When Gilles Ngomeni enrolled in the Data Analytics Career Track at Springboard, he promised his two young children that once he finished the course, he would move them from their cramped apartment into a big house with a garden like the one they had in Africa.
Ngomeni spent several years as a sales manager at Nestlé in Cameroon, where he found himself creating his own Excel spreadsheets to track KPIs and give better sales advice to the team of 20 sales reps he was leading.
There, he discovered his love for data analytics. During his time at Springboard, he’s helped mentor other students in the course and is passionate about giving back to the Springboard community. Ngomeni’s motto is that life is about “learning, earning, and returning,” meaning that once you educate yourself and earn certain privileges in life, you must pay it forward.
This conversation has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
While I was working in sales for Nestlé, I had to deal with a lot of reporting programs. So I would create my own Excel sheets to report on certain KPIs like call rate, strike rate, and drop size. Calculating these things using my own Excel sheets really helped me make sense of the data. I was leading a team of 20 people and I had to report every activity they were doing in the stores every day. I fell in love with mathematics, statistics, and forecasting. It was like having a crystal ball.
So when I arrived in the U.S., I decided I wanted to focus on data analytics. I didn’t want to lose my previous experience so I decided I wanted to be a sales and marketing data analyst.
Ultimately, my goal is to launch a small data analytics company. I still need work experience in this new field, so that is my goal in five or six years.
I joined the Data Analytics Career Track in June 2020, and I just completed it last week. The course was so interesting. I know I can trust the program leads. The course is supposed to last six months, but it took me 10 months to complete because I wanted to do my own research and go above and beyond the course offerings. But in the end, I’m impressed by what I’ve learned. When I presented my capstone project, I was so excited to hear one of the program leads say “This is the best capstone project ever.” I started all of this from scratch and it was so amazing to hear somebody appreciate my work.
My project was about customer segmentation for a grocery store that wanted to scale up sales of a particular brand of chocolate. I focused on creating a demographic segmentation of the store’s customers, such as their age, income, gender, where they live. The data came from customer loyalty cards covering a period of two years. I cleaned the data in Excel and then imported it into Python.
Then, I applied a segmentation method called K means to cluster customers based on their shared features. I came up with four clusters. Finally, I visualized my data in Tableau and came up with six recommendations the store should implement to increase sales revenue by 10% by 2022. I found that while the store had a lot of foot traffic, a lot of lower-income customers would visit the store without buying anything. One of the measures I proposed was diversifying our product line in terms of price. I proposed six recommendations in total, but that was my core recommendation.
When I arrived in the U.S., I asked myself, what can I do so that I can enjoy the same middle-class standard of living that I had back in Africa? When I came here, my first challenge was to understand my new environment. So I enrolled at a community college in Illinois to learn English for three months. Then I faced a second challenge: how could I continue taking care of my family the way I did when we were in Africa? I wasn’t confident in my English. I went to work as a machine operator for a company called Kemper, but it wasn’t the place I wanted to be. When I was laid off because of the pandemic, that was the perfect occasion for me to decide what I wanted to do with my life. So I started pursuing data science certifications on my own until I found out about Springboard.
We had a house with a garden in Africa, but here we have to live in a narrow apartment and it’s not easy for my daughter. I promised her that once I finish with this course, I’ll buy her a bigger house and she can have a dog again.
Working at my own pace was very important for me because I’m a parent of two very young children. I’m doing this for them, but they’re too young to understand. I take the time to explain things to them. I’ll say “Hey guys, I’m going to have an assignment. Just give me an hour to do this, then I’ll be done,” but sometimes they still get frustrated. To overcome this situation, I started working at night [when they’re asleep].
The second thing I like about Springboard is that the course is very well-structured for someone like me, starting with the simplest concepts and gradually moving to harder ones. It helped build my confidence, and as I went through the course, my imposter syndrome started going down.
Also, I was lucky to have a very straightforward mentor. He didn’t flatter me. If something was positive or negative he would tell me. He really helped to shape my skills and the way I work.
Finally, I had a very good student advisor. She was really available for me and would answer questions over email even outside of meetings.
The people at Springboard are very friendly and they helped me to overcome my fears. I remember my first conversation with the career coach. I told her my English is not fluent and I was worried about having to do reports and presentations as a data analyst. She told me not to worry, and she helped me understand that I’m more capable than I think I am.
Yes. When you start the course, the student advisors put you in small groups based on your timezone. I really loved my group because almost everyone had the same problems. We were a group of people who came from different places and had to deal with learning English, but we had good technical skills. There were people from India, Ethiopia, and other parts of the world.
As I mentioned before, I was doing my own research on top of the course material, and eventually, two or three people in the group started requiring my help. We started chatting on Skype. Now, I work with two people, we talk four times a week based on their needs. I’m lucky to have a better understanding than them, and I’m not afraid to share. I like sharing. I like sharing because I know life is all about learning, earning, and returning.