Springboard Mentor Srdjan Santic: ‘The Most Fulfilling Experience of My Professional Life’

T.J. DeGroatT.J. DeGroat | 3 minute read | August 30, 2018
Srdjan Santic

Data scientist Srdjan Santic is a passionate proponent of mentorship.

“I initially took up mentoring to kind of give back, as I myself learned a lot from online courses,” he said. “But being able to guide students making career transitions and seeing them, very often, go ‘from zero to hero’ and get their dream jobs is immensely rewarding.”

Srdjan, a Data Science Career Track mentor, knows what it’s like to make a professional pivot, having begun his career in a related but distinct space.

He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics and quickly found work as a statistician, spending six years at a large marketing research consultancy. There, he cut his teeth on analytics, statistical inference, and predictive modeling. In this role, he also got a lot of practice working with messy datasets. And thanks to his regular client-facing work, Srdjan learned how to identify business requirements for a project and to “speak the language” of business.

Srdjan had a solid foundation from which to begin building a full career in data science. He connects his transition to a book he often used at work that relied on the commercial software SPSS for its hands-on examples. One day, he noticed that the same authors (Andy Field and Jeremy Miles) had released a new edition using the statistical programming language R for examples.

“It intrigued me, I ordered it, and after the first few chapters, and only a few exercises of writing code to accomplish a task, I was instantly hooked,” Srdjan said. “I continued to work through the book and learn R, also did some online courses on R and Python, and decided that this was the toolset I want to keep using in my career, and that there won’t be any going back to commercial software with a graphical user interface, at least for me.”

He remembers the exact day in the summer of 2013 when he made the decision: “I suddenly thought to myself, ‘I think I’m more than ready to get a full-time job using just these tools.’”

Just a week later, he landed a part-time gig; six months later, he started his first full-time data science job.

He’s found professional satisfaction, but considers his time giving back to aspiring data scientists uniquely gratifying.

“Mentoring at Springboard has, by far, been singularly the most fulfilling experience of my professional life,” he said.

Srdjan has been a Springboard mentor since the end of 2015. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with so many interesting people, from different backgrounds, different places, some of whom I still keep in touch with,” he said. “The support from both Springboard employees as well as the wider mentor community has just been amazing.”

Just one example of Srdjan’s memorable mentor experiences: “I had a student who was doing very, very well in the Data Science Career Track, and produced two quite exemplary capstone projects,” he said. “The only issue with them was that they had a very poor standard of spoken English. So, at the urging of both myself and their career coach, after they graduated from Springboard they enrolled in a full-time English course. But the student also took a part-time position working in a supermarket, to practice their English in casual conversation. Now, if that isn’t commitment, then I don’t know what is.”

However, the demand for data science professionals is growing at an exponential rate. So, if somebody is considering a career change, data science may be an excellent option.

What’s Srdjan’s data science media diet? 

For me, it’s mostly newsletters. I can’t recommend “Data Science Weekly” and “Data Elixir” enough, and also “Deep Learning Weekly” if you’re into the more cutting-edge stuff. “Data is Plural” is an amazing newsletter if you want to find interesting and quirky datasets to play around with. I regularly listen to the “Not So Standard Deviations” podcast, and would also recommend listening to the old episodes of the now defunct “Partially Derivative” podcast.

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T.J. DeGroat

About T.J. DeGroat

T.J. is a writer and editor waging war against unnecessary capitalization. You can follow him on Twitter @tjdegroat.