From Investigating Criminals To Visualising Data

Categories: Workplace

Leaving behind a life of fighting crime and protecting the streets of Singapore to become a data scientist, this is not the first time Tieming Yuan has successfully made a career switch.

Tieming, a former investigation officer with the Singapore Police Force, whose prior education was a degree in marketing, took General Assembly’s Immersive Data Science course and is now a data scientist with a global car manufacturer, Toyota Tsusho Asia Pacific. 

He Always Loved Data, He Just Didn’t Know It Yet

Tieming’s love for data started in his early days during his Marketing Degree, even if he did not realise it at the time.

Since young, Tieming’s father, a businessman, had always emphasised to Tieming the importance of being able to promote and brand products. Intending to set up his own company one way, Tieming decided to study marketing at University. 

During his university days, he did a customer segmentation project for Tesco, the third-largest retailer in the world, to find out the key motivating factors behind different customer segments when they purchase groceries. 

From using various data analysis methods such as clustering to discover the various segments to using principal component analysis to reduce the number of dimensions, Tieming developed a detailed marketing campaign that effectively targeted these different segments. 

Discovering the power of data, he found working on the project really fun and immediately fell in love with data analytics. 

Going From Market Research To Policing

After graduation, Tieming worked as a Market Research Executive doing consultancy work for big brands such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Sky Sports. 

While it was great that he got to interact with people from all walks of life to study their behaviours, motivations and fears, there were times that he had to leverage their motivations to help brands more effectively sell to potential customers. 

This went against his conscience and did not sit right with him since some of the customers were from the lowest socio-economic class.

Driven to do something positive for society, he decided to join the Singapore Police Force as he reminisced the enjoyable two years he spent serving the nation during his National Service days. 

Taking A Leap Of Faith (Again) To Chase His Second Dream

For Tieming, the most fulfilling part of being an investigative officer was putting the bad guys in prison so that his loved ones could walk the streets of Singapore safe, at any time of the day without feeling threatened. 

After 3 years of being on the Police Force handling serious sexual crime, suicide cases, catching serial thieves and violent individuals, he left to fulfil his second dream. 

“Policing was my first dream, Data Science was my second dream. I thought of doing Data Science in the Police Force but it did not work out. Since I have a dream, I must chase it. I didn’t want to die with any regrets.”

To make the career shift from being an investigative officer to become a data scientist, Tieming needed to upskill, so he enrolled for the Immersive Data Science course with General Assembly. 

During his course, he learnt useful real-world applications for various Data Science techniques which he still uses today in every project. While it was a challenging 3 months for him, it definitely prepared him well for his career transition.   

A Day In The Life Of A Data Scientist

Now, as a data scientist, his day comprises of understanding the requirements from stakeholders, making sense of different datasets and linking them together to build accompanying visuals which tell a data story.

This process of sorting through the data and making it easy to comprehend makes it easier for the management team to make strategic decisions.

Being a certified agile coach as well, Tieming is helping the company transition from a waterfall project management mindset to an agile mindset. This means guiding team members on agile practices, changing mindsets, empowering team members and ensuring the success of projects — while making sure everyone still has fun.

When asked about his plans for the next 5 years Tieming shares, “I will continue (in Data Science) for the next five years. I love what I am doing and I don’t think I will switch industries. I hope to improve my Data Science, business intelligence and agile skills. I am still learning new knowledge so there is much more for me to explore in Data Science.” 

Living A Life With No Regrets

For Tieming, the career switch from Investigative Officer to Data Scientist took a lot of courage and faith. He did the switch without securing a job, so “it was either I find a job or I starve.”

Naturally, at the same time, there were many unknowns and fears running through his mind. Instead of caving into his fear, he decided to adopt the mindset and motto of “Who dares, wins! Give it your best and live life with no regrets.” to continue pushing himself forward. 

Tieming’s advice for those looking to switch careers? “My motto is: Who dares, wins! Do an in-depth study of the field to come up with a strategy and action plan. Lastly, be disciplined enough to follow through with your plan.”


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