"The EIT Digital Master School really does look quite unique on my resume"
Still energised by the recent EIT Digital Master School Graduation Day, the Danish Andreas Kaas Johansen, reminisces about his two year EIT Master School experience: "It was fun, long and inspiring." Johansen has just graduated from the EIT Digital Master School in Data Science, specialising in distributed systems and data mining for big data and he is very proud of his achievement: "It wasn't always easy, but the EIT Digital Master School really does look quite unique on my resume."
Graduating is sometimes a hasty business, especially when you are already working in an exciting new and promising job at IBM. Johansen flew in late on Friday evening 24 November to Madrid, went straight to bed, took some breakfast the next day, dressed up, and accompanied by his parents, hit the road to the Graduation Ceremony hosted by EIT Digital partner, the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.
Once there, Andreas could relax and see other former students: "I met all my old friends and caught up with them." When the ceremony started, he could totally chill in the red-clothed chairs of the auditorium listening to inspirational talks and former students' success stories in entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, and then enjoy the formal ceremony including graduates receiving their diplomas and scarfs.
Andreas explained: "The talks were heavily focused on our moral obligations when working with technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The ceremony was fun, nostalgic, and quite long. I dedicated my weekend to this ceremony, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
How do you feel now you are officially graduated from the EIT Digital Master School with a double degree and a EIT certificate?
"It's quite a relief; it has been two years with ups and downs. Sometimes I was having the time of my life, sometimes I was close to my limit and ready to quit. Particularly, juggling with advanced algorithms, web information retrieval and process mining at the start of my first year, proved to be tough. I was working until late at night and had a feeling of having insufficient stamina for two more years of the same workload. However, the feeling of making slow but steady progress kept me going and more importantly, the community of my new friends from the EIT Digital Master School helped me through everything. Looking back, I'm happy I hung in there. I feel relieved that it's done, I feel proud that I did it and I feel very privileged that I was given the opportunity to do it; not everybody gets a chance to be part of a master programme like this one."
Why did you choose Data Science?
"After studying abroad at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and doing a course at their cognitive department, I became extremely curious about machine learning, data mining and the likes. I understood that there are many challenges in the field, but also that there were infinite possibilities. This lead me to choose Data Science. The wish to potentially use this knowledge to innovate old processes and domains made the choice of EIT Digital even more obvious."
Why did you choose Data Science within the EIT Digital Master School and not at another institution?
"There are a few main selling points of the EIT Digital Master School. The first and obvious one is the minor in entrepreneurship. This minor helps you to think about how to apply the technical skills you acquire in the real world. If you want to learn technology, and turn technology into something useful, this is a good starting point. It's a good idea to be aware of what has caused other innovators to be successful and it's good to learn to think in terms of value propositions and business models. As I see it, this is something we should always keep in mind when we are being exposed to new technologies, algorithms and models. It's as simple as ‘What problems can this solve?', ‘Who would want this?' and so on. The minor in entrepreneurship and the important factors of entrepreneurial success has helped me think in these terms."
"The second selling point is the international exposure and network. If you study for a masters in your home country, you are likely to be working together with people from that country. This can be nice and all, but as Ginni Rommetty, CEO of IBM once said: "Growth and comfort do not coexist". With the EIT Master School you will be working with people from all over the world. This means that you will be experiencing different cultures; you'll learn to look at problems from new angles while your patience (at times) is tested. It teaches genuine respect towards people and cultures that you easily could have had prejudices against. In the world of IT, which constantly becomes more and more interconnected and international, this is an invaluable asset! The international exposure and network will make you immensely more attractive on the job market. I can't even recall how many times people have been impressed or surprised by the international aspect of my resume."
Why did you choose to do this at the Eindhoven and the KTH?
"The short answer: they were the best bike cities out of the possibilities! The longer answer: before applying I asked my network for their experiences with studying abroad around Europe and in general their experiences had been very positive. Taking that into account TU/e and the KTH both have great reputations and the KTH as exit university had an extremely ‘sexy' specialisation in big data analysis, which at the time just sounded more appealing than any of the other options."
How important has the EIT Digital Master School been to you?
"I come from a slightly different academic background, because I studied health informatics. This study was based more around health and information technology and less on technical aspects such as mathematics and programming. It has been very important for me to complete the EIT Digital Master School, both because it was a way for me to prove to myself that I do have what it takes to attain a more technical background and skillset, effectively opening a new set of doors and possibilities for me, and providing me with the confidence boost to be able to tell future employers that I can solve problems I haven't faced before."
"The EIT Digital Master School was also a way for me to step outside my comfort zone, living abroad, pushing my limits academically and working with people from all over the world leading to experiences that I would otherwise not have experienced. I especially look back fondly on my time in Eindhoven, due to the small size of the city everyone was within biking distance of one another. This led to many occasions of barbequing and other get-togethers. Another fond memory is several barbequing get-togethers in Stockholm in the beautiful natural surroundings as well as a study-related trip to a humour research conference in Dallas, Texas."
What would you do next?
"The EIT Digital Master School continues to be important to me in the sense that it really does look quite unique on my resume. Any person who has seen my resume has asked for more information about the EIT Digital Master School, about the technical , the entrepreneurial and cultural aspects. It's quite a unique asset! I expect this to continue following me in my career later as well, at least now I have a big network I can use should I ever need entrepreneurial people with specialised technical skills. I am also quite excited to see what the EIT Digital Alumni Network has to offer. I see the EIT Alumni Network as a great resource to find like-minded and skilled people who can join your project when you have an idea which is ready to materialise into a startup".
Are you planning to start your own business?
"Someday I'm pretty sure I will. I think, however, I still have more to learn. Already having knowledge of technology and entrepreneurship is a great step in the right direction, but I also believe that getting to know different industries is equally important, as well as having a strong professional network in the country where you plan to start your startup. I will work on these things first, I think I will also get tired of corporate bureaucracy, and then, probably three to five years from now, I will be ready to go out. Who knows? I'm sure it will happen sooner or later."
How do you envision your career now?
"Well, I now have a double degree in a highly sought-after field. I have an international background and I have become quite confident as well. I am a Dane, so I do have to obide by the law of Jante (basically, be humble) so I can't go too crazy on envisioning my career. What I can say is that every person and company I have given my resume to has contacted me back; every time I took an interest in the company I was invited to an interview and there was only one occasion when I didn't get offered the job. I was hired at IBM as a graduate in their "consulting by degrees" programme three weeks before I handed in my thesis. Right now, I am very excited to see what I can learn from working in Big Blue; this is a company with a wealth of opportunities, brilliant minds and some qualities I can get behind. So, let's see what this leads to, and how long it takes before I am ready to go out and put my entrepreneurship minor to the test."