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Meet a Mentor: Sam Birkentals

Written by James Adams

Sam Birkentals

Sam's Key Achievements and Experience

  • Completed Energy Engineering degree before choosing a career in tech
  • Got into coding as a way of improving daily workflow, and started off self-taught.
  • Strong analytical skills and the ability to see the bigger picture

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Hi, Sam, can you tell us a bit about your professional background and coding experience?

I've been drawn to code since school and university. Even though I had completed an Energy Engineering degree and worked in that field for the first few years, I took every opportunity to write Python code where I could to improve my daily workflow or to run some numeric analysis. The analytical angle is what took me into a Energy Analyst role which then led to a Data Scientist position and now into a AWS-based Data Engineer role where I design and build cloud data platforms as a Senior Consultant for various customers.

Were there any internal struggles you've overcome on your journey?

The tech industry is so wide and has so many layers that it's hard to know what to focus on. I've always preferred to understand the whole rather than digging deep in a direction that may turn out to be wrong for me - so it took me a good while to get started properly and I still get distracted by all kinds of tech not related to my current role and career.

Why have you decided to support Tech Educators as a mentor? What kind of support can the students and graduates expect from you?

There are huge opportunities for general life improvement when working in tech.

The typically higher salaries and flexibility when it comes to working hours and location means that you get to spend more time on the things that matter to you in your life. I would like to support people starting out in this space by helping them not get bogged down with all the busy work and distractions that can spring up and help them focus on the effective skills they need and mindset that will help them succeed in a sustainable way.

Starting any course is a big commitment in terms of time and money, and it’s only natural for people to wonder if it will pay off?

I don't know how much you're charging people for this course so I can't comment on how likely it is to pay off! [laughs]

However, I should think it may be a better alternative to £10,000s worth of Uni debt!

What advice could you give to people who may find coding daunting — whether they’re thinking of changing careers or just finishing school?

You don't need to be techy or a maths genius!

Programming problems in business primarily revolve around figuring out what your co-workers and customers want and then doing the detective work to figure out how you can accommodate these new needs in a system that were designed with different kinds of problems in mind. The technical frameworks and new way of thinking with code will settle in your head as you practice.

Communication skills and the ability to empathise with the people you're working with will help you the most and being a natural problem-solver helps a lot!

About the Author

James has 8 years with Fortune 200 US firm ITW, experience of managing projects in China, USA, and throughout Europe. James has worked with companies such as Tesco, Vauxhall, ITW, Serco, McDonalds. James has experience in supporting start-up and scale up companies such as Readingmate, Gorilla Juice and Harvest London. James completed his MBA at the University of East Anglia in 2018.

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