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Giovanni Licitra, PhD – Meet the Mentor

I am an energetic, extrovert and creative person with a planned and organized approach to life. I have 10+ years of experience in the field of Data Science, Machine Learning, and AI. I am the Lead Data Scientist at Neurocast, a Dutch company developing clinically validated digital biomarkers that passively monitor people in a Real-World Environment.
Giovanni Licitra, PhD

Head of Data and Analytics, New10 (ABN AMRO)

Why did you decide to become a mentor?
Being a mentor gives me a sense of fulfilment as I get the opportunity to help someone grow and achieve their goals. Furthermore, I am used to mentoring people. For example, during my last years as a PhD student, part of my time was dedicated to supervising junior PhD students, and in my current job role, I support my team members in their work. Finally, I provide a small contribution to bridging the talent gap, as currently, there is a shortage of skilled data scientists in the job market.

How did you get your career start?
Like many data scientists, I come from a different field than computer science, namely engineering. My passion was optimal control and optimization for systems such as cars or aeroplanes. I then had the chance to start an industrial PhD focusing on optimizing autonomous aircraft capable of harvesting energy from the wind in a Dutch company with an academic link with a German institution.

Throughout my studies, I discovered that many engineering concepts were very similar to machine learning topics. Furthermore, I realized that every ML training procedure I encountered relied on some optimization routine. For these reasons, I started to get interested in AI techniques, and since then, I have kept growing in this fascinating field.

What do mentees usually come to you for?
Most of my mentees seek guidance in finding their first job as a data scientist or machine learning engineer. In that case, I help them in several aspects, such as: 

• Create a compelling resume and GitHub profile; 

 • Identify areas where they need to improve and work together in creating a customized plan to fill any knowledge gaps; 

• Support them in developing data science projects and create a portfolio of projects to showcase their skills and experience; 

• Prepare the mentee for interviews by conducting mock interviews and providing feedback. 

• Helping to negotiate their salary and benefits once they receive a job offer.

And often, the mentorship can continue even after they land a job by checking periodically to see how they are doing, providing guidance on career development, and offering advice on continuing to grow in this field.

What’s been your favourite mentorship success story so far?
One of my mentees contacted me with the goal of getting a traineeship as a data scientist in the Netherlands. The person was highly committed but had a minimal data science background and had worked in a different field until then. Early on, we worked together to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for the mentorship. This approach led the mentee to learn the main concepts of data science quickly, simultaneously getting several job interviews and obtaining a traineeship as a junior data scientist in four months. We keep in touch regularly, and I still guide him on his journey.

What are you getting out of being a mentor?
By mentoring others, I am also enhancing my skills and knowledge as I might need to research and learn new things to teach my mentee, which helps me stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field. It also forces me to explain complex concepts to someone new to the area, and this helps me to improve my communication skills. This can be useful not only in mentoring but also in other professional settings. Lastly, mentoring someone is incredibly rewarding as I can help someone grow and achieve their goals.

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