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Chidi's story

At SAP, we believe that when you bring everything you are, you can become everything you want.

Not only am I working on strategic projects, but I’m also assigned a mentor and a buddy who provide me with technical and business guidance on ways to navigate the data science industry.

Chidi Prince John,
Silicon Valley Next Talent Program participant

My Journey from Nigeria to Silicon Valley

I grew up in North-Central Nigeria.

That itself comes with interesting life events that include learning to understand multiple ethnic languages and learning to grow food crops at an early age. I discovered my love for computational analytics as I found myself attempting to predict our future farm yield. My desire to find the economic and statistical assumptions surrounding these important life activities for Nigerians was the driving force behind my decisions to acquire quantitative degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

As a kid in elementary and high school, I rarely studied with electricity since we received limited electrical supply. This isn’t a unique case - Nigeria is yet to achieve a consistent supply of electricity. Most families from middle and high-income classes can afford gasoline-powered generators to provide alternative electricity to their homes, but that gadget was a luxury for my family. I chose to study with candlelight, and you can still find wax in between some of my grade school textbooks. Despite this significant challenge, I persevered – maintaining my place at the top of my class in academics and maintaining good social relationships.

My interest in computational analytics was amplified after I took my first undergraduate class in on prediction. The topic was regression and my mind raced back to exploring how to use regressions to predict annual farm yield (food is always on the brain). I remember asking my professor if that was a viable real-life use case for regression and I grew excited when she nodded in affirmation. That moment sparked my desire to pursue a career in data science, where I could solve world problems using predictive models.

At that time, data science was an emerging buzzword and the competition for entry-level jobs in the field was growing. My undergraduate curriculum was quantitatively intense, but it lacked courses in modern programming tools used in data science. To top it off, data science education in Nigeria was non-existent since most of the global advancements in teaching were present in more established markets such as the United States, Canada, India and China.

After securing my undergraduate degree, I enrolled at Duke University for a master’s degree program that provided exposure to data science for people without significant programming or computer science backgrounds. Needing to leave Nigeria gave me mixed feelings. I felt sad because I was leaving my family and my comfort zone to experience life in different environment. On the other hand, I felt excited because I was achieving one of my life goals of acquiring a graduate degree in a country that provides the best education in the world. After graduating from Duke, securing an offer in data science was tough due to the massive entry-level talent pool in the U.S. This factor discourages a lot of talents from pursuing data science careers.

In the end, I was excited to find a role with SAP through the Silicon Valley Next Talent Program, their recent grad rotational program. I started in January 2020 and I’ve learned how data science influences enterprise software. I currently work with the Machine Learning Business Network Team, working on projects that provide machine learning features to the wide range of procurement services offered by SAP. These projects include developing new machine learning models, improving existing ones, and deploying these models for use in procurement and supply chain use cases.

I’m excited to be an employee of SAP, a company that highly values early talent. Not only am I working on strategic projects, but I’m also assigned a mentor and a buddy who provide me with technical and business guidance on ways to navigate the data science industry. The journey from Nigeria to Silicon Valley was an interesting ride and I hope it inspires people hoping to break into data science. And who knows, perhaps SAP will get a customer in agriculture that I’ll be able to work with in the future – are you reading Tyson Foods or Foster Farms?

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