Data Scientist, Hamilton City Council - Hamilton
- Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences
- Master of Science (Research)
- Data Analytics
Growing up, Dale Townsend didn’t love maths.
At Hillcrest High School, his first love was science, and it wasn’t until he started studying a Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences in his first year at the University of Waikato that he discovered mathematics.
“I really enjoyed maths in my first year of study,” recalls Dale. “One of my statistics professors saw potential in me and encouraged me to pursue a stats major.”
Today, maths is an integral part of Dale’s job working as a data scientist in Hamilton City Council’s Transport Unit.
At the council, his role focuses on analysing transport data and providing insights to help council staff and the community to make informed decisions.
“There is maths involved right through this analysis,” says Dale.
He says his studies at Waikato set him up for success, giving him a good knowledge base of how to use data in real world scenarios.
“Many of the models and techniques I learned have been applicable to what I encounter in my current role.”
He says that understanding the theory or formula behind statistical or machine learning models gives him confidence in his delivering accurate insights to make good decisions.
“The idea of optimising something really appeals to me, whether it’s minimising travel time on a certain route or simulating trips through the city to best match real-world trips.”
There were many highlights of studying applied mathematics at Waikato, says Dale.
He enjoyed the small class sizes, which enabled good student-teacher interaction. Lecturers were friendly, and accessible.
Some projects were in groups or pairs, encouraging collaboration among students.
“I found these helpful as a way to experience working in a team.”
There was also the opportunity to do hands-on learning, with a project for Hamilton City Council for a work-integrated learning paper in his final year. This, in turn, led to a part-time job followed by a full-time role after graduation.
“The University has good connections to organisations and businesses in Hamilton, and a great work placement program for maths and statistics which made the transition into my career really easy.”
Another highlight was learning to use statistical software, such as R, which Dale uses daily in his current role.
Dale recommends studying at the University of Waikato to others.
“It was the natural choice for me, growing up in Hamilton, and enabled me to stay close to my family.”
For those who struggled with maths in high school, or didn’t study it all the way through, the University has foundation papers available to help new students refresh their knowledge.
“I had to pick up most maths concepts again at university,” recalls Dale. “I took foundation papers first which I found helpful to re-learn the maths I did at high school. There was a smooth transition into the main maths papers.”
He recommends maths to high school students considering university study, as it is useful for many career paths and in everyday life.
“Learning maths will help with your problem solving skills and with critical and logical thinking.”