In 2011, Shahmeer Amjad immigrated from Pakistan to Toronto. Less than 10 years later, he attended University of Toronto SCS Data Analytics Boot Camp, building a portfolio of data-driven projects that captured the city’s unique themes, from its restaurant scene to its real estate landscape.
Shahmeer graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in commerce and a background in business technology, but he had yet to learn many of the tech skills covered in the boot camp — like Python, SQL, and Tableau. After graduating, he found that many of the jobs he interviewed for required exactly this kind of expertise, so he made the decision to gain it himself. With a leap of faith, Shahmeer enrolled in UofT SCS Data Analytics Boot Camp, investing in his long-term skills and gearing up for an intensive 6-month journey.
Back to the classroom
Two weeks after he enrolled in the boot camp, Shahmeer began a full-time job as a robot process automation (RPA) developer at Sun Life, a financial services firm in Toronto. Not only was he embarking on a rigorous learning journey, but he was also forging a new career path at the same time. Fortunately, he was up for the challenge.
“I quickly discovered that there’s a reason why they call it boot camp,” said Shahmeer, speaking to the rigor of the program. “In just the first two weeks, it picked up speed, and we quickly learned everything from end-to-end application creation to data visualization.”
Shahmeer attributes much of his success to the structure and support of the program, including the instructors and assistant instructors who encouraged him, served as mentors, and made themselves broadly available to provide flexible support that worked with his schedule. Skills like Python and Tableau are challenging for any first-time learner to pick up, and on top of a full-time job and life’s other demands, they can be especially challenging. But with the help of his boot camp instructors, Shahmeer was able to get a handle on the material and build a plan to master it over the course of the program.
Bringing data to life
At the boot camp, learners don’t just learn new skills in theory, they apply them in practice by breaking out into small, collaborative project groups. For Shahmeer, this was the perfect opportunity to create a portfolio. And with his long-held love for Toronto, he made the city his portfolio’s central theme.
In one project, Shahmeer and his group analyzed local restaurant data to discover which areas of the city were hot spots for popular restaurants and gain insight into how restaurant ratings, locations, and prices interact. For another, Shahmeer used data from a variety of sources — including Airbnb — to build a predictive real estate model that took hypothetical city listings and calculated how much they could be listed for on a rental site, based on factors including location.
While building an app from end to end is a large feat for many first-time coders, learning to work with different personalities in a group setting can be its own learning experience. Shahmeer quickly found that every technical lesson the boot camp taught him was coupled with another lesson in soft skills: “A lot of people in the course weren’t used to doing such interactive work on a regular basis, but before long, everyone became very comfortable with one another and got better at working in groups,” said Shahmeer. “Over the course of the boot camp, I not only picked up technical skills, but also crucial skills such as public speaking, collaboration and teamwork.”
Since completing the boot camp, Shahmeer has already seen his evolving skill set become a central part of the job he began two weeks into the program. Along with other daily responsibilities, Shahmeer uses Tableau, an application he became familiar with during the boot camp. And today, his company relies on him to analyze data, create dashboards, and establish important metrics. Through the abilities he gained in the program, Shahmeer has been able to grow beyond the original parameters of his role. But the benefits of the boot camp extend beyond his current professional life.
“The boot camp changed my life because it taught me balance — how to manage multiple priorities, be more disciplined, establish friendships with peers, and network with professionals in the field,” Shahmeer said. After completing the boot camp in March, Shahmeer continues to benefit from the productive habits he picked up in the program: setting aside a few hours each evening to commit to personal or professional projects after work, and staying creative by embracing a continuous learning mentality.
What will you discover about yourself once you take the leap into technology? Explore UofT SCS Boot Camps in data analytics, coding, cybersecurity, fintech, and UX/UI to find out.