Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Kanako Chapman

By Academy Xi

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After 14 years in accounting, Kanako upskilled and moved internally into a new data analysis role that she’s really passionate about.

Blog - Kanako Chapman (1000 x 563)

Kanako is a recent graduate of our Data Analytics: Elevate course. Read on to find out about Kanako’s Academy Xi experience and how she managed to land an exciting new role auditing and analysing data in her company’s cost control department.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today, Kanako. Can you tell us about your career history?

I’ve been working in the same company for the last 14 years, mainly as an accountant. It’s a large construction company and most of its contracts are big projects for the state government, including bridges and roads.

I was a senior accountant in charge of management reporting and my main KPIs focused on management reporting and auditing the data entered by other staff members in the company. I thought my role would benefit from advanced data analytics skills. I’m a very analytical person with a high attention to detail and wanted to make those characteristics count in my career as much as possible.

A couple of years ago, I moved to another role as a reporting analyst. One of the main objectives of this role was to improve existing reporting processes.

Throughout my time in that role, I taught myself how to use Microsoft Power BI and also developed my capabilities working with Excel. I even managed to get a Microsoft certificate for Data Analyst Associate with Power BI and used advanced formulas and data modelling.

At that stage, I decided that learning programming would enable me to push more data into Power BI. My company uses Power BI quite a lot, so being able to code with Python and SQL seemed like a good way to maximise on the processes we regularly use.

Studying data analytics represented a win-win scenario, since it would either enable me to change careers, or it would improve the way I work in my current role. Developing data analysis skills would help with the tasks I already performed and make the work so much more interesting. Whatever the outcome, studying and getting qualified in data analytics only offered a huge upside.

How did you arrive at studying with Academy Xi?

First, I spent six months carefully researching courses of all levels offered by different providers. These included university master’s degrees, but the courses were two years long and took too long to complete. I even started doing a LinkedIn Learning course in programming while doing my research, but it didn’t really work out very well. I needed the guidance of a taught course.

I looked closely at a university-run six-month bootcamp, but then Academy Xi popped up in my Google searches. The Data Analytics: Elevate course is instructor-led, with live classes and applied projects, and takes only three months to complete, which was a perfect structure and timeframe for me.

When I spoke to the Academy Xi course advisor, she was super friendly and gave me honest advice. I got the impression that she wasn’t just someone trying to make a sale. It also helped that the price was competitive – but not so cheap that I questioned the quality of the product!

How did you find the course?

Honestly, at first I found it quite difficult, but I studied in the evenings and at the weekends and my confidence steadily grew. Also, the other students on the course were really helpful and supportive. A few of them already knew how to code and gave me lots of tips and advice that helped me develop quickly. When it came to SQL, I had quite a lot of experience dealing with tabular format data and was able to pay back the favour.

The first project was based on Python programming, which I didn’t have too much experience with and I found it really challenging. But by the second and final project, which was a linear regression model, I had had plenty of time to practice and was more comfortable with Python. We sourced data using SQL, cleansed it with Python and then programmed data visualisations. Once we’d built the linear regression model and visualisations, we analysed the statistics, handling and interpreting data from end-to-end.

I’m in my mid-forties and before studying with Academy Xi, I thought learning programming was only for young people. But I worked hard, picked up the skills and completed two big data analysis projects. By the end of the course, I was so pleased with my progress.

How did you find the experience of learning online?

I was used to working from home in a lockdown, so it was a familiar way of doing things. If we didn’t have that time in lockdown before, maybe it would have been a different experience for some of us. But everyone on the course seemed totally at ease with the concept of online learning and it was quite natural for all of us to be productive in an online environment.

Because we were in lockdown, I really enjoyed the social aspect of the course format. Everybody appreciated attending the classes, talking to one another and sharing ideas. Some of the other courses I looked at were pre-recorded and less interactive, but the Academy Xi course had live classes, which made a huge difference to the overall experience.

What were your highlights of the course?

Working in a cohort meant that even though I was studying online, I felt well connected. We all helped each other at different stages and developed some good working relationships. I connected with about half of the students on the course via LinkedIn and we’re still connected now, mostly keeping tabs on how everyone is progressing in their careers.

My course mentor, Jeffery, was super smart and really professional. When we were working on the larger project near the end of the course, Jeffery would stick around after the live sessions to answer any questions we had. I booked one-on-one sessions with him and he answered my questions and was also reachable at other times on Slack.

The quality of the course material was also very high and for me, one of the highlights of the course.

How has what you’ve learned helped you in your career?

I’m still at the same company, but it’s enabled me to transition into a new role and work on more interesting projects. I’ve moved out of accounting and into another department called cost control. It’s specific to construction and has to do with analysing company costs and auditing everybody’s financial processes. It’s much more analytical and I now have the chance to create more efficient and automated reporting processes using Power BI and the skills learnt throughout the course.

When I was interviewed for the cost control role, the interviewer was really impressed with what I’d studied at Academy Xi. The project was new and he was open to the possibility of using what I’d learned in data analytics to find new, more effective ways to do things as a department.

We work in Excel a lot and he felt that what I had learned with data analysis would help me optimise the Excel processes the company follows. I’m still working on improving those at the moment and there’s plenty of scope for future improvement.

What would you say to anyone interested in studying data analytics?

Truthfully, the Data Analytics: Elevate course is great and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested. That said, there is a lot to learn in 12 weeks, so be prepared to put in the hours and work hard, if you want to get the most out of the course. 

On some level, I feel as though there might be even more value in what you learn about yourself than what it is you learn from the course content itself. I think it’s important to prove to yourself that you can do difficult things, that anything’s possible at any age.

Even at what seems like a later point in life, you can always learn new skills. Developing a new complicated skill set at this stage in my career has given me a massive confidence boost.

Kanako Chapman

What are your plans for the future, Kanako?

In the short term, I’ve started to teach myself how to write macros in Excel. Learning to work with Python has given me so much self-belief, so I’m feeling ultra confident and ready to develop any new skills my career needs.

At some point in the future, I might want to study data analysis to an even deeper level, but my job keeps me very busy and I’m really happy with what I’m doing right now. It’s a really great team and an interesting project that I’m now part of and I’m enjoying my day-to-day work more than ever.

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