An African Data School Fellowship- Blossom Academy

Joana Owusu-Appiah
6 min readJan 29, 2023
image from Unsplash

Two weeks into the 12-week data analytics course, I would try to share my experience with the Blossom Academy culture and its teaching and learning approach in just 6 minutes. Blossom Academy seeks to educate Africans, particularly unemployed and underemployed graduates in data literacy to aid them in attaining financial independence. The institution has been on my radar since 2020, mainly because of its paid training programs. I came across their fully-funded fellowship program in my inbox during the final weeks of December 2022, conducted some background checks, and reached out to some alumni on LinkedIn. The mandatory internship phase was my primary motivation for applying to this fellowship.

My career objectives for 2023 included landing an entry-level data analyst role and expanding my network of data experts who would engage constructively with my blogs and support me in navigating career barriers. In addition to the free access to DataCamp certifications, my objectives were the main treasures that the fellowship potentially held for me. I took the pre-selection test, which included questions on statistics, Python, and analytical thinking. Luckily, I moved on to the next round of the process, which required me to have a one-on-one interview with a Blossom staff. The primary factor that I perceived would rule me out was that I had to travel six hours to the training venue for the compulsory in-person session once a week. I received information on orientation and the onboarding process in the second week of January 2023, along with an email confirming my acceptance (my first win in 2023!).

yep! got selected

Fast forward to January 16th, the classes commenced, and it has been one guided milestone after the other. The last time I had someone teaching me this methodically was in primary school when they spent so much time introducing us to the Excel interface, ribbon by ribbon. At Blossom Academy, instructors start from zero and make no assumptions about the student’s prior knowledge. I believe it’s because the cohort pool is very diverse, with every stream on the knowledge spectrum duly represented. Every boot camp I’ve ever attended (yes! I’m a chronic “boot camper”) began teaching data science with an introduction to Python (which is not a bad thing). However, this fellowship begins with Excel. I have had to ask myself questions like, “How do I print a list in Excel?” and “How do I output the first few rows?” The facilitator preferred Microsoft Excel, yet I had to use Google Sheets throughout(due to technical issues). This was challenging! (I would need to write an entire blog juxtaposing the differences and similarities between the two from my experience).**

I had 10 am–4 pm lectures in Excel and had to figure out assignments in Sheets in the evenings. The facilitators have been very supportive in providing resources and guidance by curating specific Datacamp courses, classroom assignments, and take-home projects. The Excel course involved fundamentals, introduction to the ribbons, features on the tabs, functions, conditional formatting, data visualization, pivot tables, and creating interactive dashboards. I took courses alongside on DataCamp and have three certificates so far (Data Analysis in Spreadsheets, Pivot Tables, and Intermediate Spreadsheets).

I have spent the last two weeks exploring the Blossom ecosystem and talking to stakeholders about specific skills and tools to pursue and master. There is a peer-to-peer learning component of this program that encourages collaboration among fellows. During the blended learning time, we are assigned to breakout rooms to work on daily tasks. The assignments usually combine all the concepts taught in class to solve challenges compiled by the facilitators; this is also a time to compare notes with group members to deepen knowledge and understanding. Even though the groupings were random, I found myself in a very supportive tribe, and I look forward to growing in the industry with them.

Not this time!

I sure have not mentioned the free meals that come with the in-person sessions and the data package meant to cushion the expenses that come with internet “wahalurrr” in Ghana.

We have the entire weekend to make up for lessons we might have missed before starting Power BI lessons the following week. Papa Jay (a data scientist, alumni, and a facilitator of previous cohorts) suggested that we develop goals and practical strategies for completing this fellowship. Even though I am constantly aware of my ultimate goal, his advice buttresses the point that motivation alone can only do much; I also need discipline and a strategy to finish.

I plan to tighten up the loose ends on my excel skills( or sheets skills?) during the weekend. In addition to pandas, I can now dig up answers from data and build interactive dashboards in excel.

** The first difference is that Excel has a beginner-friendly user interface; you must know the ribbons and functions of the individual features to analyze the data. Google Sheets has features that are analogous to Excel but they are obscured and require some experience to locate them. I was running the web version. I had to write a lot of functions in instances where my colleagues were clicking buttons. It wasn’t a bad experience entirely because I only needed to see what was being done in class, then replicate it on sheets. There was an assignment that expected us to create data bars; I chanced on progress bars, which worked with the data bar concept. I used the sparkline function to get them!

Data Bar in excel
progress bar I created

Take Aways

  1. Blossom Academy would run similar programs in the future. You could subscribe to their newsletters or follow them across all social media platforms. Just keep a mental note that their programs usually come with blended participation (virtually and in-person).
  2. There is always an alternative solution that could be explored; speak to the right people and do so.
  3. Practice far outweighs knowing the theories. Understand the complex concepts but take time to practice the basics consistently. This is from Papa Jay Motivation 101
  4. I will end off with the Blossom Anthem:

God grant us the serenity

To accept the things we cannot change

Courage to change the things we can

Wisdom to know the difference

And water to blossom where we are planted

Stay Motivated!

gif designed in Canva by me

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Joana Owusu-Appiah

Writer (because i write sometimes)| Learner (because I...) | Data Analyst (because ...) | BME Graduate | Basically documenting my Life!