowadays, companies that want to do something with data but are not sure what, are searching for a data scientist, but they have still no clue what data science is. This makes them demand specific skills or experiences, that none of the students possess. Robin agrees and adds: “Now companies don’t know what to expect from data scientists, but in a few years time they probably will and then their vacancies will change. On the other hand, data science as a field is also rapidly evolving, which requires data scientists to continue learning, it is really a two-way street.”
Currently, the board members — all bachelor students — still have a lot to explore. “I haven’t chosen my future employer yet. Let’s do my bachelor first”, Leon laughs.