Tackling the data industry as a 19-year old apprentice

Kardelen Keskin

I was always undecided about my career and at one point, after receiving my GCSE results, I contemplated becoming a dentist.

While my test results may have proven that I was a suitable fit for this industry in secondary school, I wasn’t certain that this route was for me, so after my A-levels I decided to try a non-traditional career path. At 19, I enrolled with Creative Pioneers, a national apprenticeship programme in advertising, creative and digital, for a data analyst role at Mindshare. Though it was a shock to many family and friends for reasons you may imagine, I was confident that hands-on learning was the path for me.

I’ll be honest, my apprenticeship knowledge was vague. I anticipated joining at intern level, working on meaningless, administrative tasks, but I was quickly proven wrong. I was given autonomy soon after joining Mindshare with the opportunity to develop my own projects and even speak with clients. When I think back to these first few weeks, I often ponder what it would have been like to go to university. Would I have been creating and implementing projects for some of the world’s top digital brands? Likely not. I also know for a fact that I would not be working as a full-time employee, because I would still be in my second year of higher education. It is moments like these that make me appreciate the opportunity I have been given by Creative Pioneers, and needless to say I’m an advocate for apprenticeships.

Whilst the fast-paced, ever-changing media environment posed a challenge at first, I was keen to progress my career quickly from the moment I joined Mindshare. Even though I chose an apprenticeship in data, I don’t feel stuck in this industry because of the diverse set of skills I have acquired in my programme. I feel empowered to continue progressing in my current role, though I know my avenues are not restricted should I decide to change industries in the future.

Working in the data team at Mindshare has been incredibly inspiring, and a day like International Women’s Day makes that apparent. It may come as a surprise to some that the majority of my team are female. Together we’re constantly thinking of ways to innovate through technology, paving the way for future generations while also hoping to reduce the stigma for females working in data and technology.

Speaking of stigmas, there are certainly some that exist about apprenticeships, but I would not change my journey for anything. I feel more equipped to handle complex issues in and outside of work, and I feel empowered to take full control over my career regardless of the direction it may take. It’s rewarding to have a career route established at just 20 years old, because when I think of friends who chose to go to university, I know they are still a few years away from this stage of life.

For those curious about upskilling in their current role or exploring a route other than university, apprenticeships are a really strong option, such as the one I’ve done with Creative Pioneers. I can see from my experience as an apprentice that we’re helping to diversify the workforce, which is really rewarding in itself!

About the author

After completing her A-levels Kardelen Keskin decided she didn’t want to follow the traditional university route and was more interested in hands-on experience in a fast-paced environment. She parked her plan of becoming a dentist and applied for a data analyst role at Mindshare which she will complete in March 2020. The fast-paced and constantly evolving media environment was a challenge but has provided essential experience and allowed Kardelen to advance quickly.


Positive female role-models in the data industry


By Sarah Robertson, Experian

I remember as a child how much I enjoyed maths. 

I was lucky enough to go to a primary school that positively encouraged me to progress in a subject that has traditionally led to male-dominated job roles. That early support, along with strong female role models in my family, helped me grow in a subject I love and shaped my career in data.

However, many statistics are telling us that there are thousands of skilled, innovative and talented women out there who aren’t even considering a career in STEM, let alone data.  It’s clear to me that more support is needed to empower and encourage a new generation into the data science industry.  I’m a firm believer that we need to start working with girls at an early age to help breakdown the stereotypes and obsolete views that certain professions are gender-specific.

Take my son’s infant school, for example.  When he left in July, the school played a video showing what each child wanted to be when they were older.  Each answer lived up to a gender stereotype. It made me question how and why this happens, even in the most progressive households.  As a collective group, we need to broaden our children’s minds on the possible.  STEM careers of the future will only be more exciting, more varied, more significant to our digital, technological and data-driven society.

It is also important that we start encouraging girls to take risks, the same way we do with boys.  Girls should be brave, not perfect.  STEM subjects tend to have a right or wrong answer in early education, and if girls are not brave enough to be wrong, then they won’t challenge themselves with STEM subjects.  We must teach our daughters that it is OK to take risks.  It is OK to be wrong.  It is OK to learn something new.

Part of encouraging the next generation also means recognising and celebrating the achievements of the female role models working in data today.  Role models like Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who can inspire others and show them that a career in STEM is possible.  Having the chance to hear from these inspirational figures, what they love about their jobs, how they got there, and what they’ve overcome to achieve success is crucial.  Their stories can inspire the women of tomorrow to follow in their footsteps and to blaze their own trails.

However, we can’t rely solely on these well-known role models to single-handedly change an entire generation’s thinking.  We all have a responsibility to be role models in what we do.  More and more businesses are creating closer links with schools, colleges and universities giving the perfect opportunity to support younger people considering certain careers.  This is hugely important for girls wanting to get into STEM.

We’re in a stronger position than we’ve ever been before in the data industry, supported by some fantastic initiatives – like M&S, who recently announced their intention to turn more than 1000 of their staff into data scientists.  This is a huge step in the right direction, potentially opening doors for more women to find their passion in data science.

Despite still having a long way to go, we have made significant progress redressing gender imbalance in STEM, supported by a strong and passionate community.  I’m excited to continue doing my bit to encourage a new generation of girls to become part of the data revolution.

Sarah Robertson featuredAbout the author

In the early stages of Sarah’s career there was a clear lack of female role models working in the data industry, so she made it her mission to support the women that worked in her teams, as well as her peers and friends within the industry.

After Sarah graduated, she was unsure of what career to pursue but felt at the time IT was her preferred choice. This led to a temporary contract with IBM working in IT, but she quickly learnt that it wasn’t for her and started exploring jobs in statistics. She landed a role with a marketing agency in their analytics division and absolutely loved it! It was then that analysing data to understand consumer behaviour became a passion of hers. That was over 20 years ago and she’s never looked back.

Sarah is keen to address the imbalance of men and women across our industry, she is heavily involved in the event Women in Data UK and contributing to her current business on recruiting more females into data roles.