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My journey, From Data Student to Project:Hack Veteran

Amena Zepherin



My name is Alex, an MSc Data Science postgraduate student with Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and member of the teams that achieved 2nd and 3rd place in Project:Hack 8 and Project:Hack 9 respectively. 

Having graduated in law, worked in banking and asset management, and then pursued a master’s degree in data science, I love walking out of my little domain bubble. What are other companies doing, what are other industries doing and how are they doing it? You never know what you are going to learn or who you are going to meet, and information is valuable. It gives you perspective. 

These questions brought me to Project:Hack 8 in March of this year and, subsequently, Project:Hack 9 in June. Both were well organised and structured by Projecting Success, with technical support ready if needed. The challenges were clear, practical, and commercially relevant, and the pool of participants diverse. From students, apprentices and newly minted coders to data scientists, project managers and the wonderful people from Gleeds: James Garner, Nicola Herring, Manojit Sarkar, Nahid Jafar, Sheldon Atkinson and Basel Yousef, who welcomed and treated me like an equal member of the team although I was just a student. 

During Project:Hack 9 we tackled Challenge 11, namely a cost prediction model that uses machine learning to improve cost forecasting on construction projects. Whilst this challenge was within my field of data science, I had limited knowledge of the context in which the solution was being developed, namely construction projects, and two of the programming languages. But I was curious and ready to put in the effort. 

We were pragmatic and creative in our approach, a reflection of Gleeds’ own vision and values, and within 18 hours we created an innovative solution that brought us 3rd place. As well as working in HTML and Java for the first time, and more interaction with Power Apps, I also gained deeper insight into an industry that I had previously thought as difficult to access given my background but which I am now actively considering shifting to from financial services. 

As with everything in life, an opportunity is only as valuable as you make it. Whether looking to put your skills into practice, expand your portfolio or strengthen your business acumen for graduate programme applications, Project:Hack is a well worth investment as a student. 

Be brave, be intrigued and be yourself. The challenge sponsors want to work with you, they want to hear your ideas and see what you can create. Your input matters. 

As for me? I’m a convert. With two successful hacks behind me and many challenges still to be tackled my work here is not done. Prior commitments are keeping me busy in August however roll on Project:Hack 11! 




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