WATCH: How to prepare for a career in the 4IR | News24

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Constant learning, creative thinking, curiosity, balancing your IQ and EQ skills and being able to work in a team are just some of the key skills that will equip a person to work in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

These are just some of the learnings that came out of EP MEDIA and Isuzu SA’s third online career webinar that was held on July 22.

This webinar looked at Artificial Intelligence and the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Another key learning of this webinar is that artificial intelligence is not only something you will find in manufacturing, telecommunication, banking and other high tech companies, but it affects every operation and institution which are part of the future and the 4th Industrial Revolution.

This webinar is part of a series of six live career webinars, aimed at equipping high school learners with information on career guidance and some of the different career fields, especially those that require scarce skills.

The recording of this webinar, as well as those of the first two career webinars, which focused on career guidance, and all the higher education options available to learners, as well as the Isuzu SA Chair of Mechatronics at NMU, are available on the Express Facebook page.

The themes of the following webinars will be:

  • Education (17:00 on August 19)
  • Journalism (17:00 on September 23)
  • Logistics (17:00 on October 21)

Experts from around the country have been selected as panellists for these webinars. On the panel of the Artificial Intelligence/4IR webinar was Prof. Jean Greyling who is head of the Department of Computing Sciences at Nelson Mandela University. Prof Greyling also has extensive experience in introducing learners to the world of computer science, as well as informing them on how to prepare during their school years for studying in this field.

Also on the panel was Adam Cooke from Media24, who heads up the Future Skills programme for Media24 employees.

Three Media24 employees who were part of the Future Skills programme and who work in the field of computer science, as well as data engineering and science, were also on the panel to tell learners more about their learnings from the future skills programme. They were Monica Mayeka, who is a data engineer, Kevin Prior, who is a software developer, and Alex Jacobs, who is a data scientist.

Prof Greyling: What is your background in lecturing computer science as well as your work and projects to introduce computer science to learners at schools?

I’ve been lecturing at the university since 1992, studying since 1984. I’m really passionate regarding introducing learners to these careers. In our department we mainly teach BSc and BCom degrees. We are aware that thousands of schools don’t have computers. So we developed a tool in 2017 called the TANKS Coding project where we use a mobile app to introduce kids to coding without computers and we’ve reached about 20 000 learners.

Adam: What does the Future Skills programme for Media24 employees involve – why was it introduced and what does it teach them?

The Future Skills programme teaches skills and innovation. We are a media company and the programme was part of recognising that we weren’t just a group of journalists and sales people. Historically, for us as a media company, technology had been a support service and we brought it right to the centre of everything we do. There are now no decisions that can be taken without the technologists. Any big company needs to constantly be adapting and changing as the world changes, especially as things like artificial intelligence become part of the mainstream. It brings together people with different skill sets – journalists, sales people, finance, HR, design – to work together to come up with new ideas for our business.

Adam: What skills can I develop to ensure I will find a job?

It’s important for us to think of careers as a whole and to recognise that a career is not a single track. Regardless of what area you specialise in or choose to study, there are many other skills that overlay that and we look a lot for that. The skills that we encourage people to develop are curiosity, communication and being interested in the world. Then, of course, there are skills that are important regardless of what kind of career you go into, which are problem solving, creativity and teamwork.

Monica: Tell us about your studies and how you became a data engineer. And most importantly, please tell us what a data engineer does.

I studied information technology at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and graduated with a BTech in 2005. I got my first job as a junior programmer at Nedbank six months before graduating, working mainly in C# and VB.NET. Then a year later, a team was short staffed and my manager lent me to that team. That’s when I was introduced to business, analysis and ETL development. I loved it so much that I asked my manager if I could stay. Then I worked in different industries before ending up in the media industry as a data engineer. A data engineer designs and builds pipelines that transport data into a single data warehouse. That data usually comes from different sources and it’s transformed, that by the time it reaches the user it is actually usable.

Kevin: Tell us about your studies and how you became a computer software developer. And what a computer software developer does – in a nutshell.

From a young age, I loved building new things and playing around. I had access to a computer from a young age and I remember using a programming book my dad had lying around to write some of my first basic programmes. That initial inquisitiveness was the start of my lifelong passion and love for IT. As developers we create, maintain and run some of the systems on the internet that people use every day, like online search, news and social media. Just as Facebook has a lot of data to process and store, we also need to be able to retrieve that data and show it our users reliably. We also integrate some systems with each other. We might take an old ATM system and integrate that with an advanced AI system. We also integrate different data sources, like the IEC, matric results or Formula 1, into News24 and make that available to our readers.

Alex: Tell us about your studies and how you became a data scientist. We now know what a data engineer does. What does a data scientist do?

I would not advise anyone to follow the route I took to become a data scientist. When I started university I didn’t know about data science. My undergraduate degree is in molecular biology, majoring in biochemistry. After that I went into biotechnology, I did my honours and master’s degree. Just after that I discovered data science during online lectures from Andrew Ng at Stanford University. That’s where I feel in love with it. My career essentially shifted at that point and I started upskilling myself as fast as I could, doing any online courses I could find. I learned a lot of my data science competing on Kaggle.com. Then I did a PhD in medicine, but kept doing data science as a hobby. I competed with one of the data engineers at Media24 on Kaggle and we had reasonable success. Then he told me about a job at Media24 and the rest is history. Data science is very much an interdisciplinary field, applied anywhere where large amounts of data are available. At Media24 Kevin might help us trigger effects for when users open an article on the home page, and those events are then collected and then piped into a data warehouse by data engineers like Monica, who then store them in a way that’s very efficient for me to access and analyse. I then build models to predict what articles people are likely to click on, or which users are likely to subscribe. I then go back to Monica and she helps me pipe them back to where we could use
them.

Prof Greyling: What do the terms computer science, information systems and IT mean, and how do they differ?

Computer science is basically the development of software, the writing of programmes, and databases, data warehouses – it’s the writing of the code. Information systems is the use of that code, how you would apply the software that has been written in a business or anywhere you’re using computers. Traditionally, computer science is linked to a BSc degree, combined with certain other subjects, while information systems is linked to a BCom degree and combined with a different set of…

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