Ilija Filipovski for us at Data Masters is what you call the „life of the party“ or in our case the star of the office. Always here to brighten your day, full of energy and jokes, but simultaneously fully dedicated when executing tasks. His story at Data Masters started three years ago through our Academy and then it followed a steady and successful trajectory, filled with knowledge and accomplished goals in his career as a Data Scientist. In September last year, Ilija started a new chapter in his educational journey and became a postgraduate student at TU Wien.
We talked with him about the memories he has from his early beginnings at Data Masters, the progress he has made, and how the Master’s studies contribute to his professional development and achieving goals.
THREE YEARS AT DATA MASTERS. CONGRATULATIONS ON THE ANNIVERSARY! GOING BACK TO JUNE 2019, WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER FROM THOSE EARLY BEGINNINGS, AND WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS BACK THEN?
Thank you, and cheers to celebrating many more! So, going back to my earliest memories of Data Masters I remember meeting a team eager to succeed and learn, but at the same time a team ready to educate people. At that time the team consisted of fewer than 10 people, with the data science team being represented by only 3 people, including me That team loved to party and have fun, and as Data Masters grows, I can see that that same enthusiasm, comradery, and energy is present three years later when we have lots of new colleagues. I would say that that is one of the biggest traits of the company.
YOU ARE THE PERFECT EXAMPLE OF HOW DATA MASTERS BUILD PEOPLE THROUGH ITS ACADEMY. FROM TODAY’S PERSPECTIVE, HOW BIG OF AN IMPACT DID THE ACADEMY HAVE ON YOUR CAREER?
The Academy provided the ideal setting for me to advance my education and launch my career. From my undergraduate studies, I had some understanding of computer science, mathematics, and statistics, but not enough to use them for real applications. This became a reality at some point throughout my internship, and I began working on real projects in addition to the academic ones I completed.
On the other hand, I had an active role in creating curriculums and taught people at the Academy so I got to experience how to be a student and a teacher. That’s part of the vision of Data Masters – that every one of us can and should share our knowledge. I am very glad I had a role in that.
THE MENTORSHIP PROCESS ALSO CONTRIBUTES TO BUILDING TOP-NOTCH DATA SCIENTISTS AT DATA MASTERS, AND YOUR CAREER HAS BEEN SUPERVISED BY MARTINA NAUMOVSKA. WHAT’S THE MOST SIGNIFICANT BENEFIT AND VALUE YOU HAVE GAINED THROUGH THE MUTUAL DYNAMIC?
Having a good mentor is a really crucial part of one’s early career. I was lucky enough to have a mentor that taught me so much, while also being very patient! If I have to be specific, Martina taught me lots of technical knowledge and its application, but I would say that I have grown as a person by having the opportunity to have a mentor like her. Because it’s not just the technical stuff that makes you a professional in this field, soft skills also play a big part in it.
All the seniors and mentors at Data Masters are working by the same principle, allowing everybody to work on real-life projects, and trusting them to be in direct contact with the clients. This is not something that they are doing after a certain amount of time, but it happens from the beginning. We are all learning by doing, from day one!
IN THESE THREE YEARS, YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK ON PROJECTS INVOLVING CHURN, DEMAND FORECASTING, NLP, DATA ANALYTICS, AND SCRAPING. WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGE SO FAR AND WHAT TYPES OF PROJECTS DO YOU WANT TO WORK ON IN THE FUTURE?
All of them are challenging in a certain way. Some of them were technically challenging, and some of them required a business understanding of the client’s requirements. However, from each and every one of them, I learned something on an individual level, and at the same time, we all learned as a team. Hopefully, we get even more exciting and challenging projects. You see, that’s the beauty of this field – the constant challenge that comes with every new project and makes you a better Data Scientist.
If I have to choose a specific field, it would be amazing to do additional projects in NLP, and some new ones in computer vision.
ONE OF THE POSTULATES AT DATA MASTERS REGARDING EMPLOYEES’ PROGRESS IS GIVING THEM CONSTANT SUPPORT AND CREATING A SETTING WHERE THEY CAN THRIVE. HOW DID DATA MASTERS SUPPORT YOUR NEW EDUCATIONAL CHAPTER?
From day one at Data Masters, I wanted to become a student again, but this time not in my home country. Martina and the whole management team were aware of this and very supportive. The team at Data Masters helped me choose the right university, master’s program, and courses. In a way, they steered me in the right direction in more ways than one. I am very grateful I have them as a support system, especially because the balance between work and education can be challenging.
ON THAT TOPIC WHY HAVE YOU CHOSEN SPECIFICALLY THE UNIVERSITY IN VIENNA? AND HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE WHOLE EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE SO FAR?
TU Wien is one of the top 100 universities in Europe overall, and it is in the top 50 universities for computer science and business informatics. It is a University with many students, so it sometimes seems chaotic. But the quality of the materials we get and the projects we get to work on are compensating for the chaotic part. The program is structured in a way so a student can choose which major studies he\she would like to focus more on and gain knowledge of it.
WHAT HELPED YOU THE MOST IN THE ADJUSTMENT PROCESS AND ALSO NOW WHEN YOU ARE STUDYING AND WORKING FULL SPEED?
Having a team that supports me in my academic journey means a lot. First, it is a significant advantage to be able to work remotely. At Data Masters, we can work in a hybrid environment, both from home and at the office. Also, we have flexible working hours which allows me to be able to attend lectures and meet academic deadlines. However, it is also very important to be focused on work as well and meet the client’s expectations and deadlines. Combining these two is challenging, but having coworkers like I do makes it much easier. With good teamwork and communication, we meet the client’s expectations and they also help me with ideas for my university projects.
HOW ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES IN CULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT? WHICH ARE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SKOPJE AND VIENNA, AND WHAT DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
There are a lot of differences and a lot of similarities. Vienna is a multicultural city with a lot of people from Macedonia, its neighboring countries, and other countries worldwide. This sometimes makes up for the stuff I miss at home. Mostly, I miss the people at home, my friends, family, and coworkers.
Vienna as a city and Austria as a country, are very well organized, which makes it very easy to understand what needs to be done in order to get a residence permit (student visa).
WE TALKED ABOUT THE PREVIOUS THREE YEARS, BUT WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS AND DREAMS FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS?
I have a couple of goals, both professionally and academically. Academically my goal is to complete my master’s degree. Professionally my goal is to work on projects in the deep learning field and gain more knowledge about it. These goals can be combined with each other. Exciting times are ahead of me as an individual and for all of us at Data Masters!