Impact Story - Direct ID and DataKirk - Social Good Connect

Social Good Case Study

Impact Story – Direct ID and DataKirk

3 December 2021

How a data scientist at a banking data firm is helping young adults improve their digital skills for tomorrow’s jobs

Glasgow-based principal data scientist Stefanos Nikolaou works at B-2-B Fin Tech firm Direct ID. Through Social Good Connect and the data literacy club DataKirk, he’s been helping young adults learn the basics of data science via weekly interactive sessions as part of online courses they’ve signed up to.  Participants are a mix of employed and unemployed adults from BAME backgrounds.

“I saw how DataKirk helps people in under-privileged areas and I knew it was what I should be doing with my time.”

How did it all come about?

Direct ID has employees with a raft of transferable skills across the tech spectrum. Karen Henderson, Head of Employee Experience, describes the motivation for getting involved.

photo of Karen Henderson from Direct ID
Karen Henderson, Head of Employee Experience at Direct ID

“We heard about Social Good Connect through the Scottish Business Pledge and it felt like the right time to sign up. The brilliant thing is the variety of causes you can get involved with. It’s not generic – it brings up close matches with your skills and interests.  The platform makes it easy for us to find a whole host of charities and meaningful, personal ways to help that we’d never thought about. What’s important to one person might not be the thing their colleagues are passionate about. This way everyone gets to choose how to give back and has a chance to experience the intrinsic rewards that volunteering brings.  It’s a real plus-point that you can flex your volunteering time commitment to suit your schedule – an attractive benefit for all potential new employees now too and one that we list in our job descriptions.”

“Volunteering isn’t just about helping people with shopping or taking people to the beach, it can be about skills-based help and it can be done remotely, and that’s what Stefanos brings to DataKirk. We’re a remote-first organisation growing our global footprint. We promote our relationship with Social Good Connect in our recruitment and when people join, it’s an important part of our onboarding process to share the opportunities and benefits that employee volunteering can bring. A new employee from Africa asked recently if he could volunteer remotely and make a useful impact through the platform without  actually being in Scotland and of course, the answer was ’yes’!”

Who made the difference?

Stefanos has always volunteered – it’s a big part of his Greek culture to help the community. He spent many years at various life stages in Greece and then Scotland helping young students learn about maths and data science and even helping teachers and pupils learn about cyber-bullying.

photo of Stefanos Nikolaou from Direct ID
Stefanos Nikolaou, Principal Data Scientist at Direct ID

“I wanted to use Social Good Connect to see where I could share my skill set to help young people learn about my specialist subject. This opportunity to teach and mentor young students through DataKirk was ideal. I create the materials for a 12-week course they sign up to and I run a two-hour interactive session to bring those materials alive using exercises and theories. It’s particularly for students who would not normally have access to this kind of learning due to their educational background or geography.” 

“I help people understand how to solve data problems using algorithms and I prepare them for tech- and coding-related interviews they may have in future.”

It’s satisfying to help people learn and develop their skills. It’s a good challenge to try and simplify data science concepts for beginners and I get excited when they’re excited about being able to solve data or maths problems as result of my materials and my teaching! It’s also great to see people develop their softer skills, like growing the confidence to communicate in front of others. Equally important is that through Social Good Connect I get to access communities I would never usually be part of or even aware of, and then I can make a difference to people’s lives and maybe career journeys in those communities.

“I’ve also learned a lot though this placement about running interactive online learning sessions and combining speaking and presenting with use of different kinds of tech! And about how people can see information very differently to how you expected them to see it.”

“A great outcome too is that some of the slide materials I’ve created for the students will be useful in my own workplace. And a specific whiteboarding process I’ve been using to demonstrate problem-solving to the students is something I’ll take back to my team.  The work I’m doing in this placement is helping us in some way to re-educate ourselves. “

“Another outcome is that every time you show someone who to solve a complex data problem there is potential to realise something new for yourself about the stages of the process.”

“Direct ID is all about helping people understand data and how it affects their lives, and we have a strong ethos of increasing social impact. Our social face in the eyes of the community is important to who we are and what we do.  I didn’t expect to be volunteering when I joined the company, but it isn’t really a surprise perhaps, because helping others is core to what we do.”

Who benefited from the help?

Chuks Ododo, Community Manager at data literacy club DataKirk, read about Social Good Connect online when he was seeking new volunteers.

Chuks Ododo, Community Connecting Manager at DataKirk

“We found Stefanos through the platform and his help came at exactly the right time. We’ve been going for two years and have a core staff of just three people. At any one time we have between 10 and 20 volunteers – mainly tutors and mentors – helping us deliver our online courses and events to teenagers and adults wishing to reskill or upskill themselves in digital expertise and data science through data literacy and analytics training. We rely on these skilled volunteers, and we always need more of them, as we have four projects underway and two more starting after Christmas. “

“Our aim is to equip young people, especially those from deprived and disadvantaged backgrounds, with the data skills they’ll need for tomorrow’s jobs or positive destinations. We provide them with a hands-on environment to be curious, creative and confident in working with data.”

“We really appreciate Stefanos and the help he’s been able to give. He’s calm, he knows what he’s doing and he’s engaging. He’s making a serious impact and helping us achieve our vision. For us it’s about finding skilled volunteers and that’s the feature of your platform that we’re really interested in. He’s introducing students to data science and teaching them how to analyse data using tools like the Python programming language.”

“Some of the participants are taking the course either to get a job, change their job or go for a promotion. In the current data economy, organisations and individuals need to be able handle data to make informed decisions. The training will equip participants with the skills to become data analysts, business insight analysts, data visualisation analysts and information analysts.”

DataKirk stands for diversity and inclusion. We are committed to increasing the participation of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, because there’s a need for a more diverse talent pool and we want to see diversity in all types of organisation across Scotland.  Everyone should feel that they belong, regardless of background. We want to empower people to break down barriers and the cycle of poverty.””

What Next for DataKirk?

“We started in Edinburgh and Lothian and we currently reach out to six local authorities. We want to expand and collaborate with all local authorities in Scotland to achieve our objectives.  We now need more volunteers with PR and fundraising skills as well as project co-ordinators, content creators and people with admin co-ordination skills!”

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