Ruairi McConville


Ruairi McConville

Graduate of the MSc in Data Science

Tell me a bit about your current role in medtech and what a typical day looks like.

My last role was as a Senior Design Quality Engineer with a Medical Device company, so it's not really in the computing or IT spectrum at all. The day to day consisted of a lot of project meetings to discuss everything from product specifications to risk management. I suppose my whole reason for choosing to do the Masters in Data Science was to give me tools that I can use in my current career and at some stage in the future maybe switch careers into something more data-related. Unfortunately I was made redundant not too long ago which has maybe accelerated my career move. The fact that I have my masters qualification on my CV has now opened the door to a lot of those types of roles. Completing the MSc in Data Science has given me the confidence to pursue a career change!

What first sparked your interest in data science?

I have always been interested in science and have a Bachelors in Chemistry but it was really the empirical evidence side of science that sparked my interest in data science, the analysis and interpretation of data and results. Medical Devices and life sciences in general are very data-driven industries, but different as its usually smaller scale data, so not on the kind of scale that you would be studying in the masters but it still requires analysis and interrogation. I was always the person who was playing around with formulas in an excel spreadsheet or graph for hours on end to try and figure something out. Data science is also a relatively new term so I guess I actually always had an interest in data science even before I really knew what it was. It's only quite recently that Universities have started to offer data science specific courses. So I knew the interest was there but I needed some formal training and that is why I chose the part-time online MSc in Data Science at ATU.

Tell me a bit about your experience on the MSc in Data Science at ATU. Why did you choose it and what did you like about it?

There are quite a lot of shorter courses on offer in this area, for example, a certificate in data analytics or an advanced Excel course or intro to AI or something like that but there weren't many courses that offered the entire data science spectrum on a part-time online basis. I wanted to go the comprehensive route and learn everything I could, from basics of the statistics and linear algebra all the way up to deep learning, machine learning, artificial intelligence, that kind of thing. The MSc in Data Science at ATU offered a range of modules that covered all of that. I also wanted to learn in a flexible delivery mode that suited me and my life and allowed me to continue working. 

Flexibility was one of the big draws for me, the fact that you could study part-time and online, some courses in this area were full-time but I was working a full-time job the whole way throughout the course and needed flexibility.


What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered in the course work itself and how did you overcome them? 

It's been well over 10 years since I was studying for my undergrad so getting back into the swing of studying was the initial challenge. The flexibility of the course helped a lot here. If you had a busy day in work or you arrived home late, it really took the pressure off knowing that all of the course material was accessible at any time. In terms of the coursework itself, the lectures were delivered live so you could ask the lecturers questions or if you missed a lecture, they were always recorded so you could watch it back at your leisure. The staff were always only an email away. I was one of the only students that didn't come from a tech background, so my coding skills left a lot to be desired but one of the first modules is Introductory Programming for Data Science which was extremely helpful for me. 

How did you balance your time between the master’s degree, your own role and life?

Initially it was difficult to adjust to it, but I mean with ATU, the lectures are all recorded so if I had plans on an evening and I had a lecture I could rewatch the lecture at a time that suited me. You could access them at any stage later, but personally I found it easier to attend the live lectures and just have it built in to my schedule to turn up for the lecture when it's being held. It helped establish a more structured and organised routine for me. Some lecture notes were also uploaded ahead of the allocated time so you could have a look through and be prepared for what was coming. The dates for any of the project and assignment work were always posted well in advance so you were never caught off guard with a last minute submission.  

What skills have you developed from the master’s degree and how have you been able to use these skills in your current role?

The skills you learn while studying Data Science are quite transferable and can be used in all sorts of industries. Effectively you're using linear algebra and statistics on a particular data set, so no matter what area you work in, you can still use those skills. One of the foundational pillars of data science is "domain expertise" and that domain can span a wide array of subjects. That would be one of the big the big takeaways from doing the masters, it's extremely transferable. I have been able to automate a lot of the data handling and processing that previously would have been a very manual task which frees up a lot of time. The data visualisation aspect features heavily in my day to day. The research skills I have learned have also allowed me to work on my own portfolio of projects which is very important if, like me, you have no direct data sceince experience on your CV. At the moment I am interviewing for new roles in Data Science which would not have been possible withoutcompleting the masters.  

Who do you think this master’s degree is for and what advice would you give anyone thinking of doing it?

This masters is ideal for people who are already working in a computer science or IT field and would like to develop their skills further. I also think that more generally speaking, data literacy is becoming extremely important and that it will become a feature in everyones day to day in the not too distant future, so it would really suit anyone who has an interest in it or who might have a career move in mind. It's obviously quite topical at the moment with Artificial Intelligence never too far from the headlines and the popularity of generative AI tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E, but fundamentally behind all of that is data science and the basics of that are taught very well in the MSc in Data Science at ATU. I would advise anyone thinking of doing the MSc in Data Science to go for it. I mean, if you're having any second thoughts, there's nothing bad that can come from learning data science. The world is going to become more and more data-driven in the future.


Learn more about the MSc in Data Science