Walter Shields Data Academy

Career Transitions to Data Science: How They Changed Careers



Why Make the Switch to Data Science?

Ever considered a complete career shift? Wee Teck Lee’s interest was ignited by an article from the Harvard Business Review titled “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.” Working as an operations manager, he realized it wasn’t his lifelong calling. Intrigued by the article, he began exploring data science using platforms like Coursera to get a grip on the basics. By 2014, Lee had quit his job to pursue a Master of IT in Business (MITB) at Singapore Management University (SMU).

Changzhong Zhuang took a similar path. After five years in private practice as a lawyer, he sought a meaningful change. Fascinated by finance and technology, he enrolled in SMU’s MITB program in 2021. Both Lee and Zhuang currently work in data and analytics at companies such as Cariuma and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) Group. But getting there meant going back to school.


Up Close and Personal Learning

Both selected SMU’s MITB program because of its proven track record. Launched in 2007, it’s one of the earliest programs in Singapore. They valued SMU’s interactive approach, with small class sizes fostering close bonds between students and professors. Seminars and classroom discussions were key highlights. “With only 30 to 40 people per class, interaction was easy,” Lee noted. Zhuang agreed, adding that small class sizes maximize learning opportunities.


Real-World Projects

Project work played a significant role in their experience at MITB. Different team members worked together on various projects, honing their collaboration, communication, and presentation skills. “Each project involved different team members, providing diverse experiences and connections,” Lee shared. Zhuang added that project work equipped them with essential soft skills that are invaluable in the corporate world.


Hands-On Learning

Students could choose from four tracks—analytics, AI, digital transformation, and financial technology. Lee opted for analytics, while Zhuang went for financial technology. These choices determined the kind of real-world learning opportunities they encountered. Lee interned at a healthcare institution, applying classroom knowledge to real data in a customer segmentation project. Zhuang worked with a startup focused on financial crime, gaining fresh perspectives through investigative and coding tasks.


International Exposure

Zhuang also had the chance to go overseas during his MITB program. He spent two weeks in Finland, participating in a module on digital business. This culminated in presenting digital transformation solutions to Finnish companies. “It was thrilling to meet company stakeholders and help design solutions for them,” he shared.


Career Evolution

After graduating in 2014, Lee joined Zalora and has since held various data science roles, now serving as the head of data at Cariuma. “MITB initiated my career shift to data analytics,” he said. The program provided a solid foundation for his progress.

Zhuang transitioned from law to compliance, becoming assistant vice president at SGX Group while still enrolled in the MITB program. Conversations with peers revealed new opportunities, enabling him to utilize the skills gained during MITB and leverage his legal background.


Staying Future-Ready

In a data-driven world, keeping up with tech changes is crucial. Both Lee and Zhuang emphasize lifelong learning. Whether through online resources, short courses, or master’s programs, staying relevant is essential. “Tech advances quickly. Staying up-to-date is hard but necessary to identify new opportunities,” Lee pointed out. Zhuang added, “It’s important to learn how to learn. Frameworks help synthesize new information in a rapidly changing world.”



Lee and Zhuang’s journeys highlight the importance of continuous learning and adaptation. Their stories serve as inspiration for anyone considering a career pivot to data science. If you’re contemplating such a switch, remember lifelong learning is the key to staying relevant in today’s fast-paced tech world.


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