PDEng Data Science

Ravi Thakkar

“The benefits of being a student, learn, get work experience and get paid”

Ravi Thakkar is the 3000th graduated EngD candidate

Who: Ravi Thakkar
Country of origin: India
EngD: Data Science at the Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS)

At the beginning of this year, Ravi Thakkar successfully finished his data science EngD program and received his diploma. Little did he know that the academic director had a little surprise at the graduation ceremony for him: Ravi was the 3000th EngD candidate to get his diploma. “I was so surprised! The folder that should contain my diploma had a form in it that said 3000th EngD and I didn’t understand it at first. Next to my diploma, I got all kinds of nice additional gifts and some of my fellow candidates wanted to switch with me so they would be the 3000th,” Ravi tells with a smile. He looks back on his EngD with a good feeling. We visit Ravi at his new employer Signify. Right after he finished his EngD program he started his job as a Data Scientist at their supply chain team.

Masters in Germany
“After my bachelor in India, I wanted to build my interest and explore other parts of the world. I was also curious about differences in education in other places. A friend of mine studied in Germany and I liked what he told me about the country and his life. I decided to do my Masters in computer science at the Technical University of Braunschweig.” When Ravi finished his Masters, he started looking for a job. A EngD program wasn’t on his list at that moment. “I was looking for interesting Ph.D. programs on Studyportals and came across the data science EngD program. I decided to apply and got an invitation for the challenge week they host to find the best candidates.”

24/7 Data Challenge Week
The data science EngD isn’t part of one particular faculty but belongs to the Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS), a joint initiative of Eindhoven University of Technology, Tilburg University, and the Data Science Centre Eindhoven. “The 24/7 Data Challenge Week was intense. The assessors look at the big picture of every candidate. Of course, you need a technical background, but they also look at skills and attitudes like creativity, self-awareness, critical thinking, being a team player, and communication. In five days you work with your team on challenges and in the end, you present your solutions. But the focus is not only results, but you also get time for social activities. After the assessment, everyone gets a job interview. And a little later you hear you got accepted or not. I was really happy I got in!”

Personal development
A big part of the EngD program is focused on developing your personal skills. 25 hours per week are for cases, 15 hours per week are for personal development. During the program, the candidates must take part in the challenge week for new candidates. “You work with the new group and have a role as a team member or a team leader. You also learn a lot about yourself. I learned that I’m a good facilitator by making people feel at ease and giving guidance. Later on, I also worked on my leadership qualities when we were asked to arrange a data science module for the TU/e. I was in charge of the project and was also a team leader of one of the challenges. The goal was to give students a flavor of data science on a level that was comprehensible for them. What I really like about the EngD program is that you work on your goals. Your group members give feedback with a coach present. Every three months you have talk with the coach about achieving the goals and how everything is going.  The courses for personal development are also aligned with our goals.”

Diverse nationalities
“The people at the data science EngD are so diverse. They come from all around the world, completed all kinds of studies and have different views on assignments.  The program learns you to work effectively in international teams. In one group I worked with a Dutch and Bulgarian person. In India, we are not very direct, but in this group, I learned it is sometimes better to be direct and transparent. In India, people wouldn’t say no immediately and give it at least a try to tell later that something doesn’t work out. In the Dutch daily life I learned that when you have a dinner party and the host asks if you want more food and you say no, they don’t offer it again. That is something I had to get used to.

English and Dutch
“I like it in the Netherlands. It is not a lot different from Germany, accept when it comes to speaking English. When I had just arrived in the Netherlands I had to pick up something at a post shop. There was an older lady behind the counter and I didn’t expect she would speak English, but she did! That wouldn’t have been the case in Germany. I’m learning Dutch and here at Signify we have Dutch Friday to encourage everyone to speak Dutch.”

Find hidden talents
“My overall experience in the EngD program was good. It is intensely challenging, but you will find your hidden talents and improve yourself. You get the benefits of being a student, learn, get work experience and get paid. It is a really valuable program for the rest of your career.”