We spoke with Kevin Maske, a 2019 graduate of our Statistics and Operational Research MSc programme. Kevin now works as a Modelling, Research and Loyalty Manager at Cebu Pacific Air.
Where are you at the moment?
I’m currently in Manila in the Philippines. It’s where I grew up and went to University to do my bachelor’s degree and first MSc.
I’m working at Cebu Pacific Air as part of the Analytics team, which is within the Customer Experience and Marketing department. I do data science as well as a bit of the market research, we try to recommend the best products for our customers.
The job I hold is quite different from others in the team in that there are no standard, business as usual, things that I have to do every day. In my team the work is more project based and it almost feels like I’m a freelancer that works at the company, so what I do really depends on which department I’m working with and what project they're asking me to do.
I like the type of work structure I have right now, because of the autonomy that I have with what I do. Whenever you're faced with a new project you use your initiative. How you go about solving problems is very entertaining and it's something that keeps my interest in the job.
Can you tell us a bit about your time doing the MSc?
The MSc that I completed at Edinburgh was in Statistics and Operational Research; those were actually two of the fields that I was particularly interested in. I achieved my Bachelor's and first MSc here in the Philippines; my course at that time was Applied Mathematics with Specialization in Mathematical Finance. During the MSc in the Philippines I’d deal with things like pricing stocks and derivatives, computing strike prices, etc; these are very interesting to some people, but not to me! I realized that I enjoyed the courses we’d done on operations and statistics. They seemed practical and applicable to what we’d see in business and everyday life; that's the reason that I pursued it further.
When I finished my five years here in the Philippines, a lot of the content that was covered was similar to what I’d take up when I worked on my MSc in Edinburgh. Maybe I was just younger then, or maybe it was because it was the first time I was hearing about a lot of the content, but a lot of it just went over my head. At the end of it I remembered bits and pieces, but not really any concrete concepts.
When I took the MSc in Edinburgh, a lot of those topics were reiterated and enriched because I was coming from a place of familiarity. It also helped that the way the teaching was done was also much more relaxed than the way we do it here, so there's a lot of time to really absorb the information.
My MSc Project was on using healthcare data to predict fatalities in the ICU. Taking a longitudinal approach, techniques ranging from logistic regression (using data from a patient's first hours in the ICU) to joint modelling were used to try to predict if they would eventually suffer death within their first 72 hours of admission. Results here were interesting in that even though we were able to build models that highlighted factors that were statistically significant, the magnitude by which they changed the outcomes was actually still quite small, suggesting that a richer dataset would be required for deeper insighting. Another point of interest is that more than the statistical results, it also gave me a chance to explore the ethical and practical implications of using machine learning in the very real and fast-paced environment of medicine.
The courses that helped me most were Statistical Programming and the elective I took on Biomedical Data Science. Statistical programming gave me really good foundational skills when it came to coding, skills that I could apply regardless of the language I was using. In biomedical data science, there were a lot of opportunities to apply the learnings in our other courses to actual data, which was messy and often ambiguous.
Can you tell me a bit about any challenges you’ve faced since leaving University?
From a business standpoint, the impact of Covid-19 has been tremendous. In the Philippines our government didn’t do much regarding Covid-19 until March when they decided to go into lockdown; that led to three months of zero commercial flights. We only started easing the lockdowns around June last year; I remember during a town hall meeting that we were told that we'd be operating at 5% capacity. However, we came into this situation in a relatively strong position, and though recovery is slow, we're all working tirelessly to innovate and cater to the needs of the customers of this "new normal".
Do you have any words of wisdom for our students?
This piece of wisdom came from my sister (who also studied at Edinburgh) and it's something that stuck with me while I was trying to get employed in the UK. When you enter University you come in with an idea of the type of work that you want to do after you finish your degree or what types of companies you want to work with. One of the things that we always talked about is that when you're trying to get employed you really have to keep an open mind. Really try to see what's out there; what opportunities are available.