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Friday, 2 August 2019

Kevin and Data Analytics: From Little Knowledge To A Whole Career

“My experience in ADSE has been incredibly transformative,” says Mai Than Tung, who also goes by the name Kevin. Hailing from Vietnam, he was a second runner-up during the ASEAN Data Science Explorers 2018 Regional Finals together with his partner, Nguyen Van Thuan. Their winning storyboard focused on tapping into the potentially greater contribution of maritime trade to the ASEAN economy by identifying and addressing the current flaws with data-driven solutions.

Kevin is very much grateful for being able to join ADSE 2018, during his senior year. The finance graduate strongly owes his interest in the field of data analytics to the competition, as it provided him and fellow young students the rare opportunity to work with a huge data set using what he believes is a “world-class software,” to solve important regional issues. This experience has enabled him to land a successful career in a popular online shopping platform Lazada Vietnam as a Management Associate. Termed “customer lifecycle management,” he studies consumer behaviours during the different stages of their journey with Lazada’s services and proposes data-driven solutions, as he says, “to ensure that we are delivering the right kind of information and assortment to the right group of customers, at the right time.”

Most probably, Kevin did not imagine working in this field years ago. Prior to joining the competition, he admits having known only some rudimentary knowledge in R programming (a programming language used for statistical data) and having basic competency in Microsoft Excel. Now, he has been immersed in data analytics so much that he thinks 95% of his day is dedicated to it, with the other 5% composed of meetings on the results of data analysis. For him, learning about new ways and solutions that could be crafted to approach problems is what excites him the most when dealing with all these data. “It all boils down to telling good stories with your data to compel decision-makers at a higher level to deliver appropriate solutions,” he further adds.

Of all topics, why choose sea transport and trade as a topic for a storyboard? Well, focusing on it seemed to be drawn from Kevin’s personal experience, having grown up in a coastal city and relatives who worked in the local sea port. His desire to tackle this was fuelled by the inefficiencies of his city’s port operation and system. “I wanted to dig deeper into the regional scope to explore if it’s a systemic issue across ASEAN states, and what we can learn from each other to better capitalise on our geographical advantage.” This is particularly significant for ASEAN, wherein numerous bodies of water make up a significant part of the region’s geography and can definitely be maximised for economic benefits.

One of the greatest benefits, Kevin says, that he got from joining ADSE last year is being capable of making data digestible enough for other stakeholders to understand, especially customers. His advice is to “always make things simple for your reader, stakeholder, or whoever you're presenting your findings to. It stemmed from my past mistakes of overcomplicating and overusing complex stats that did not provide any actionable insight.” The skill to accomplish this is something he applies while currently working in Lazada.

With the career he has successfully embarked on thanks to learning data analytics, Kevin recommends joining ADSE 2019 “a hundred percent.” The formula of success he believes future contestants should follow is to possess critical thinking and open-mindedness. “Start practicing your own ways of approaching problems from today, one that is structured, logical and comprehensive because your arguments rely completely on the clarity of your thinking. Once you nail the first part, it's all about having the curiosity and open-mindedness to open up and learn new skills (in this case new software) that allow you to visualize your arguments,” he further recommends. This runner-up's story shows that data analytics brings about not only hard skills but soft skills as well.

The journey of Kevin, from being barely literate on data analytics to pursuing a career on it, shows that anyone is capable of grasping data analytics, regardless of how insignificant one’s background knowledge is. Just like him, joining ADSE can surely expand this knowledge and prepare oneself for a bright career and future ahead!

Article by Godwil Coronel Magat, a Communication Intern at the ASEAN Foundation

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