Cody Szeto is director of the IT&T, engineering, supply chain and procurement divisions at Kelly Services Hong Kong.
Will MOOCs make me stand out to Hong Kong employers?
How much weight do employers give to job candidates’ skills that have been acquired via online courses? I have started studying some data analysis courses on sites such as Coursera and Udacity and I am learning a lot, but I’m not sure how good they will look on my CV compared to, say, a master’s at a recognised university. To me it makes much more sense to study these “MOOCs” (massive open online courses) because of their flexibility and the fact that a lot of them are free. Could I get a job as a data analyst having only studied related online courses?
I have learned about data analysis courses provided by Coursera and Udacity on community websites and forums. The stories I have heard are mostly positive – including how an analyst with basic Excel skills advanced his career to become a data scientist after learning how to do predictive modelling using Python scripts through Udacity.
However, you are correct in pointing out that these MOOCs are not well known among Hong Kong employers. In general, certificates or credits from recognised institutions get higher recognition. I can see that the institutions you are “attending” do partner with well-known educational institutions such as Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, and respectable tech companies such as Google and Facebook. Hence, you may want to state the partner institution of your course (if any) on your CV and detail the job-relevant course elements.
The job market is very pragmatic nowadays. Acquiring a master’s degree at a recognised university is good, but relevant hands-on work experience is more important for a job switch. Nonetheless, a master’s degree can be helpful for your career at a later stage. Given the time and money you need to put in for a master’s, though, you may need to decide what the best time is for making this investment in your future.
In pursuance of a career in data analytics, you may consider beefing up your hands-on experience – either through working on special projects at your existing company (if you are currently employed), picking up relevant freelance projects or helping non-profits on pro bono projects.
According to Kelly’s latest global workplace research, more than 70 per cent of Hong Kong employees were more concerned about their skills being outdated than being laid off. This highlights the emergence of a new breed of workers – the “career resilient employees” who cultivate their own career paths despite what their existing employers or current role can offer. The survey also reflects that these well-armed employees are in a better position to stand the test of time in view of company restructuring and cut-backs.
I wish you all the best in your job switch to become a data analyst, and in your journey to become a career-resilient employee of the 21st century!
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Will MOOCs make me stand out to HK employers?