Speaker Spotlight: Mehmet Yolcu on the Roles of Community, Courage, and Curiosity in Career Development

Dive into this enlightening conversation with Mehmet Yolcu, a Senior Data Scientist, as he unveils the narrative of his professional journey. Mehmet shares stories about his foundational experiences and provides a unique glimpse into his strategy of integrating formal education with an appetite for knowledge and exploration.

In a moment of reflection, Mehmet offers valuable insights into his views on community, mentorship, and the significant role of curiosity in shaping his career.

Can you share a bit about your background?

Starting my work as a Senior Data Scientist, I have spent 8 years working hard and aiming for the best, making a big difference, and bringing in new ideas. My main passion in my job is to find the hidden stories in data and turn them into clear insights that help make important business decisions and increase income in many areas.

I am skilled in analysing data, using machine learning, and making data easy to understand through visuals. These abilities have allowed me to improve how decisions are made, make operations run better, and tell stories with data that are clear and meaningful. Some of my key work includes making complex algorithms to fix data problems, setting up automatic systems to manage data smoothly, and making live dashboards that help in making quick and smart decisions.

Working together with others is a big part of how I work. I do well in teams with different skills, where I share useful insights from data, making sure data is correct, easy to get, and useful. I have a Master’s degree in Data Science and was honoured to be a Chevening Scholar, which shows my hard work and ability. I also have certificates in SQL, Python, and Data Engineering, showing my commitment to learning the technical skills needed for my job.

In short, my career is not just about the jobs I’ve had but is about a path led by curiosity, guided by data, and aiming for constant improvement in the fast-changing field of data science.

Did you come up through a “traditional” techie route or has your career taken twists and turns along the way?

My journey into the domain of data science has been somewhat unconventional. My academic foundation was laid in economics during my undergraduate years, where I developed a deep fascination for statistical analysis as a pivotal tool in decision-making processes. This initial interest buried the seeds of my future in data science, guiding me away from what might be considered a ‘traditional’ tech trajectory.
Over time, my commitment to understanding and leveraging data led me to pursue not one, but two master’s degrees in Data Science, integrating me more firmly into the conventional pathways of the field. Despite this formal education, I maintain an ‘amateur spirit’ at heart—a relentless curiosity and a self-driven approach to learning that constantly propels me to explore new frontiers within data science. This blend of formal education and self-guided exploration has shaped me into a versatile data scientist, capable of adapting and thriving across various industries.

Reflecting on your career, is there a specific moment that stands out as pivotal or defining?

The COVID-19 pandemic, despite its widespread challenges, emerged as an unexpected stimulus in my professional journey. Amidst the backdrop of this global crisis, the shift to a home-based work environment opened up an unprecedented opportunity for deep, focused learning and experimentation. This period allowed me to immerse myself in acquiring new skills and applying them to real-time projects, significantly accelerating my growth in the field of data science. It was during these months of introspection and relentless pursuit of knowledge that I experienced a profound leap forward in my capabilities.
This era, though marked by adversity for many, served as a pivotal chapter in my career, propelling me with great momentum and shaping me into a more adept and versatile data scientist. Reflecting on my career, this stage stands out not just for its timing, but for how it underscored the resilience of the human spirit to grow and adapt in the face of challenges.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self as you embarked on your professional journey?

If I could reach back in time and whisper in the ear of my younger self, I’d emphasise the paramount importance of embracing curiosity and the relentless pursuit of knowledge. I’d urge myself to not only stay abreast of emerging tools and technologies but to wield them with courage and innovation in my projects. The journey through data science is one of continuous learning and experimentation, where the mantra ‘Practice makes perfect’ is not just a cliché but a fundamental principle. Dive into each challenge with the heart of an explorer, treating failures as stepping stones and successes as milestones, not endpoints.
Remember, the most transformative discoveries often come from the boldest trials. So, approach your work with audacity and a pioneering spirit, for it is through such endeavours that true growth is achieved.

Looking ahead, what’s your big prediction for the tech landscape in 2024?

I think we will see AI and machine learning (ML) become a bigger part of our daily lives. They will go beyond the usual limits, making these technologies more open to everyone and more useful in solving real problems. For example, in healthcare, AI could help make better diagnoses and treatment plans. In city planning, advanced data analysis could make cities smarter and more efficient. Also, when AI joins with other new technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G, we will see new kinds of innovation. Imagine smart cities that not only save energy and manage traffic well but also have interactive environments that help people in real-time.

Considering your involvement in Silicon Brighton and community-building, what does the concept of ‘community’ mean to you personally? How important is it in the tech industry?

For me, a ‘community’ means a lively group where people share knowledge, support each other, and grow together. Being part of Silicon Brighton and other groups, I’ve seen how these team efforts help with new ideas, make learning faster, and make members stronger. In the tech world, which changes quickly, communities are very important for sharing thoughts, finding chances, and facing challenges with others. They make each person better and also make the whole industry stronger by welcoming everyone, valuing different people, and always trying to get better. I focus on building communities because I believe in the strength of working together and the big changes it can bring to both our personal and work lives.

How do you balance staying updated with the latest industry trends while ensuring continuous personal and professional growth? Any specific resources or practices you find particularly valuable?

Keeping up with new trends in the industry while growing personally and professionally means planning how to learn and connect with others. I make sure to follow new updates by reading selected newsletters, using websites like arXiv for the latest research, and joining data science groups and meetups. I also spend time learning deeply about topics I’m interested in. This includes working on projects and teaming up with others. This two-way method helps me stay up-to-date with trends and improve my skills. I focus on using what I learn in real situations and getting involved with the community to grow in every way.

As someone who has contributed significantly to the community, how do you see mentorship playing a role in the development of the next generation of tech professionals?

I believe mentorship is key to helping new tech professionals grow. It’s a two-way relationship where experienced people help beginners, teaching them not just about technology but also how to handle the challenges of the industry. Mentorship lets us share important soft skills, ethical ideas, and ways to solve problems. It’s about making a supportive space where new talents can try things, make mistakes safely, and learn from real situations. This way, they become not only good at technology but also flexible and complete professionals who can add a lot to the tech world.

Anything else you would like to promote to our community?

I want to talk about how important it is to work with people from different fields. In the fast-changing world of technology, combining data science with areas like environmental care, health, and education can bring about new ideas. By working on projects that mix different subjects in our community, we can tackle big world problems, help society move forward, and come up with technology that really makes a difference. Let’s use our different skills and views to make a big positive impact, not just in technology, but in many areas.
Want to hear more from Mehmet? Catch up on his talk on our YouTube channel.