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Oxford grad discusses life after university

FAMILY: From left - Jonathan's godfather Nathaniel Johnson, sister Marion, Jonathan and mum Jacqueline

JONATHAN BROOKS-Bartlett first hit the headlines after he and his twin Marion both earned a PhD after gaining top honours at undergraduate level.

A mere seven months later, Bartlett now works as a data scientist for News UK, and has a few words of wisdom for the young undergraduates about to start their time at university.

We caught up with the Oxford graduate to discuss his new role, the future, and advice for the youth.

Q: So congratulations on graduating from university! How did it feel to graduate and enter the 'real world'?

A: The graduation was great. I was so happy to be able to celebrate the graduation with my partner, friends and family. Furthermore, my DPhil supervisor was pro proctor so she was the person to call out my name at the ceremony. It’s rare that this ever happens so I am very lucky.

I don’t feel much different about entering the 'real world' simply because I finished started my current role in January so Monday morning was back to work as usual.

Q: You now work as a date scientist for News UK. How did that role come about?

JBB: During my DPhil I used various techniques in my research that overlapped with those used in data science in industry so I was looking into data science as a career path during the final year of my research.

I presented some work that I did for a company during a data science bootcamp last August at a meetup and there were a couple of representatives from News UK at the event. They were impressed with my presentation and invited me to interview and the rest is history.

Q: Is the role in alignment with your plans for the future?

A: Yeah very much so. I love writing and implementing complex and 'intelligent' algorithms, so to be able to find a job that allows me to do that is fantastic. Of course, you can’t be too certain about what the future holds so we’ll see what happens but I have no plans to drastically change my direction.

Q: Leaving university can be scary for many people. What advice can you give to future graduates upon leaving university?

A: Start thinking about what you want to do before you finish your course – it makes a big difference. I was looking into options many months before I finished. I did a data science bootcamp with a company called Pivigo and that opened my eyes to what opportunities were available and kickstarted my data science network in London

Q: What were some of the things you did to prepare for leaving from uni?

A: As I mentioned before, I participated in a five-week data science bootcamp before finishing university so I had some relevant experience when applying. I actually submitted my thesis three months early so that I could convince my supervisor to let me take the time off to participate.

I also looked for the type of skills that were asked for in job specifications. So I knew I had to learn certain programming packages and technology tools to be able to stand out. So I incorporated these into my DPhil work.

Q: Studying at universities like Oxford is quite an accomplishment. Whilst prestigious universities like the former and Cambridge have been criticised for their lack of diversity, what was your experience attending university?

A: There is a discouraging lack of diversity at Oxford University (and I can only imagine the same can be said about Cambridge University too). With that said, since leaving London after school to go to the University of Southampton, I’ve realised that not many universities are all that multicultural.

This is in contrast to the locals in the city. Oxford city was quite diverse. Throughout my nine years spent on the university campus it’s hard to think of any outright malicious prejudice that I encountered but you do end-up getting desensitised to the micro-aggressions that you encounter on a regular basis.

Q: What advice would you give to students aspiring to attend a university like Oxford?

A: Work hard and try not to compare yourself to other people. Oxford will work you hard and so it’s important to ensure you are highly motivated and have a good work ethic.

But also many people will put on a front to make themselves seem like they are the best. This can be quite intimidating for someone if they haven’t come from a similar environment. The truth is that most people there are no better than another other person and so as long as you work hard and focus on your own development, you will succeed.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: It’s hard to know exactly where I’ll be but I just know that I want to be better than I am and I expect my job and my status to hopefully reflect that. I would like to be a go-to person for data science in the industry, so I hope to build a proven track record for success.

I also hope to give back to the community I came from. Try to help give motivating talks at school and/or run skills sessions for young kids to help them realise the opportunities that are available to them.

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