The job he loved could barely pay his bills...

Dr Jectone Oyoo

Dr Jectone Oyoo is the founder of Smart Data Analytic.

Photo credit: Pool

Dr Jectone Oyoo had worked as a banker in Kenya for five years when he relocated to the United States in search of greener pastures 13 years ago. Soon, he discovered that the job he loved could barely pay his bills.

He had three options: to continue working as a banker for minimum wage, to work as a trucker and spend months on the road during winter, or to reskill.

The University of Alabama graduate chose to upskill and took up a course in data analytics, a choice he is proud of today. His company, Smart Data Analytic, trains professionals intending to work abroad. He talks about what it takes to work overseas, why data analytics is the new frontier and how young professionals can position themselves for the job market.

Having to retrain must have been unsettling for you…

It was. Some MBA holders have sometimes had to go back to school just to find work. It is disappointing for a career person to have to settle for a lower job owing to narrow choices. In some jurisdictions, working as a cashier or a bank teller is not as prestigious as it is in Kenya, where a graduate certificate is required. While the pay is reasonably good here, cashiers in some countries earn a minimum wage. Investment bankers, however, earn more. But you must have the requisite credentials.

What happens when one cannot find a job abroad?

Jobs are in plenty abroad, especially in the medical field. While you may have nursing qualifications from your country, you will often be required to retrain. Reskilling is a long process that could take a minimum of four years. You will often have to go back to school to learn mathematics, chemistry and biology before being allowed to enrol in nursing school. Thereafter it is easier to get a decent job that will comfortably pay your bills.

Why did you settle for data analysis? How marketable is this area?

Skills in Python, Tableau and SQL (Structured Query Language), Alteryx and Power BI are in high demand globally. The skills are required in the fields of health, finance, insurance, oil and gas and in governance. Opportunities exist in government, technology companies, banks, and in non-governmental organisations. Highly skilled professionals in this area are in lucrative jobs.

What are some of the practical uses of data analytics?

When you apply for a loan in developed countries, for instance, no one will inspect your house to assess your collateral. There is an efficient credit system that contains every person’s score. Based on your borrowing history, the system determines your creditworthiness and risk. Hospitals have a system with the entire medical history of a patient. The same tool is used by medical health insurance providers to determine the most suitable cover for an individual.

Besides skills mismatch, what other struggles do immigrants face abroad?

Not having the relevant academic papers is a major issue. Getting a work visa is also difficult. Foreigners with a student visa are not allowed to work. If they must, it has to be within the school premises. Even so, sometimes you are not allowed to work for more than 24 hours a week. This type of work earns you only minimum wage. The income may not cover your tuition and living expenses such as transport, meals and internet. It is even harder for those in top universities where tuition is higher. Many students end up working under the table.

What is required to learn data skills?

You do not have to have background in IT to learn data analytics. A computer than can host heavy software and a stable internet connection are vital. Most of the courses are offered online in a collocation because in-person training is expensive. Some Kenyans train from Europe. Training involves watching an instructor perform some tasks and performing them after them. With more advanced tools, virtual training has become easier. You can train before travelling abroad.

There must be opportunities in this market as well…

Government departments are always on the lookout for professionals to break down metadata for insights that influence decision-making. Local companies too are keen to understand consumer behaviour to make the right investment decisions. This gives analysts the leeway to work in organisations of their choice with attractive compensation.

Training must be expensive for such a highly sought after skill…

These courses are short. Most last a maximum of 14 weeks. Notably, the skills are also not offered at university level. Often, companies have to train their own staff through apprenticeship. This is an expensive undertaking. It takes about $4000 (Sh500,000) on average to acquire the skills.

What do you consider your biggest contribution to this market as a data expert?

My desire is to see as many young Kenyan professionals as possible attain data skills. To do this, I recently entered into a working partnership with Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology (JKUAT) to train their students. I am exploring more avenues to impart these skills to young people.

Anything young professionals should know about positioning themselves?

Be known for at least one special skill. Always upskill and never get tired of becoming better. Collect all the necessary competencies and certifications in your area. When you have stacked up experience over time, develop a solid résumé and portfolio. This should capture your vital abilities and some of your work. This is what industry demands. If you are passionate about data analytics, you cannot go for long without work.


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