#66DaysofData Member Spotlight: Semanur Kapusızoğlu
This is the seventh in a weekly series spotlighting different members of the 66DaysofData discord community, an initiative started by data scientist and YouTuber Ken Jee. You can find out more about the initiative here and here. The intent of this series is to celebrate those who have made it through the challenge already (although it never truly ends!); share their stories; learn from their successes and failures; and hopefully inspire anybody else walking this path, wherever you happen to be in your journey. If you’re interested in joining the community, you can do so here.
The 66 days of data discord community is very much an international one. Some of the people I’ve had the pleasure of talking with people all over the world. In fact, almost every person featured in this series so far has been from a different country. Today is no exception and this diversity is also one of the integral benefits of the community for Semanur Kapusızoğlu.
While perfectly happy to be part of her more local communities in Turkey, she also intentionally seeks out international people because they can really broaden your perspective. Everybody brings a different perspective to the table and “work becomes more remarkable”. And while the benefits of communities in general are many, my favourite was one she articulated about helping her overcome confidence issues (and dare I say, imposter syndrome).
What you tend to see from people are their polished thoughts and outcomes. However, getting truly involved in communities allows you to be there at the beginning of the process and experience the collaboration and transformation that leads to the final product that everybody else sees. You see the raw and unfinished too.
Personally, while what I got from our conversation was far from a final product (she’s only 23!), I’d say she’s already pretty polished.
For better context on who Sema is and where she’s going, let’s take a step back. A recent graduate in industrial engineering, her bachelor’s degree is where she began to realize her analytical side, after taking courses in databases, systems design, operational research and simulation. She is also currently getting her master’s in industrial engineering. On the other hand, her fascination for community and international community is evident from her stint as part of AIESEC leadership while still in university. (AIESEC is an international not-for-profit “for young people to develop their leadership potential through international internships and volunteer opportunities”, in their own words on their website. In Sema’s words, they are a platform “aiming to achieve world peace through integrating cultures with international exchange programs”. Maybe they should’ve also asked her to update their copy, but I digress.)
The experience also helped introduce her to the data mindset and how it can impact organizations and people’s lives in a productive way, helping AIESEC keep track of things like different conversion rates, customer satisfaction and organizational performance. Thanks to the unfortunate global situation with COVID, she was able to continue learning from courses and seminars that were now suddenly free.
Eventually, this culminated in Sema becoming more involved with the LinkedIn community and then the 66DaysofData community. Lacking the confidence to actively participate at first, she started her own 80DaysAroundData (Jules would be proud).However, thanks to the inspiration she drew from everybody’s progress posts and the resources being shared, she was sucked in. Answering people’s questions, participating in projects, and receiving encouragement on the days she was feeling overwhelmed helped keep her on track. Sharing her goals and plans for the day also helped keep her accountable to people other than herself, which helped too.
It’s sometimes hard to tell when somebody is struggling mentally and when just being present can be a source of positive energy for them.
In a way, we’re lucky she ended up pursuing a career in the data science space. She is always tinkering and has explored many subjects for their own sake. From physics to astrobiology to astrophysics, Sema is always learning, sharing what she’s learned with others in the many communities she’s found, connecting the dots between different disciplines and teasing out the ways they apply to real life. As she puts it, she lives to learn. It’s her raison d’être, her ikigai, her life’s purpose.
All her struggles and hard work is paying off right now. She’s recently started an amazing position as a data engineer for the Ministry of Treasury and Finance in Turkey. She loves her team’s environment, working for an active mentor who encourages continued personal development and on a young team with a healthy representation of women (10 on a team of 13!).
I asked her what’s surprised her about her role so far and to my delight, she highlighted the importance of business knowledge and how it intersects with the organization’s data.
She also notes something that is pretty abstract to me until you’re working in a production environment. When you’re working with tens of thousands of rows of data, inefficiency can be virtually invisible. When you’re working with billions of rows of data sometimes, you start to notice the importance of efficient querying and the ill effects of poorly structured queries on large tables.
Remarkably, this hasn’t slowed Sema down any in her extracurricular learning. Beyond her master’s degree, she is also learning how to combine AI models with mobile applications, working on an insurance prediction project and volunteering her time in management and strategic planning for a bootcamp she’d previously participated in. Her level of intellectual consumption is incredibly impressive to me and as much as she’s gained from her communities, it seems she’s given just as much back. I’m just glad the 66 days of data community is one of the places she calls home.
Finally, if you’d like to join a community of data science learners in all stages of the journey, feel free to join the 66DaysofData discord server.