Looking Back — One Year of HOSD Data Mentoring

Jonas Schröder
4 min readMay 26, 2022

More or less exactly one year ago, in May 2021, I got together with some data mentors I knew from TechLabs Düsseldorf to found HODS Data Mentoring. The motivation came from our experience at TechLabs’ Digital Shaper Program, where we supported data science students in their projects. We noticed that every participant had their own story (i.e., background and knowledge) and motivation for WHY they wanted to learn programming and data skills.

Our Mission: Why we started in 2021

Having such a diverse group of students makes a 1:n approach of sharing knowledge often very inefficient and maybe even ineffective in some circumstances. Unlike in our education system where the initial goal is to create a minimum level of shared general knowledge, the tech field is highly specialized and narrow.

We at HOSD decided to focus on what we know best — data analytics and machine learning applications — and offer a 1:1 approach instead of 1:n. That means that we offer free one-to-one mentoring for students in the area of data. Our offer is not a replacement for bootcamps or e-learnings offered by TechLabs or Coursera, but rather an addition, similar to a TA’s office hours at university.

We offer mentoring for free because we want to grow the pool of data literate people. Furthermore, we see a great opportunity in the job market in this field and want to enable those who are interested and willing to put in the necessary effort to profit from this opportunity.

The great thing about our time is that the internet and freely available knowledge enables you, even without legacy credentials, to get ahead. What we felt was often missing is some personalized guidance: where to start in this jungle of information?

If you’re interested, you can read more about us and our mission in this blog post or on our website.

60 students in Year 1

Above I said that our target group is “data students”. However, we use the term “student” very broadly, referring to literally anyone who is studying (meaning: learning) about data analytics, programming, machine learning. We particularly want to support people originally from a non-technical field, students about to graduate, as well as people with some years of work experience thinking about a change in their career.

So when I write that we had sixty students in our first year, I mean exchange with people willing to make it in the area of data, each with their own background and motivation to do so.

Now that I think about it: sixty students — wow!

What we took from it

I have to admit I did not know the exact number until I started writing this blog post. I would have guessed 15, maybe 20 people. However, the more I think about it the less surprising it is to me that I forgot how many we’ve been in touch with, simply because what we offer is in essence an informal exchange in form of a video call. We are not teaching, we are talking (and especially listening!). And that is a hell lot of fun, not work.

A great thing about or 1:1 approach is that our conversations are kind off like a two-way street. Roughly a third of our students had a business-related background and were facing similar questions in their research or work as I did. I especially remember one session where a PhD student asked about causal trees which made me aware that there exists such a thing as an modern ML approach to causal inference. It made me start reading books and papers on causal inference versus traditional predictive modelling and applying what I learned in my day job.

It sounds cliché when teachers say “I learn as much as I teach” but in my experience founding and mentoring at HOSD, it is true. It turned out to be a great way to learn about other areas and different fields in which data plays a huge role. A hammer is a hammer but I’ve never seen that many construction sites.

That and the feedback we get from our students in enough to carry on into Year 2.

The Future

You, me — everyone is busy. I want to be quite frank: while we had multiple sessions a week last summer, 2022 has been rather quiet so far. A few weeks ago we started to meet again internally and to be more active as HOSD. We have many ideas for the near future.

For example, we started to share beginner-friendly blog posts on our LinkedIn HOSD Data Mentoring profile on a weekly basis with the goal to engage more with our audience and to share knowledge through this social channel.

Furthermore, we want to repeat the experiment of free live webinars that we did last fall. It might seem contradictory to our 1:1 approach at first, since a webinar is 1:n. However, our idea is to consolidate recurring and general questions from our sessions and to give our take on them to a broader audience. There’s of course always the option to come back to us on a personal level after these webinars. We plan to offer a few this year. Make sure to follow us on Linkedin if that sounds interesting to you.

Lastly, we are always open to collaborate with organizations that either share the same goal as us (teaching the world about tech; enabling data literacy) or where our purpose supports theirs (e.g., upskilling their organizational members).

You’re always welcome to get in touch with us if you have some ideas to that regards, either through my personal LinkedIn or our website’s contact form. Also, if you want to join our cause as a mentor, feel free to write us too!

It has been a great journey so far and we’re looking forward to what Year 2 brings.

Best,

Jonas

HOSD Data Mentoring Co-Founder

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Jonas Schröder

Writes about how #AI and #ML applications help in different fields like #Finance and #Marketing. Data Scientist at Otto GmbH