With a degree in math and computing, and more than six years of experience in software testing and coding, Palash Goyal wanted to share his knowledge with new coders. He picked up machine learning skills on the job, and now mentors online and in-person students at Acadgild’s part-time Data Science Master’s course. Palash tells us how hard the Acadgild team works to support both mentors and students, how he tailors his teaching style to each student’s learning style, and all about his most successful mentee!
How did you get involved as a mentor with Acadgild?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Technology degree in Mathematics & Computing from the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati (IIT-Guwahati), and then worked in software testing and coding for more than six years. In the last two years of my career, I’ve been focused on machine learning tools, R, and Python. I joined Acadgild because their Data Science Master’s provided me with an opportunity to share my experience with budding talent.
How did you become aware of the bootcamp model? Did you need to be convinced of its effectiveness?
I am a continuous learner and an ardent supporter of coding bootcamps because of my own experiences with them. I’m confident in their potential – the impact bootcamps can have on a community and how they can benefit learners.
What made you excited to work at Acadgild in particular over another coding bootcamp?
I joined Acadgild because of their management team. The team is made up of highly talented individuals, who have a common vision for the future of technical education. They’re committed to both mentors and students. They make my job easier by making all processes smooth so that I can deliver the most in-depth courses on the latest technologies to anyone interested in learning them.
Did you have teaching experience prior to teaching at Acadgild?
Yes, I’ve helped students prepare for the IIT-JEE, an annual engineering college entrance examination in India. I’ve also taught coding to new hires at organizations where I’ve worked.
Teaching at a bootcamp is a different experience, however, because of the diversity in students. They come from different backgrounds, have different mentalities and, perhaps most importantly, different goals. Providing them with individual attention, helping each student gain the most out of the course, and managing a variety of aspirations is challenging. Having said that, it is entirely worthwhile and enriching. I get to learn a lot from my students
Tell us how you mentor at Acadgild. How do you work with your students and with other mentors?
As I said, the management team at Acadgild is highly efficient. They make my job a lot easier by assigning mentors to students in batches, helping us stick to schedules and coordinate with other mentors. So far, I’ve collaborated with three data science mentors in my courses and I can say that we have similar teaching approaches. We try to make classes interactive, encourage discussion, and maintain good relations with all our students so that they have a pleasant learning experience.
I teach two batches of the Data Science Master’s – one offline and the other online. The offline course is more intensive as its covers the curriculum in three months. So I spend eight hours (4 hours on Saturday, 4 hours on Sunday) with my students on weekends. The online course is six months long. Hence, the sessions are shorter – 2 hrs and 30 mins (total 5 hrs) on weekends.
I meet my students on most weekends (almost all). If required, I make time for consultations on weekdays. The students choose batches depending on their aspirations and schedules available. And I work with 15 students in a batch on average.
What languages and technologies are covered in the Acadgild Data Science masters course curriculum?
Languages and tools covered in the course include Python, TensorFlow, Spark, R, Matplotlib, and Tableau.
How many hours a week outside of class do you expect your students to commit to Acadgild?
10 hours after class at least. If they can do 15, that’s better. I always want more from my students because I want them to make the best of their time with Acadgild.
What have you found is your personal teaching style? If someone is stuck on a problem, how do you guide them through that?
There are different methods I adopt while teaching. I believe teaching is a two-way process. And although I have my style, students have their styles of learning too. Some methods work better with one student than others, and part of my job is to figure out what works with which student. If a student is stuck, I revise the theory with them before getting down to practical aspects of coding. Alternately, I give hints with references from class to help students remember the answers, which might be in their minds but are not at that moment accessible. If none of these techniques work, I solve the problem with them by breaking it down into smaller problems.
How do you communicate with your Acadgild mentees? Are your students in different time zones?
We communicate on calls and share screens so that we’re on the same page in our discussions.
Students could be from different time zones, but the classes are always at fixed hours. Acadgild’s team of Subject Matter Experts helps me manage doubts. If any student wants to specifically speak with me, then we fix a time to get on call.
How do you assess student progress? Do you give assessments or tests at Acadgild?
We conduct tests and assessments regularly. It’s one way we identify students who are falling behind. Every session is followed by quizzes, assignments, and case studies. Students also engage in a capstone project towards the end of the course to use most of what they have learned to realize a dream or meaningful project.
How do you support students who are falling behind or failing?
Acadgild has counselors who speak with students on a regular basis – every week – to help them stay motivated. There are also several features on the gamified dashboard like the leaderboard and certification meter that foster competition and help students track progress. Students also receive a “student intelligence kit” that is quite comprehensive. Despite these, if a student is falling behind, then I speak with them personally to identify the problem and resolve it as quickly as possible.
How do you balance Acadgild mentoring with your day job?
It is challenging, but I’m a passionate individual, and I find joy in what I do. My classes are mostly scheduled on the weekends when I am free. On weekdays, I make time to prepare for my classes. It’s a rewarding process. I don’t get tired because teaching forces me to learn and grow as a professional; not to mention, give back to others by sharing what I learn with those who have similar interests.
Are you able to contribute to or iterate on the bootcamp curriculum?
Acadgild consults with industry experts before deciding on the curriculum. They update it and regularly to stay up-to-date with the changing trends in the industry. So I do have my say when they’re in the process of deciding the curriculum. Additionally, I share materials with students that I think might be useful for their reference.
Who is an ideal student for a data science bootcamp? After teaching at Acadgild, is there a certain type of student who does well in the program?
Students who come from IT backgrounds have an edge. Having said that, anyone who is regularly completing the coding assignments and reading the materials I share tend to do well. It’s a matter of committing to the program and following through with mindful practice.
What’s the goal for a student who completes the bootcamp? For example, will they be prepared for a junior or senior data science role?
For newcomers, becoming a junior data scientist is a more realistic goal to achieve when they graduate. If they work hard, they can progress quickly through the opportunities that this industry offers, like a senior role within two years from starting a position. Students with more experience in the IT industry before they join this course may be eligible for Senior Data Scientist positions.
Do you have a hand in job placement at all?
I try to help my students connect with professionals in my network and help them get jobs at my company or at companies I have connections with. As a working professional and mentor, it’s a win-win situation for me when my company hires one of my students. Not only do we grow stronger as a team, but my student also gets an opportunity to showcase their talents and learn further from work experience.
Tell us about your biggest student success story!
Success is hard to define – various people experience success differently. Many of my students have landed jobs shortly after taking the course with me. That is success to me. And, I think it is success to them too, although they might not want to stop there. I don’t want to discredit what they have already achieved by not labeling it as success.
One success story that comes to my mind is about my student Shubham Jain, who was a web developer before he joined my program. Now he is an expert on the novel field of big data, and he leads an entire team for the organization he is working at. I recall this story primarily because it is so typical of the stories of my students. My students are generally professionals looking for a change of careers or way to transform it – to move up the corporate ladder so to say. Acadgild’s training helps this transition because there is a dearth of data professionals in our country, and opportunities are aplenty. Anyone with initiative to pick up “new-age” skills like machine learning, deep learning, and AI is bound to benefit from the present jobs market.
For our readers who are beginners, what online resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring bootcampers?
YouTube, as always, is a good resource. We put out lots of free quality content on the Acadgild YouTube channel. Coursera and EdX are also good sources.
Is there anything else that you’d like our readers to know about Acadgild?
Acadgild has been conducting seminars on data science in different cities – mainly in Bangalore. And one of the most frequently asked questions by people interested in data science or bootcamps is whether they can learn everything they should know to become a data scientist by joining just one course. And the answer is – definitely. Our bootcamp on data science is comprehensive. It covers all important topics and will help anyone who completes it land a job in the field.