COVID-19 Pandemic: Should I Start Work or Go Back to School?

Looking through social media pages of many of my friends, it seems like it is another round of the job search season for the graduates of 2021. This brings back fond memories of my job search season last year, and I thought that I should write a post like this for those who are unsure of whether to start work or go back to school, especially during this pandemic. (For context, I started working recently at a Retail and FMCG Multinational Company, and turned down my full time masters degree offer from NUS, losing $100 in administrative fees in the process.)

Go to Work

It is a good choice to choose to go to work for some reasons.

If you were to look at the Job Descriptions of multiple jobs, you would realise that many of the jobs would require X number of work experience. That seems to imply that in order to even get a good job, you would need to have work experience. What better way than to just get started and join the working world right after graduation? If you have the skills which could let you succeed in your first job which you are interested in, by all means, you should go to work to see a brand new perspective and start building the career you wish to have.

Another reason to head out to work is to be able to earn an income. If your finances are tighter and you would like some financial freedom, going to work is the best way to start paying off the student debt and start living the life of an adult.

Building your network can also be one of the reasons to head out to work. By going out to work, you stand the chance to start building relationships with your co-workers, which can potentially be a chance for you to bring your personal brand out there into the industry.

Go back to School

Especially since it is a pandemic, and opportunities may be scarce out there, going back to school may be a good option.

One of the reasons why you should go back to school is if the career of interest requires certain prerequisite knowledge to enter. For instance, you may be interested in full-time research. If so, a PhD may be the way to go. If you majored in engineering, but would like to go into a different sector, for instance in business consulting, a graduate degree in business may help you gain more knowledge and keep you better positioned for an opportunity in the sector.

Another reason to go back to school is getting more opportunities in the process. When you are back in school, there is likely a dedicated career office available to provide career guidance for students. You would be able to access the various internship portals to acquire more experience.

Go to Work, while still up-skilling yourself

For myself, I decided to go to work, while still up-skilling myself. This is the way to stay relevant in the future economy. This way, one could get the best of both worlds, learning while also gaining precious work experience, in order to better position oneself in future.

The different ways to up-skill oneself while at work includes taking a part time degree in university, doing online courses, or just doing new things, for instance doing volunteer projects.

For more on why I decided to return to university while working full time:

For more on skills for the future economy, do read this:

For more on doing online courses, do read my experience with Coursera here:

Image Credits: Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash


What I learned from Text Mining 400 Spam Comments on my Blog using R

Hey everyone! Welcome back to another amazing analytics post this week. If you are a frequent visitor of my blog, and somehow made a genuine comment here, you would have noticed your comment never appears. If you saw the screenshot above, out of a total of 999 comments, I have marked 400 as spam.

I was reading through some really interesting comments on my blog and I was thinking, why not try doing some text analytics to see what are spammers most interested in talking about on my blog.

Some simple explanation, text mining is a common way to do sentiment analysis on long lines of text which many market researchers do not want to look through. By going through specific text found in the whole data, researchers want to find out what the general public is talking about. In this instance, I want to find out what spam comments are generally being posted to my blog.

A bit of Data Cleaning: The very manual and boring part…

I started off by copying 400 comments and saving it inside a txt file. As my professor always said, data analytics is about 80% data cleaning and 20% analysis. I would change the 20% analysis to 19% and add 1% in terms of insights, which is what the business world truly values.

My First Round of Analysis

After a whole massive cleaning exercise here are the first set of results, represented in a word cloud of my top 30 most popular words in the spam.

The most popular keyword is http… Which means people are spamming websites.

The most popular keyword in the list of comments is http, which many websites start with (https was also likely in the list with the s being removed and recoded as http.) The second most popular keyword is urlqhttp which is probably also a website.

In 400 posts, there were close to 8000 times http has appeared.

In 400 posts, there were close to 8000 instances a web address has appeared, which means on average, spammers were posting 20 links to my blog. (They are probably trying to create backlinks to their website to improve their search engine rankings, which also will damage my website search engine ranking if it has too many backlinks out.) Thankfully these comments did not see the light of day.

Site and blog were the next highest which would make sense to come out 1.5 times per comment. Things like: This is an amazing blog/site, before adding in other things.

These links all appeared 582 times, which should be more or less safe to assume they are posted by the same poster.

These websites were also the most frequent in the comments, in the same frequency, it is likely that a bot has been created by a poster to consistently post the same thing over and over again. (Or perhaps he is that free and did it manually.) It was nice to know that spammers on my blog is interested in reviews, trips and books, linking things, and some German place which consists of Freiheit, which means political freedom (Yes, I learned German for 4 years before.). I did not open the links as I was worried of any potential spyware.

Okay that is enough analysis for today. If you are interested, do drop by for round 2! If the viewership is high enough, I’ll likely run another analysis on more comments in future.

If you liked the analysis, you may like this analysis too!

Otherwise you might want to know how to put analytics and management together!


Reflections from 3 Months of Distance Learning on Coursera

It has been a few months since graduation. Due to the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I was unable to have my graduation trip. With my job offer just recently attained back then, I needed to find some time for productivity. It was also during this period where NTU had a new collaboration with Coursera and I decided to give it a try. Here are some of my insights and reflections. This post is not going to be so much on the content which I learned, but my general views on online learning.

Opportunity to Learn Interesting New Content

Less the Chinese course which I took as a quick refresher, I took a total of 9 courses on Coursera from 4 Universities (HEC Paris, IE Business School, John Hopkins University and Yonsei University), spanning topics in creativity, innovative management, marketing, retail management, data science and Korean.

Some of these topics were not readily available in my home university at NTU, or just really hard to get a spot in as I have already exceeded the unrestricted electives requirements by a lot and I would be last to get the spots.

By signing up for courses through distance learning, I gained exposure in more areas than I would have done in university.

Time Management in the Absence of Formalised Assessments

Being online courses which were paid for by the NTU or Coursera, there was not really a lot on the line for me. I had the opportunity to learn about various topics in my own time. While that was a really nice incentive, it was also a double-edged sword in the sense that there was no push to complete as many courses as I could. I had initially signed up for 16 courses, which was a really ambitious attempt.

It was not too hard to keep pace at first when I was still at home, waiting to commence working life. However, as work commitments started to pour in, the absence of an actual space to learn and formalised assessments gave rise to procrastination and ultimately the completion of less courses. (Completed 3 courses while in the working world!)

One way to manage was to ensure that I set aside 5-6 hours per week on the courses, which I managed to set into my weekly calendar and this taught me about time management, especially in the working world, where we no longer have the luxury of just taking courses and acing our examinations.

Distance Learning as a Possible Format to Learn in Future

Learning online also let me think about distance learning as a potential format to learn in future. If there is one thing the pandemic this year has done, it brought the world closer together. In the short span of 9 months, I had the chance to experience the teaching format of 4 Universities in 3 Continents. This gave rise to the potential exchange of cultural views through various peer reviewed projects, and we had heated debates through our different world views.

Ultimately, distance learning has made me realise the importance of lifelong learning. There is so much knowledge in the world which I do not actually know. With this, let’s all prospect on as lifelong learners!

If you liked this post, do read the follwing post on the skills required for the digitally transformed economy: