Eugene Chua at work
Eugene Chua at work
Imagine if you had the ability to collect and read data to precisely spot where a business is failing: be it at product messaging or delivery.

Imagine If you had the power to determine, to almost decimal point accuracy, the increase in sales revenue the tweak of a button on the website would bring.

Knowledge is power, and knowledge is what applied statisticians bring to the table. Eugene Chua is an applied statistician, and he can attest to the hard work and determination required to be a good applied statistician.

Eugene graduated from Nanyang Technological University with a Bachelor of Economics in 2011. Since then, he has worked as a contractual marketing analyst at Google, statistical analyst at IMDA, and senior research analyst at Rysense.

Despite all that experience, Eugene remains humble about his achievements:

“My job is under the hood; I am usually labelled as a marketing or business intelligence analyst,” he says.
“In my previous roles, I was often using conventional statistical techniques to solve marketing or business problems.“

An example was building regression models for banks, to better understand the key drivers of customer satisfaction.

Another example is improving marketing campaigns. For example, a simple change to a bank’s marketing mix could be a game-changer. Using more online digital advertising as opposed to traditional above-the-line marketing could potentially bring in more customers through carefully targeted ads. On the flip side if marketeers get their marketing mix wrong, this could be an exercise in futility. It is up to Eugene to run the right experiments and gather accurate insights, to ensure that the campaign is heading in the right direction.

“I believe that every dataset tells a story,” Eugene says, “provided that it has undergone the necessary pre-processing and cleaning it requires.”

Using this approach, he could potentially help businesses save millions that would otherwise have been spent on expensive, old-school “trial and error” approaches.

It is a job that requires constant learning

Applied statisticians are in great demand, but their field is also highly competitive and fast-changing.

The skill sets they need to have are varied — and while application of economics and mathematics is a must, applied statisticians often need to “talk” to computers via programming languages.

“My Bachelor’s was in Economics and I didn’t take any programming classes in University,” Eugene says, “My degree gave me a pretty good foundation to launch a career in the marketing sciences. But as I progressed in my career, I quickly realised that the statistics field has evolved substantially...

...even statisticians are expected to code in R, and have some degree of fluency with a database language these days. This is especially important, as the datasets we’re working with are also getting significantly larger. “

Eugene’s decision to pick up programming has been instrumental in his career. “Upgrade or be obsolete,” he says, “I have had opportunities to work in analytics for research agencies as well as in a major tech company… but this would certainly not be possible if I did not possess any programming chops.”

His advice to those who want to embark on a data science career or work as an applied statistician? Learn programming languages.

“Those trying to break into the field should pick up languages such as R and Python, Eugene says, “as these two languages are very essential to the data science ecosystem. Using R mainly for inferential analysis while Python is especially important for building predictive models for production.”

Want to stay in demand as a data scientist? School is never out

Data science is a new and exciting field. But “new and exciting” means that current concepts are constantly being improved upon be improved upon, and fresh developments are always in sight.

Eugene has these words of caution for anyone looking to enter the lucrative field of data science data science:

“This is a very competitive field, and it isn’t easy to break into this industry,” he says,“A lot of hard work and persistency is required, as well as a desire for self-improvement given that this field is evolving at a pretty relentless pace. The technological stack that is relevant today, may be obsolete in a few years’ time.”

As such, Eugene applied for the SkillsFuture Study Award to help defray a portion of out-of-pocket expenses for his Data Science course fees at General Assembly. He has since completed the course, and is now pursuing a Master of Technology in Enterprise Business Analytics at NUS. 

While his field is competitive, Eugene feels that there are abundant opportunities. There’s plenty of room for talented data scientists right now:

“I believe that we should still be seeing a strong upwards growth in demand for data related jobs,” Eugene says, “There is just so much latent data that is sitting out there, but yet the supply of data talents has not kept pace.”

Success in the data science field boils down to passion and persistence. A genuine interest in the subject is needed, to fuel one to keep going. It may just be as important as an aptitude for numbers:

“I believe that passion is a vital ingredient,” Eugene says, “as it gives you the added drive to uncover the story behind every dataset. Everyone can pick up the numbers eventually, but it is the attitude that matters.”

“I didn’t learn machine learning algorithms overnight, it is through years of on the job training, as well as working through online Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS), that I gained a better understanding of these algorithms.”

MOOCS are training courses which are delivered online. They’re especially useful for busy individuals, who may not be able to commit the time to physical classroom learning. IMDA offers a range of such courses on its website. 

About SkillsFuture Study Awards

The SkillsFuture Study Awards equip Singaporeans with the skills needed to benefit from quality jobs created by our economy. As Singapore continues our transition to an innovation-driven economy, new skills and competencies among Singaporeans will be in demand. Jobs are also evolving with new functions and existing ones requiring updated skillsets.

The SkillsFuture Study Awards encourage Singaporeans to develop and deepen specialist skills needed by future economic growth sectors or in areas of demand. It also supports Singaporeans who already have deep specialist skills to develop other competencies.

This article is written by Ryan Ong and information is accurate as of 14 August 2019