How I got over myself and listened to my supervisor

In the first year of my PhD, I took a mandatory course called ‘Communicating Your Research’. Don’t tell my supervisor (who happened to be the lecturer) but I absolutely loathed this class. Not because I thought it was badly run, but because I resented it. I felt that it the expectation of planning my ‘publication narrative’ and strategise my for my long term publication track was a tall order with little justification.

Before I elaborate, I want to declare my 1st-year naivety (and potentially arrogance). Today, I now respect the need to learn how to communicate my research to an audience beyond the academy. Dear supervisor, should you ever read this, please by all means say:

I told you so.

Presumed response of supervisor

I don’t have time


On top of classes, experiments, writing, teaching, volunteering (in the faculty), going to seminars (often mandatory in year 1), and all the other overwhelmingly time-sucking aspects of PhD life (and sacrifice of family time, social life and sleep), it was unrealistic to start crafting my research persona and communicating my research beyond the peer-reviewed literature (see footnote 1).

enlighten me

To a greater extent, I thought the core tenets of the unit, or at least the way they were demonstrated, were out of touch with the reality of being an Australian PhD student in 2018

Image credit @beneaton7 at Unsplash, Adapted by Caitlin Doogan.

I guess the biggest issue I had with the class was that it featured a whole host of jaded professors who started their research careers in a time where their focus of their PhD was to produce a thesis. Papers were a bonus. Arguably, these academics finished their PhDs, knowing they were walking into a salaried position and not facing the uncertainty of an increasingly casualised workforce or post-docs won based on h-index. Towards the end of the 1990’s the US ‘publish or perish’ mentality had gained traction in Australia. Still, it can’t be denied that the progression of their PhDs and the academy’s expectations of PhD candidates were different from today’s (Bastalich et al., 2010).

Additionally, being told to publish in an A* or Q1 journal, or in our case, one that was on the approved faculty list, was to me, a bit much to ask. For a while, I would watch other PhD students get added as fourth or fifth authors on their supervisors’ journals and wonder why that wasn’t our strategy. Today I think differently and appreciate that different disciplines have different norms, cultures and rules that relate to their publication cycle (although that didn’t really help me much considering the interdisciplinarity of my project). Regardless, I couldn’t relate to these academic and, in my opinion, they could not relate to me, nor could they justify why I should try to follow their path.

Particularly in my field, Machine Learning (ML), the publication cycle is intense and the pressure to produce papers is almost overwhelming. As someone who practices applied ML in interdisciplinary settings (and Natural Language Processing) my ability to pump out papers is hindered somewhat in comparison to my peers. What’s worse is that I get the distinct impression my lack of papers (and lack of appropriate venues for those papers) is looked down upon by my peers.

It wasn’t until my second year that I got over myself and re-developed my strategy. Three things happened to get me thinking more clearly about how best to communicate what I was doing.

Acknowledging publication cycles

I realised that the publication cycle is f#@ked (that’s the technical term). The volume of papers beings pushed out has led to some serious reproducibility issues for the discipline. I routinely read low-quality papers published in high-quality journals and conferences where I couldn’t quite work out what the contribution to the field was, or what the applied use could be. Surveys that simply quoted the abstract of papers seemed to be acceptable for ML. But in the other camp, I work in, this would be thrown out and viewed as complete garbage. To me, this race to publish and subsequent flood of sub-par article, seemed self-serving. They negated the ability to demonstrate potential impact in the real work (immediately or as part of a chain of development).

Ironically, I wrote a paper on my opinion of the over datafication of academics. Basically, we are manipulated to chase metrics rather than meaningful knowledge production. The paper is here if you are interested. Acknowledging the publication cycle and the allure of metrics was one thing, but what opened my eyes was just how detrimental that trap is. I saw the nasty side of academia – stolen ideas, predatory PhD supervisors and a person’s worth based purely on a number. ‘Stuff that’, I thought. Suddenly the guilt and frustration I felt began to melt away. Articles were nice, but no longer the goal.  

Hell hath no fury

In my field, Machine Learning (ML), the publication cycle is intense, and the pressure to produce papers is almost overwhelming. As someone who practices applied ML in interdisciplinary settings (and Natural Language Processing), my ability to pump out papers is hindered somewhat in comparison to my peers. In my first year, I got the distinct impression of my lack of articles (and lack of appropriate venues for their publication) was looked down upon by my peers.

I copped flack from the chair of my confirmation about my ‘ambitious but yet to be realised publication plan’. That really got to me, I probably haven’t let that go, but sometimes the ‘I’ll show you’ attitude is a good motivator. At the same time, one of my panellists, who didn’t even read my report, told me my research was shallow and wouldn’t be published in ML journals or accepted to conferences. Given my respect for him, the hurt I felt at the time was crippling. But then one day I saw him in his office, he looked ill, was somewhat dishevelled and was berating another student. My supervisor told me was under a lot of pressure. For some reason, that respect turned to pitty. I stopped caring about his opinion and vowed never to get like that (I have, but I’m getting better). 

I became the expert

My supervisor started recommending me for projects (in a good way), pitching me as ‘ the best in the University at this’, or ‘the absolute expert’. My other supervisor complimented my writing. Weirdly, this didn’t give me imposter syndrome. It gave me confidence. Mainly because my supervisors don’t give praise for the sake of making us feel good.

Later, when a manuscript that took 7 months to write was rejected from a journal, I felt almost none of the expected ‘sting’. Reviewer two was unnecessarily rude, and I wasn’t quite sure if that was reasonable, but that only served to motivate me to take the excellent critiques of reviewer one and re-write it. I also sought feedback from some prominent academics I had met. Previously I would have been terrified of their critiques; at that point, I practically hounded them for them. I knew i was the expert on the methodology (it was a methods paper), but I also knew I wasn’t the expert on how to communicate to that field (media and communication).

I went viral

A twitter post went viral. Back when I was doing my honours (2012), I expressed to my then supervisor that I wanted to pursue a career in bioinformatics. Being a Biomedical Science grad meant I needed to learn how to code to do this. He basically said I couldn’t compete with the ‘boys’. Gender stereotyping was on my radar at the time of the tweet, there aren’t many Australian women in my PhD program, and there are far more men than women (see footnote). I was proud to be someone who practised ML from a medical background. However, there is a bit of a negative culture. After some offensive and unprofessional comments from a course mate, I retaliated online. 

Follow me on Twitter @CaitDoogan

The post was seen 1.5 million times and to date has attracted 2,496 retweets and 362 comments. The comments are what inspired me. Short sharp and to the point, I generated discourse around women in stem and the issues we need to address collectively. I was then nominated as the women’s rep for graduate research students in the faculty and today being the first to call out the tones, statements and actions that keep women down in the discipline. People listened to me.

Take aways

When I was little, I did ballet. After a few terms, my mum got told not to bring me back. I refused to curtsey to her because I didn’t like the dried apricots that were the end of lesson reward for dancing well (seriously who incentivises a four-year-old with dried fruit). I wish my mum had used the opportunity to teach me something about humility. Instead, it was years before I did do sport of any kind, preferring to invest in academics overly. The downside of this was that throughout my teens, I defined my self worth by my exam scores. This mentality carried over to my 1st year of PhD.

I wish I had learnt early to listen.

Really this post is about thinking seriously about who you want to be as a researcher and then assessing whether a) you are communicating to the right audience, the right way, at the right time. Publications are important, but it’s ok to do other things too.

For those students doing thesis by publication, the benifit is that you potentially have increased employability. The downside is that you may pigeon hole youself. If you got this far in this post then if anything, take this away.

Your supervisor doesn’t fully understand what it’s like to be a PhD right now. They don’t get the pressures you are under and they don’t get how they might contribute to that. But they have survived the ever changing and often brutal landscape of academia. They know things you don’t. So listen to them… at least sometimes.

Footnotes

  1. Admittedly I did start this blog, but as you can see, it is not regularly updated.
  2. This is in reference to the difficulty I had developing strong bonds with others in our multicultural cohort. Cliques tend to form which can be socially isolating.

Bastalich, W., Behrend, M., Bloomfield, R., Ford, J., Loeser, C., & McCulloch, A. (2010). Communicating research: Audiences, academics and research students. 9th, 207.

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How to land a graduate role if you’re an international student

Students graduating in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic have a hard enough time trying to get a graduate role, but if you are an international student, this can feel like an impossible task. 

Does this sound familiar?

“Applicants must be Australian Citizens or an Australian Permanent Resident.”

Literally 95% of job ads.

Usually LDS publishes the list of vacation and summer internships as well as graduate programs that international students actually have a hope of landing. But this year, well, we’ve been a bit preoccupied (you know, the global pandemic and all that). Instead, we’ve put together a list of graduate programs that take on internationals, and either has a named data science stream or have a heavy focus on implementing big data analytics.

If you come across any more, please leave the link in the comments to add them to the list. At the bottom of this post is a list of companies that are known to hire International students. Remember, you have 12-24 months to apply after you graduate.

The information we have provided below is is a comprehensive but not complete summary of our views based on experience and discussions with many data science graduates. It should be viewed as opinion only.

Why don’t Australian companies want us?

This is a matter of economics rather than anything against international students themselves. It’s problematic the reasons that many Australian companies don’t take internationals are not made widely known. For example, we hear this a lot.

“They don’t take international students, that’s so racist.”

Clueless.

Don’t worry, they aren’t racist. Far from it in fact. This is a matter of money. Australian companies will opt not to take on International graduates because they are more expensive to hire than domestic graduates. If you notice, most require PR or citizenship, not for you to be born in Australia. 

In an interview from AFR, Coles communications manager Jasmine Zwiebel commented

“We have taken the position not to hire graduates on student or skilled visas because our intention is that the graduates stay with us for a long time, to build a great career with us.

Jasmine Zwiebel, Coles communications manager

Australian companies will invest a lot of time and money training their graduate hires, the prospect of those hires leaving in 2-3 years just doesn’t add up economically and is a huge risk to the business. Hence PR is needed as a sort of guarantor that you won’t bail after you are trained up. But it’s not as if they think that international students are inferior. Zwiebel went onto say

“There are many benefits of hiring international students, but for Coles, it’s not right for us today. We currently don’t hire graduates on student and skilled visas; however, we do make our vacation program available to students on these visas”.”

Jasmine Zwiebel, Coles communications manager

So while you’re valued, Australian business are not at the point where they can afford to take the risk, but are taking steps to secure quality graduates in the hopes that they will stay.

But I’ll stay in Australia. I want to get PR! 

Sure we get it, Australia is an amazing place to live. But the thing is that companies can’t really hold you your promise that you will stay. And they don’t need to when the domestic supply of data science graduates is on the rise. And while there may still be a shortage of domestic graduates, there definitely isn’t a shortage of international ones.

One of the main issues is that there are a lot of international graduates. In 2018, 50,000 international students were on a 485 visa.  That number has only gone up from then.

In fields such as data science, the vast majority of graduating students are international. This makes it super competitive for all who apply to those few companies that take on international students as graduate hires. This isn’t even including those studying overseas who apply for jobs here in Australia. 

The lesson is that you need to make yourself as competitive as possible. That’s on you, not the university you are at, or the company that you are applying to work at.

“P’s and C’s might get degrees. But only HD’s and a well-rounded resume with community work, sports or hobbies, scholarships and academic awards get a grad role.”

LDS

 Hmmm, we’ll workshop that saying.

How to give yourself the best chance of getting a job!

This is on you. Australian business culture is built on hard work, initiative and fairness. No one hands anything to anyone. And if you expect that, then you are going to be in for a rude shock.

Do your research

This article is a good start, but you need to treat this like a part-time job. Even for domestic students landing a graduate role takes time and effort work. There are many reports, academic articles, and government papers on the issue. Such as this one from the International Education Association of Australia. 

A word of warning, most of these are aimed at convincing Australian businesses why they should hire international students. Take them with a pinch of salt, but use them to understand the issues and the language. Honestly, it will help you in the long run. 

Boost your WAM

Most companies asking for a D average actually mean an HD. Again, you are competing with a huge number of graduates. That minimum WAM of 70% isn’t a hurdle. It’s a signal to say, “if you have a WAM below this, don’t bother applying.” 

Apply for vacation and summer internships

While many companies won’t hire international students without PR, they will take you on for paid internships while you are still studying. Landing an internship will go a long way to helping you get a role at a company that does hire international graduates. This is because a completed internship acts as a stamp of approval that says, ‘this kid knows their stuff and is a good worker.’ Head to our 2019 list of internships for international students to get an idea of where to apply.

Keep your nose clean

This means behave yourself. Particularly in the larger cities (Melbourne and Sydney), the academic world and the business world are interconnected. Many of your lecturers and tutors will have major connections to people at more prominent companies, and if they are asked about you, they will be honest about that the fact that you were repeatedly late or didn’t engage in class discussions, because that doesn’t look good for the way you would act in the workplace. No one wants a lazy, disinterested employee. Also, you will also need to provide an Australian referee, and your tutors and lecturers may be the only people you can ask. So it’s in your best interest to make a good impression. 

 Network network network

This is key. Groups like Data Science Melbourne, have great internship and job networking opportunities. . While COVID-19 may put a dampner on face-to-face meetings, this doesn’t stop you from attending one hosted online. 

Ok now to some graduate programs

GRADUATE PROGRAMS

DELOITTE

Technology Graduate Program

“Each new employee is paired up with a guide and a coach to help with a smooth transition into Deloitte life. We provide the right kinds of tools and training to ensure all our graduates can achieve career success through mentoring, peer support and e-learning. Depending on your business unit, we offer the chance to develop further through professional study such as the Chartered Accountants Program and Masters of Tax.”

Closes: 17th Aug 2020, 11:59 pm

Location: Canberra, Paramatta, Sydney, Alice Springs, Darwin, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Perth

Internationals: Yes

More information.

PWC

PwC Graduate Program

“As one of Australia’s leading professional services firms, we have the opportunity to create meaningful societal change. From growing trust in food production to building hope in artificial intelligence, our people create trust in society and solve important problems each day. By creating a Graduate career with us, here you’ll be provided with the opportunities you need to contribute to a ‘bigger picture’.”

Closes: Already closed but reopens Feburary 2021  (Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) 24th March 2019 (Adelaide, Canberra and Newcastle)

Location: Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Newcastle

Internationals: Yes

More information.

KPMG

Graduate Program

“At KPMG, we want you to discover the path that excites you most. After all, when you find a practice area you love, you’ll reach your potential that much faster. It goes without saying that we’re looking for graduates who are passionate and curious – smart individuals who are seeking a challenging and rewarding career. Here, you’ll be part of an outstanding team working across a diverse client list. You’ll be dealing with complex issues that will stretch your thinking. And you’ll have opportunities to learn and grow unlike anywhere else.”

Closes: 21st August 20210 5:00pm

Location: Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide & Regions, Melbourne and Sydney.

Internationals: Yes

More information.

TELSTRA

Telstra Graduate Program 

“The program offers you 12 months of challenging, hands-on and rewarding work that will give you the confidence and know-how to launch your career and achieve your goals. If you’re successful, you’ll work in an environment that’s embracing ways of working like Agile, DevOps, Human Centred Design and Lean. You’ll also be able to collaborate with the best people in their field and have the knowledge that your ideas will always be welcome.”

Closes: 24th March 2019, 12:55 pm

Location: Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Telstra also have applications for positions in Asia

Internationals: Yes

Starting: Applications are now closed but will open up again in early February 2021

More Information.

SUNCORP

Technology graduate program https://youtu.be/NcMLUyuqLB8

“Suncorp’s Graduate Program is a two-year accelerated development program designed to equip you with the tools you need to launch your career in the corporate world. We are ranked a Top 100 Graduate Employer in AU and NZ – Join us in 2021! Our graduates will experience the opportunity to work on diversified projects, be supported by a mentor and if interested, can rotate within their business area. “

The following business areas are on offer with multiple positions for the Suncorp 2021 Graduate intake. 

  • Data & Enterprise Tech: Data Analyst (Brisbane)
  • Insurance Tech: Software Engineers (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne); Business Analyst (Brisbane); Developers (Melbourne);
  • Banking & Wealth Tech: Software Engineers (Brisbane); Systems engineer (Brisbane); Developer (Brisbane); Business analyst (Brisbane)
  • Infrastructure: System Engineer (Brisbane)
  • Cyber Security & Risk: Developer (Brisbane / Sydney); Analyst (Brisbane / Sydney)
  • Automation: Developer (Brisbane)
  • Strategy & Transformation: Developer (Brisbane)

Closes: 23rd August 2020, 5:00pm

Location: Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne.

More information

This is what we have for now, but will update this page regularly. Alternatively, you may want to look at the following companies that are either known to take on international graduates, or have stated they intended to as of 2021. 

Good luck!

  • South32
  • Rio Tinto
  • REA
  • CarSales.com
  • City West Water
  • Digital Alchemy
  • Atlassian
  • AstraZeneca
  • Carlton & United Breweries
  • EML
  • FDM Group
  • Grand Metal
  • IRESS
  • Annalect
  • SAS
  • Schneider Electric
  • Tibra Capital
  • Strategy&
  • LEK
  • TAL
  • SIG
  • WPP Consulting
  • ThoughtWorks

Photo by Husna Miskandar on Unsplash

setting up shop for COVID-19

It’s only day three of working at home for me, but already there have been cracks and some hastily applied sealant. This isn’t a how-to guide. It’s simply a real account of working from home in the early days of Australia’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Last week my partner and I assessed the situation. Well, I yelled at him that this was getting serious, threw an Ikea catalogue at him and told him I was going to take his ‘den’ as my new office area whether he liked it or not.

He came around to the idea on Saturday, and we braved Ikea to buy a number over overpriced shelving units. I had through to try the various second-hand options, but if you have ever dismantled Ikea furniture, you’ll understand you may as well set it alight, it’s never the same again.

The plan was simple, take our hideous and awkwardly long living room, put up a Kallax 5×5 as a room divider, have a smaller 2×4 as a second divider, and move our current office desk in there for him. We envisioned something like this, and I think we did ok.

Ikea’s infamous Kallax
Hard at work

We still have a little bit of work to do. Mainly putting on the doors and cable wrangling. But it as a 24 hour turn around.

I usually need to be alone when I’m working. Actually, it’s a must. I’m hypersensitive to noise. I wear earplugs when I sleep and have been known to verbally eviscerate anyone who clicks their pen. #OwningIt.

The backroom is a sort of sunroom/conservatory that would have been tacked onto our 1950s post-war brick veneer house sometime in the late 1960s. You know the type of house I’m talking about? Think inner suburban Melbourne, inbuilt melamine kitchen bench, lino flooring, awkward casement windows and closed off rooms (not open plan). You know…falling down.

Typical post-war houses in Melbourne (this is not my house).

The sunroom is separated from the ‘second bedroom’ by a sliding door, which oddly locks from inside the sunroom. It’s not a second bedroom, it’s too small. But that’s how it was advertised to us. Initially the second bedroom was used as an office, I’ve now claimed that as my space and at some point will set it up properly.. We moved all of his sporting gear our of the sunroom, as well as the sofa and TV. After he gutted it, I gave it a deep clean and ended up with this blank canvas.

Oh did I mention it had mould? The house had been treated from the mould the day before, I was grateful to get that done before the inevitable lockdown.

We ventured out to get what I needed to set up shop for who knows how long. Since we didn’t have a dining table, we decided that we would buy one and use it as a desk in the interim. I found this amazing extender 6 seater that goes to 10. It was originally $1200 but got it at $288. Not bad.

On Sunday night, I packed up my office at work and brought what felt like a forest worth of paper home. It was a bitter moment. I love my office at work, and since the department is moving campus in April (or not), I knew that this would be my last time working in there.

That night we moved quickly to get in the new table desk, put up the curtains and make it generally liveable. On Monday I went to get the other knick nacks needed. My family had been wracking their brains to figure out what I might want for my birthday, which is in a couple of weeks, as is my partners. So thanks fam for the new heater and office chair for him.

This is the finished product.

Surprisingly this all went off without a hitch, but it did leave a very big dent in our savings. Weirdly, no one is considering the need for people to set up shop at home. The business as usual mentality doesn’t account for those of us who either didn’t have home offices or suddenly have to contend with partners needing to work at home too. We don’t have kids so that makes it a lot easier. Though if we did, I think that lock from the inside would come in handy.

What does your home office look like? Have changes for a possible lockdown?

Athena Swan 2018 and WGRiITN 2019

The Women Graduate Research in IT Network first formed in 2015. The Network has experienced a revival this year and will start 2020 energised and full of impressive ideas.

There are new representatives in place as well; at Caulfield  Caitie Doogan, at Clayton Fariha Jaigirdar, and at Malaysia, Najini Arachchige. Network activities this year included:

  • Hosting an International Women’s Day event;
  • Network meeting to discuss initiatives;
  • Hopper Down Under representation; and
  • Sponsoring the attendance of five GR students at the Women in Tech Conference in Sydney in September. 

Those attending the Women in Tech Conference said taking part in an industry focused event rather than a research conference was a new experience and provided them with opportunities to network with CIOs, CEOs and IT Industry leaders they would not normally have direct access to. This was invaluable for their future careers.

J. Holden, C. Doogan, N. Anantharama and W. Buntine.

Athena Swan Annual Event was held on the 30th of August 2018 as part of Monash University’s Diversity and Inclusion week to celebrate Monash’s diverse community and strengthens inclusive culture.

Caitie Doogan, Nandini Anantharama, Julie Holden , Anne Nicholson and Wray Buntine attended the Athena Swan event  on Untangling unconscious bias. All five said the learn more than expected about the challenges and benifits of diversity within STEMM. Caitie commented:

I was pleased that they talked about what to do when we have heterogeneity and how this does not equate to diversity in STEMM.

Caitie Doogan

MONASH MASTER OF DATA SCIENCE GRADUATE WINS $500K IN 2019 OZ MINERALS EXPLORER CHALLENGE

Michael Rodda has won the lucrative crowdsourcing competition aimed at predicting where to drill for high-value mineral tenements. He and his two team mates, Jesse Ober (environmental scientist) and Glen Willis (process engineering) have each pocked a cool $167,000 for their efforts. Michael and I went through our masters together, and I caught up with him over the weekend to ask what his strategy was.

I fused historical drilling records for the states and used them as targets. Then I used national geophysics datasets, hyperspectral imaging and national surface geology spatial datasets to predict anomalous values of minerals.

Michael thinks outside the box and is in tune with the need for interpretable Algorithms.

I took a realistic view of data science, so instead of going for a convNet (which would make sense given all the data was image based), I combined lightGMB with SHAP (SHapley Additive exPlanations) values. It’s based on fairly recent research into model interpretability as a convNet (Convolutional Neural Network) would provide zero insights to the exploration geologists as to how my model was predicting stuff.

Michael is now a Graduate Data Scientist working at NAB. He tells me it wasn’t easy juggling his work and the gruelling competition.

I would finish at 6 pm, go home and work on this until 1 am, for three months. But yeah, all it takes is to be curious with data science.

Michael Graduated in 2018. His thesis was ‘Improving Performance of Recurrent Neural Network Forecasting Models Through the Use of Data Augmentation Techniques’.

Well done mate!


Clever kids are all about Machine Learning

The LDS editor, Caitie, this week received a request from James, a high school student in WA asking a few questions about Machine Learning (ML). It was passed to them from their supervisor. The questions were incredibly well formed and our editor wanted to share the responses to the student….wistfully wishing their own students would ask such good questions.

BTW, this kid is 17!

Briefly, what area(s) of ML do you work with?

My work involves designing and optimising novel research methods which make use of computational text mining. I look at Natural Language Processing (NLP) pipelines and a technique called topic modelling to conduct research on social media data and discover insights about different events and conversations happening across the world. I blend these insights with known facts and other datasets to answer particular research questions that traditional methods can’t explain.

Are you currently working on a project involving ML? If so, could you explain what it is, your goals, its purpose, etc.?

In my current project, I am taking real-world social media data sets (Twitter) and using a topic model called MetaLDA build here by our Machine Learning Group, to determine what sorts of discourses are present across 10 years of chatter about the ‘right to be forgotten’.

The right to be forgotten is new data protection right, that’s now built into the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and applies to any company that processes data from EU citizens – That’s pretty much most countries in Australia. 

The challenge of Twitter data sets is that they are huge (1 million+ tweets) and what we call sparse and noisy, which I will explain next. Topic models are sensitive to these problems, and so we need to use a sophisticated set of Machine Learning techniques to overcome these issues. The problem is that our ML algorithms don’t fix these problems by themselves. So, we have to look at other aspects of the ML pipeline including:

  • What data we collect
  • How we clean or wrangle it
  • How we process it, and
  • How we optimise the algorithm.

We need to get this right in order to:

  • Find out the topics people are talking about
  • Who those people are
  • How those conversations have changed over time
  • What events affected them.

Additionally, we want to know about how the interactions between tweeters have influenced these changes. So, we need to know how to integrate traditional social science methodologies into a partly automated process of knowledge discovery.

A Topic model is a generative probabilistic model which represents documents as a mixture of topics where the allocation of a document to a topic is dependent on the words within that document. The Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) is the go-to topic model for most studies (Blei, Ng, Jordan & Lafferty, 2003). However, LDA is challenging to optimise when modelling tweets which are very short documents. The shortness of tweets reduces the efficiency of the LDA inference algorithm which reduces the accuracy of their topics. MetaLDA which was developed by our group, is designed specifically for modelling short documents like tweets. 

If applicable, what kind of problems do you encounter in relation to datasets? How you mitigate against these issues?

The challenge of Twitter data sets is that they are huge (1 million+ tweets) and are what we call sparse and noisy. When you look at a tweet, we see it has lots of characters and links in it that we need to remove, because they confuse the algorithm. #hashtags and @usernames are examples. We also need to remove ‘stop words’ such as ‘at’, ‘and’, and ‘the’. But when we remove these, the algorithm becomes even shorter. You can see the difference between an unprocessed tweet and a pre-processed tweet below.

This is a big problem for us, and we have to think carefully about how much noise to remove without overly sanitising our data, which may give inaccurate results.

We also have to handle lots of spam and, tweets that are unrelated to what we are interested in. For example, we were working with a group of Immunologists at UWA and they wanted to know what Rheumatoid arthritis patients thought about the medications they were using and how they talked about their illness on Twitter.

We had figure out how to remove the tweets from doctors, marketers and the media. To do this, we looked at three classification algorithms, Naive Bayes, SVM and a simple neural network. The neural networked performed the best at this task. But we need to do more work.

Other issues we face with Twitter data are malicious spam bots that are becoming harder and harder to detect. I have been working analysis of the hashtag political group #auspol in the lead up to the 2019 election and encountered this problem. Malicious bots try to sway the opinions of Australian voters with ‘Fake news’. This happened in the 2016 US Election too and is was thought to contribute to President Trumps win. It is an ongoing problem in social media analytics (The bots, not Trump).

All data is biased. But unlike what you might read in the news, it’s not always because of the researchers own personal biases. Sometimes it’s because we have no choice but to add or omit certain features to the data set. In the GDPR data set, I’ve had to remove all non-English tweets as the algorithm will get confused. Additionally, none of us speak al 160 languages detected. But since the GDPR was enacted in European countries, a lot of people tweeting about it are tweeting in a language other than English. By removing the non-English tweets, we lose the opinions of those people. The data set then becomes bias towards English speaking users primarily from the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

Do you believe ML systems are appropriate to use in surveillance or law enforcement contexts? How can the negative impacts of ML systems in such contexts be mitigated against?

Hmmm, this is a bit of a hot potato topic, and your question is a little leading, so I’m going to answer, but with a caveat. They should be used, but not before proper ethical, legal and data governance procedures are put in place, with oversight from independent bodies.

Predictive policing has a long history of going wrong. This is an instance of the runaway feedback loop. When a particular neighbourhood, let’s say Armadale has higher drug-related crime statistics then say, Swanbourne, then the police will be sent to Armadale* to look for drug-related activity more than they would Swanbourne. With the higher crime rate and increased police presence, there will be more arrests in Armadale than ever before. These crime statistics are fed back into the model for new protections, but of course, Armadale will come back as even more of a likely target for drug-related crime and they cycle continues regardless of the relative crime rate compared to the benchmark suburb of Swanbourne.  This isn’t great, obviously, but luckily, most police departments have realised this already.

*I’m allowed to pick on Armadale since I lived there for a while.

Alternatively, there are some truly amazing examples of when ML systems have been used in Law enforcement. At Monash University, Janis Dalins, who is a PhD student and Australian Federal Police (AFP) Officer, is working with Prof Campbell Willson on AI systems that help identify criminal activity on the Darkweb. The idea is that AI crawlers could make it faster to track down images of crimes against children which currently has to be done manually at significant cost to the AFP’s time, resources and mental health of the officers who have to view these images. 

COMPAS predicts the likelihood of recidivism for criminals based on various factors. A criticism of the tool is that it oversimplifies the judicial process, is weighed too heavily by judges and can lead to faulty convictions. Do you believe the fault lies with the nature of the tool itself as opposed to the methodology of judges ?

I wrote an opinion piece on COMPAS from my perspective as a Data Scientist. I believe that the COMPAS developers tried their best to create a holistic instrument for the benefit of the individual and the courts efficiency. However, it is being misused. This is outside of the developer’s hands. The fault never lies primarily with the tool, but developers must be diligent in updating the software. An example of where this has gone horribly wrong is the ingrained racial or gender-based biases in HR analytics.

Also have a look at this paper for reference.

Caliskan-Islam, A., Bryson, J. J., & Narayanan, A. (2016). Semantics derived automatically from language corpora necessarily contain human biases. arXiv preprint arXiv:1608.07187, 1-14.

Presumably you believe that ML has the potential to be beneficial towards society, could you illuminate some specific contexts or applications where this is the case, perhaps within your own body of work?

Well, I’ve given you a few examples but here is another. Turning point is Australia’s leading addiction treatment and research centre and together with Monash University has been successful in receiving a $1.2 million grant through the Google AI Impact Challenge. Prof Wray Buntine and Principle investigator Prof. Dan Lubman from Turning Point aim to adapt AI methodologies to streamline coding of national ambulance suicide-related attendance data. The resulting data would play a central role in informing public health prevention, policy and intervention, as well as identifying emerging trends, hidden populations and geographical hotspots for targeted responses relating to suicide. The ultimate aim would be to develop a national suicide monitoring system with the potential to set international standards for informing suicide prevention efforts.

As you can imagine, there are some serious ethical and legal implications for this work, but it ultimately aims to reduce the number of lives lost each year in these tragic circumstances.

Teenagers….scary smart.

The COMPAS Algorithm – It’s not that black and white

Looking closer at the COMPAS recidivism algorithm and application in the US justice system.

The following is an opinion piece written by an LDS contributor.

Algorithmic decision-making is purported by the mainstream media to reduce the impact of human bias in our social systems. Yet the insidious and secretive nature of algorithms allows them to replicate and amplify the social inequalities brought about by ingrained systemic oppression. As a society, we seem to be content with the knowledge that we are not only failing to resolve systematic inequalities such as racism but promoting them. Such technology excuses us from addressing these complex issues by retreating behind the facade of objectivity. Far from advancing equity, the disturbing reality is that algorithms are racist unless you are white.

The above is an example of the sensualised rhetoric promoted by certain groups that ignore the complexity of these nuanced technologies. An infamous example of this is Equivant’s COMPAS software which generates recidivism risk scores claimed by the US criminal justice system to promote fairness and efficiency in pre-trial, sentencing and parole decisions. This is not the case. The use of COMPAS is indeed unfair as indicated by the racial disparities in predictive accuracies that reinforce the entrenched racial biases which see black defendants sentenced far more harshly than their white counterparts (Angwin et al., 2016.). But is it the algorithm that is unfair? Or the way it is being used?

For predictive parity, the output must be equal for both black and white defendants. To achieve predictive parity, a higher rate of false positives for black defendants will occur even though race is not a direct variable in the equation. This is because a defendant will be more likely to have previously offended (a direct variable) if they are black. But while mathematical logic is sound, the bias data use does not satisfy our social notion of fairness due to the implications of ignoring the context of the data chosen.

We see then how the algorithm is claimed to be biased, but the fact is that it was never meant to satisfy both notions of fairness (Hardt, Price, Srebro, 2016; Kleinberg, Mullainathan, Raghavan, 2016). Equivant warns that the recidivism risk score should not be used to classify individuals without considering a comprehensive assessment of their social situation to identify their rehabilitation needs (Northpointe, 2015). The racial bias it seems is not entirely the fault of the algorithm, but rather the misuse of it by the US criminal justice system.

Design and use of data and algorithms must be accompanied by an understanding of the complexities of the social context. Continued use algorithms and data to make decisions about individuals that are manifestly perverse is irresponsible. This misuse and unaligned understanding of fairness have produced devastating long-term social effects that must be accounted for (Angwin, Larson, Mattu & Kirchner, 2016). Although different groups have attempted to address the issues of algorithmic bias, they are failing. This must be resolved.

I got into Uni – Where the F@#k am I going to live?

Recently, LDS has been getting a lot of messages asking for an overview of the Melbourne rental market for students. In a previous article, LDS revealed the absolute shit storm that is student housing in Australia. If you haven’t done so already done, have a read. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

If you want to know what far and reasonable prices are, where to go to find legitimate rentals, and the ‘gotchas’ of the Melbourne market, read on and get the run down. A couple of notes before we start:

We chose the Melbourne market in the south-east as that was the majority of what incoming students requested. The map below indicates this area and caters for several universities and other high education institutions. Each price is listed as per week (pw). Remember, if you are sharing it’s less. We have included this price in the description as well.

Most rentals are through real estate agents don’t come furnished. These are rental properties not share houses. Furniture isn’t that expensive to get, especially second hand.

Inner South East Melbourne

Rental properties through real estate agents

1 brm apartment: $280 – $350 pw

Now these are rare as hen’s teeth for the inner south east. Particularly after the inner ring. For $280 pw you can get a very small apartment which may be a bit older or not so well kept. But there are some great flats about if you happen to get lucky.

Per week low: $280 pw
Recommended occupancy: 1
Rarity: Super rare

If you must live by yourself (understandable) then you’ll may have to go up in price towards the $320 pw mark.

Per week low: $320 pw
Recommended occupancy: 1
Rarity: Rare-ish

2 brm units: $330 – $400 pw

This would be a good choice if you can’t get or don’t want a single apartment. These are also called units. For as low as $330 pw you can get an older two bedroom flat or a renovated unit. The photos below show two separate 2 bedrooms $330 pw units.

Per week low: $330 pw
Per week low per person: $165pw

Per week high: $400 pw
Per week high per person: $200pw

Recommended occupancy: 2
Rarity: Common

If you are happy to pay a bit more, you can get a comfortable 2 bedroom place like the one below priced at $400 pw.

3 to 4 brm townhouse or house $600 to $800 pw

If you find yourself with a good group of friends and want to move in together, a share house is the way to go. It is by far the cheapest option after set up costs. The picture below shows a $500 4 bedroom unit. As you can see from the yellow stickers, this place has just been renovated.

It’s rare to see Australians with more than 5 people in houses. Most students find it quite stressful, particularly if they like a clean house! Real estate agents also are reticent to rent to this many people on a lease as it gets really difficult for them when people are more likely to move on and off the lease.

Per week low: $600 pw (units/townhouses)
Per week low per person: $200 pw for 3 people, $150 pw for 4 people

Recommended occupancy: 3-4
Rarity: Common

Per week high: $800 pw (townhouses/houses)
Per week high per person: $267 pw for 3 people, $200pw for 4 people

Recommended occupancy: 3-4
Rarity: Common

The best time to get in on the rental market is about a 6-4 weeks before orientation week. Students finish degrees in November and June. They start again in March and July. This means you can get in on the glut of houses that become available when students graduate and return home. This is easier in summer than in winter as more students finish in summer.

What if I don’t have a rental history?

Most of the time, students don’t have a rental history, and this makes it hard to rent a house from a real estate. They often then opt for two options. A share house with tenants that are already in there and on a lease with a real estate agent, or a rooming or boarding house. LDS wants to make this very clear that in our opinion WE DO NOT RECOMMEND GOING INTO A ROOMING OR A BOARDING HOUSE. If you want to know what the difference is between living arrangements head to our friends at flatmates.com for an overview of what the different legal definitions of shared housing are.

There are four reasons we don’t recommend doing this:

  • You are likely to be shoved into a house that is too small for the number of people in it, that is not well kept and is potentially dangerous.
  • You will not be able to choose who you share a room with.
  • You will likely be sharing a house with more than ten people. There is a complete lack of privacy.
  • They suck! (Ok not a good reason, but still a reason).
  • Rooming houses are favoured by students who can’t get rentals due to no rental history but also poor rental history. There are many reasons for this but some common ones are alcohol or drug abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence and time in jail. As much as LDS believes inequality and ending certain stigmas, we also believe in safety.
  • The house can get dirty when you have hygienic housemates. There’s always one. Some people tell us that with ten people in these places, you don’t even get the opportunity to cook.

Here is the list of minimum standards proprietors must abide by. If they don’ they can be fined under the Residential Tenancy Act 1997.

If you must stay in one of these properties, please choose a licensed house. Here is a list of registered boarding houses in Victoria. Just google the addresses as the names aren’t on the list.

Although the proprietor does not need to give you a Standard Residential tenancy form for a rooming house, we strongly recommend you get one.

They may offer you an alternative agreement, but the reality is that it is difficult to take complaints to consumer affairs without one. If they refuse, this is a bad sign. You should look for a room elsewhere. The standards for rooming houses are found here. In saying that, there are some good rooming houses that are for students and treat their tenants well. Always have a look at the comments on Google review to get a feel for the quality of the place.

What about share houses?

Another option is to share a house with people who already have a lease with a landlord. This would be our recommendation over a boarding house. But beware of dodgy renters trying to treat a place like a boarding house.

A share house is a term Aussies use to describe a home where the tenants are renting from a real estate agent and either all have their names on the lease (meaning they have all signed a standard residential tenancy agreement) or are sub-letting from the head-tenant (with a standard tenancy agreement). The furniture is usually shared, and different people own different things. In this scenario, you and your housemates would share bills for utilities but not necessarily food or extras like Netflix, for example.

These are great if you are looking for a social environment and a homey feel. Most of the times, you will be ‘interviewed’ by the current housemates. They will want to get to know you and whether you fit the vibe of the house. For example, a group of young professionals in their early 30s might not be interested in an 18-year-old uni student. If you don’t hear back from them in a couple of day’s it’s generally an indication they have gone with someone else. Don’t take it personally. It’s better to be in a house where you all understand each other and get along than one where the dynamics aren’t quite right.

Housemates with common interests have a better experience.

In a lot of share house situations, some people don’t go on the lease straight away. We don’t recommend this, but it’s sometimes because they want to make sure they aren’t living with a sociopath. This protects the other housemates as it’s easier to kick out a tenant who isn’t on the lease. Given this, we always recommend some form of a rental agreement, such as this one. This will protect you in case it all goes south, and you need to get the authorities involved.

Preferably though you should ask for a standard tenancy agreement to be written up to sub-let from the head-tenant, the person holding the lease with the real estate. This protects you as well. A landlord must permit the renter to sub-let, and that’s what the standard tenancy agreement form proves. Otherwise, they are likely trying to make money off of you and could kick you out at any time.

International students really should use share houses a lot more and rely less on rooming houses, which are more expensive on average. Take a look at the prices here. Often share houses are with students near your university, and you can even use that search function in some sites like flatmates.com.au .

More importantly, share houses will give you an opportunity to absorb different cultures and Australians are often keen to share with internationals for the same reason.

Where to find places

Now that you have an overview heres a list of place to look for somewhere to live:
flatmates.com.au
gumtree.com.au
flatmatefinders.com.au
realestate.com.au – share houses
realestate.com.au – rental houses
domain.com.au – rental houses
sharehouses.com.au
Fairy Floss Real Estate – A much loved Facebook Group

Our most recommended website though is this one, dontrentme.com.au
If a property is on there, do not rent it.

We hope this helps you get an overview of rentals in Melbourne. Though some of this is very applicable to other Australian states. In our next post, we are going to cover some very important points about paying, agreements, condition reports and bond. Stay tuned.

Slumlord Millionaire – The Truth About Student Housing in Australia

This time of year is hectic! For students, the massive ‘assignment crush’ is hitting like a tsunami and tutors are frantically trying to mark assignments on time while stemming the flow of emails. Young professionals are finding out the dark side of EOFY and all of us are getting colder, especially those experiencing their first Aussie winter, slowly freezing, unprepared for an actual cold snap.

But spare a thought for those who haven’t started their postgrad journey yet. While these next few months are a time of nervous yet excited anticipation, it’s also a time of angst and uncertainty. As the butterflies settle and the congratulations from friends and family trickle away, an uncomfortable thought might be forming …. ‘where the f#@k am I going to live?’

Most students are prepared to start studying when they get to their university. they have their laptops, readings, books. All they need to dive right in. Except for one major element. Housing.

Every year it’s the same. Students think that two weeks is enough time to get a reasonable place to live and then they end up having to fork out way too much money because they can’t find something by the time uni starts. Or, more often, they settler for sub par accomodation. In the wake of the ABC ‘cash cows‘ investigation, LDS wants to provide new students our take on what student housing really looks like in Australia. A nightmare.

This was what happened to PJ. She arrived in Melbourne from India a fortnight before classes started and four-person share house for $160 per week (pw). While reasonably close to uni, the house is run down, with no cooling or heating. All the bedrooms have 2-3 single beds in them, and everyone shares one bathroom. PJ doesn’t get to choose who she rooms with or who shares the house with her. Recently, a housemate who was constantly intoxicated assaulted another housemate. He was asked to leave but not before the landlord shifted him next door into his other property where he could still access PJs house.

When asked why she rented the room in the first place she said, “they [real estate agents] need to see previous rental history, and we [international students] don’t have that”.

So why didn’t she move out? She told us that “we aren’t earning, and we are just covering food and rent, how are we supposed to save thousands of dollars to get a rental bond?”.

In Melbourne and Sydney, peak house prices have made the rental market tough for anyone, but students are the hardest hit. PJ is yet another student being exploited by both Australian and international landlords who cram as many students as possible into a house. Desperate for a roof over their heads, the new arrivals take what they can get and put up with the harsh and expensive conditions. Not every private landlord or sharehouse, student housing company is like this. But there is an increasing number of opportunistic properties owners looking to cash in on the mass migration of international students to Australian Universities.

These so-called ‘slumlords’ own million dollar properties set to be demolished and redeveloped, but will use to house students until the cost of upkeep is too high. Others own multimillion-dollar property portfolios, which can be as little as 2 apartments in the inner city. They then shove as many people as possible in there to maximise their profits. For example, in PJs house, the expected rent is approximately $160 pw. It’s a four-bedroom house which should have no more than five people in it to remain safe. So the rent would be $800. But the landlords are using it as a rooming house, and as there is only one bathroom, the house can now legally house ten people. The maximum amount the landlord receives now is $1600 pw — a 65% profit margin after costs of upkeep and utilities.

We met PJ’s landlord who unabashedly tells LDS he has several houses all over Melbourne just like this one and that he looks after is students. What we saw though was misery and delusion like he thinks he’s doing the students a favour.

Australian media are highlighting the problem

Students living in squalor

The reality is that incoming students are quite naive thinking that it will be easy to secure housing once they get here. They end up in these types of scenarios and don’t understand it’s not ok. Sally, a member of a Melbourne Universities teaching staff, is concerned as these opportunistic companies and private landlords are looking to make money of arguably quite poor students and to their detriment. “It makes me mad. The poor things don’t say anything because they don’t know it’s illegal. I’ve had them come in [to class] sick and feverish because their houses have no heating and it’s 2 degrees at night.”

Sally’s primary concern is overcrowding. Cleanliness was also mentioned, with so many students in these houses, the kitchens and bathrooms are hard to keep clean. There is so much wear and tear that dirt and crud accumulates that can’t be shifted. Properties are old and damp, and carpets are frayed and crusty with years of caked-on dirt. The big concern is seasonal mould growth, known to cause severe respiratory illness and be aggravating to those with asthma, running their immune systems down throughout their tenancy. We asked Sally if she had seen some of these houses “Oh yeah, last week I saw one where they can’t use the kitchen because it’s so dirty, you know, broken titles with mould, not the sort of thing you can wipe up”. Sally made a disgusted facial expression when telling this story, “some students say they don’t cook for fear of getting ill, or there are too many people, they don’t get the chance to cook food as the kitchens never free”.

Dangerous black mould

“It makes me mad. The poor things don’t say anything because they don’t know it’s illegal. I’ve had them come in sick and feverish because their houses have no heating and it’s 2 degrees at night.”

– Sally, University employee

Overcrowding fears

Overcrowding, where more than the legal or recommended number of people are in a dwelling, is becoming worse for students. Some states have laws against overcrowding, but others don’t, which makes it hard to deter landlords from doing it. The main problem is that landlords are not registering dwellings as rooming or boarding houses which must abide by maximum occupancy standards. For example, the general rules of occupancy in these dwellings are that a bedroom must be more than 7.5m2 for one person. If two people are sharing, the room must be 12m2 or bigger, and for every additional person, 4m2 must be added. A recent study of the Sydney rental market by VincentCare Victoria found that more than a quarter of people were living in overcrowded dwellings. Inner suburbs, like those around universities, were the worst, with 40% or places being classed as overcrowded.

Overcrowding, a larger number of people are in a dwelling than recommended for health and safety reasons, is becoming worse for students. Some states have laws against overcrowding, but others don’t, which makes it hard to deter landlords from doing it. Even worse, states like Victoria make it ok to board four people or more in a room and don’t specify minimum space per occupancy.

To be safe, the standards of occupancy in these dwellings are that a bedroom must be more than 7.5m squared for one person. If two people are sharing, the room must be 12m squared or bigger, and for every additional person, 4m squared must be added. A recent study of the Sydney rental market by VincentCare Victoria found that more than a quarter of people were living in overcrowded dwellings. Inner suburbs, like those around universities, were the worst, with 40% or places being classed as overcrowded.

The other issue is that rogue landlords are not registering dwellings as rooming or boarding houses. These rouge operators may ask for cash rather than providing secure BPay or depositing accounts.

This double bed bedroom is 8 square meters

Many students say they don’t mind as long as the place is close to uni and is cheap, but there are hidden dangers too putting up with dodgy rentals that students don’t think about, fire safety is the most dangerous aspect for example. In 2014 the Lacrosse high rise in Docklands, an inner-city Melbourne apartment block popular with Chinese internationals, narrowly avoided going up in flames as dozens of international students were crammed into two-bedroom apartments. Authorities say it’s just a matter of time before we something as horrific as the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London which killed 58 people.

The 2014 Lacrosse high rise fire caused by overcrowding

For students, having their bonds’ stolen’ is the biggest fear. Students hand over security deposits to a landlord but are given a poor excuse as to why it is not returned when they leave. This fear traps students. Noise is also an issue. Studying can be almost impossible, and grades are compromised. Living situations are a common reason why students are struggling to pass classes. As with PJs story, students can’t always feel safe in their own home, and this causes stress for students, particularly young women.

This broom closet sized single bed bedroom is 7 square meters

Not just internationals

The issue isn’t only affecting international students, though they seem to be the hardest hit by the housing crisis. Australian students are also struggling, with many of them couch surfing, squatting or ‘sleeping rough’. Raj, a master of data science graduate applied for 70 rental properties before getting a lease, even though he had landed a well-paying role with a large tech company and had a solid rental history.

And while Australian students are generally sympathetic to internationals, they don’t have to deal with the same issues. By the time they are at postgraduate level, they have gotten wise to the illegitimate landlords or have built up income and rental history to get leases with friends. They also are less like to be preyed upon as international slum lords see Aussies as a liability, they know the legalities and are likely to report. But for most Aussies, the problem is hidden and they don’t see any problems.

Ben, a Masters of Communications student at an Inner-city Melbourne University was asked if he thinks international students are preyed upon. He says that “the ones that I see are actually living in secure apartments with one or two other people. Better than where I live now, right in the CBD with other students near the university. They all stay around that one area and it’s close to everything. Mostly Chinese, they can afford it”. This is a common attitude from domestic students, because that’s whats portrayed in the media and that’s what they see of their class mates. Ben said he doesn’t see an issue but knows that’s because the students at his university have the money to pay for housing, but he knows not all students are as affluent as the ones in his course, he just doesn’t see this side.

He’s not wrong. For the privileged few, university accomodation is comfortable and secure. But it is expensive, costing upwards of $33,000 pa including meals and utilities. That’s $635 pw! More than most families spend on rent.

The beautiful rooms at an exclusive Melbourne Uni college

Raj, on the other hand, as an Indian-Australian who has studied in Canada and Australia, thinks that international students need to take responsibility. He says that some students are compromising on the wrong aspects of their budget, and has some advice for incoming students. His tough love attitude is that they need to be less lazy and deal with more travel time because they can’t afford not too.

“You can’t be close to the uni, you will be priced out of the market. You can’t just take a run down place with people you don’t know. You will be stuck. That’s you for the next while, nowhere comfortable to sleep or study. No privacy. You have to compromise. You have to look further out from the uni and take public transport. You will fail your units otherwise.”

Raj, Data science graduate

The reality of the Australian housing market for students isn’t what they are sold by the glossy photos in Uni course guides, because it isn’t the responsibility of the unis. Raj has a point. While rouge operators are predatory and dangerous, students need to understand that planning and research is key to succeeding in their studies, and a reasonable living situation is part of this. Sally says “reach out, we want to help you. Talk to your tutors, lecturers, advisors. Keep talking, scream out if you have to. Some one will hear you”.

Finding a place to live before starting your degree is daunting, but necessary. Start early to make sure you aren’t left out in the cold. Get to Australia as early as you can to beat the rush.

This post is not affiliated with any Australian University or governing body. It is the opinion of the LDS writing team and cannot be considered legally binding advice regarding your living situation. For more information, please visit your state consumer affairs or tenancy advocacy website.

Vacation and Summer Internships for International Students 2019

March Madness is here again, and for International students, this can be a frustrating time.

“Applicants must be Australian Citizens or an Australian Permanent Resident.”

Right?

So LDS has got your back. Here’s a list of vacation and summer internships as well as graduate programs that are closing fairly soon. All of these programs either have a named data science stream or have a heavy focus on implementing big data analytics.

If you come across any more, please leave the link in the comments so we can add them to the list. At the bottom of this post is a list of companies that are known to hire International students. Their applications have now closed for the 2019/20 season. But remember you have 12-24 months to apply after you graduate.

Vacation and Summer Internships

Deloitte

Technology Internship Program
“You’ll spend three to eight weeks in one of our business units whilst getting a taste for what it’s really like to work in a leading professional services firm. At the end of the placement you will leave with the prospect of securing a graduate position, skipping the queue for a final year graduate placement


Closes: 17th March 2019, 5:00pm
Location: Canberra, Paramatta, Sydney, Alice Springs, Darwin, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Perth
Internationals: Yes
Length: 3-8 weeks
Starting: Early January 2020
More information

PwC

PwC Vacation Program
“Gain valuable experience and develop the skills and networks needed to create a meaningful career. Did you know that most of our vacationers receive an offer for a full-time graduate position after completing the program? If this isn’t reason enough to apply, then read on…If you’re in your second last year of university in an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, our summer Vacation Program offers you first-hand experience at the heart of our business. The program runs over three to eight weeks (length varies per state) and includes full-time work experience during your university break, allowing you to get a head-start in your career before graduating.”

Closes: 17th March 2019, 5:00pm (Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) 24th March 2019 (Adelaide, Canberra and Newcastle).
Location: Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Newcastle
Internationals: Yes
Length: 12 weeks
Starting: Early November 2019 – January 2020
More Information – Technology

South32

Technology Internship Program
“South32 is a globally diversified mining and metals company. We produce [various metals] at our operations in Australia, Southern Africa and South America.We are also the owner of a high-grade zinc, lead and silver development option in North America and have several partnerships with junior explorers with a focus on base metals.”

Closes: 31st March 2019, 5:00pm
Location: Perth
Internationals: Yes
Length: 12 weeks
Starting: 25th November 2019 – 14th February 2020
More Information.

KPMG

Vacation Program
“Our Vacation Program allows you to experience day-to-day-life at KPMG. You can feel what it’s like to be part of the team, working directly alongside our people. Want an insider’s view in to the world of KPMG? As part of our Vacation Program, you’ll discover first hand what’s it like to join one of the world’s leading professional services firms.”

Closes: 7th April 2019, 5:00pm
Location: Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Parramatta, Perth, Sydney, Hobart, Launceston and Wollongong.
Internationals: Yes
Length: 6 weeks in Adelaide, 8 weeks everywhere else.
Starting: Summer 2019/20

Google

Information Technology Intern
“This program is designed to provide exposure to the technology industry for students who are historically under-represented in this field. Behind Google’s simple search box is one of the most complex technology infrastructures in the world. And behind that infrastructure is a diverse group of Googlers who design, build and keep the lights on for our users. We believe that in addition to hiring the best talent, hiring for a diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures leads to the creation of better products and services.”

Closes: 13th May 2019, 6:00pm
Location: Sydney
Internationals: Yes
Length: 12 weeks
Starting: Summer 2019/20

Telstra

Telstra Summer Vacation Program
“At Telstra, we know development is a key ingredient for a successful career, so we’ll support you with a dedicated manager to help and guide you, as well as a graduate buddy to share their own experiences with you. We give our Summer Vacationers continual support and formal development sessions to build skills and technical knowledge. Your bi-monthly training and development sessions will cover everything from commercial acumen and managing your career, networking and building your personal brand, to practical training on presentation skills, time management and up skilling on the use of key Microsoft Office tools.”

Opens: June/July 2019
Location: Australia Wide
Internationals: Yes
Length: 12 weeks
Starting: Summer 2019/20
More Information.

Graduate Programs

Deloitte

Technology Graduate Program
“Each new employee is paired up with a guide and a coach to help with a smooth transition into Deloitte life. We provide the right kinds of tools and training to ensure all our graduates can achieve career success through mentoring, peer support and e-learning. Depending on your business unit, we offer the chance to develop further through professional study such as the Chartered Accountants Program and Masters of Tax.”

Closes: 17th March 2019, 5:00pm
Location: Canberra, Paramatta, Sydney, Alice Springs, Darwin, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Perth
Internationals: Yes
Starting: Early March and early July.
More Information.

PwC

PwC Graduate Program
“As one of Australia’s leading professional services firms, we have the opportunity to create meaningful societal change. From growing trust in food production to building hope in artificial intelligence, our people create trust in society and solve important problems each day. By creating a Graduate career with us, here you’ll be provided with the opportunities you need to contribute to a ‘bigger picture’.”

Closes: 17th March 2019, 5:00pm (Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) 24th March 2019 (Adelaide, Canberra and Newcastle)
Location: Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Newcastle
Internationals: Yes
Length:12 weeks
Starting: Early November 2019 – January 2020

KPMG

Graduate Program
“At KPMG, we want you to discover the path that excites you most. After all, when you find a practice area you love, you’ll reach your potential that much faster. It goes without saying that we’re looking for graduates who are passionate and curious – smart individuals who are seeking a challenging and rewarding career. Here, you’ll be part of an outstanding team working across a diverse client list. You’ll be dealing with complex issues that will stretch your thinking. And you’ll have opportunities to learn and grow unlike anywhere else.”

Closes: 24th March 2019, 5:00pm
Location: Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide & Regions (Melbourne and Sydney closed on the 10th March)
Internationals: Yes
Starting: Early February.

Telstra

Telstra Graduate Program 
“The program offers you 12 months of challenging, hands-on and rewarding work that will give you the confidence and know-how to launch your career and achieve your goals. If you’re successful, you’ll work in an environment that’s embracing ways of working like Agile, DevOps, Human Centred Design and Lean. You’ll also be able to collaborate with the best people in their field and have the knowledge that your ideas will always be welcome.”

Closes: 24th March 2019, 12:55 pm
Location: Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne
Internationals: Yes
Starting: Early February
More Information – Data Analytics and Management Program

Procter & Gamble

Supply Chain Network Operations ( Logistics & Supply Chain) -2020 Graduate Role
“At P&G we want you to get your career off to a fast start. That’s why we don’t have a traditional Graduate program with rotations or gradual ramp-up periods. We hand you real responsibility from the moment you walk through the door. We believe it’s the best way to learn. From day one, you’ll help develop or support household name brands you know & trust while working in roles that have a direct impact on our global, US$65 billion-dollar business. You could be overseeing a brand with multimillion dollar sales, supporting the launch of a new product in to the market or work on strategic business priorities to enable us to WIN. There’s no limit to what you can achieve here.”

Closes: 29th March 2019, 11:59 pm
Location: North Ryde, NSW
Internationals: Yes
Starting: Early February

South32

Technology Graduate Program
“As graduate in our Technology team you get to explore different technologies to find solutions to complex problems within the business. You will learn to plan, convert and deliver technical problems into real-life business solutions that will help South32 to improve safety and productivity. You’ll be part a team that’s excited by new and upcoming technologies and welcoming of new and innovative ideas.


Closes: 31st March 2019, 5:00pm
Location: Perth and other operations in WA
Starting: Early February
More Information

RioTinto

Graduate Opportunities 2020 – Australia
“Graduate careers rarely impact everyday life. But at Rio Tinto, your innovation will deliver the building blocks humankind relies on. Like the aluminium in our cars. The iron in our buildings. And the salt that seasons our meals. This is complex work that calls for natural leadership and the ability to quickly develop new skills. Work that thrives from creative thinking and demands astute environmental stewardship. Work that ultimately shapes society and drives human progress”

Closes: 31st March 2019, 5:00pm
Location: Perth and other operations in WA and Brisbane, QLD
Internationals: Yes
Starting: Early February

Assessment centres in Perth and Brisbane will take place during the week commencing 20th May 2019.

REA

Data Science and Analytics Graduate
“REA Group is one of the world’s largest property and lifestyle media companies. Best known in Australia for realestate.com.au, the market-leading property site and app, we’re also a fast-growing global business spanning three regions. Our Data Science and Analytics program will immerse you in the full cycle of how we use technology to become more responsive to our customer needs. You will gain exposure to identifying and converting raw data into highly scalable data sets. Alongside how we conduct modelling & profiling analysis to develop appropriate models to predict the behaviour, usage patterns and trends of our consumers.”

Closes: 1st April 2019, 5:00pm
Location: Melbourne
Internationals: Yes
Starting: Early February
Length: 24 months.

carsales.com

2020 Graduate Program – Technology
“Not only are we the largest online automotive, motorcycle and marine classifieds business in Australia, we’re growing across Latin America and Asia. You’ll have the chance to create an impact in roles and projects that really matter to our business. We’ll surround you with a support crew of motivated, creative people who will help you grow your career. You’ll be learning our tech stack, the languages that we code in and how to work in an agile environment. We have a lot of what we like to call “tribes” and each one is working on a different element of the business. As you work through your rotations you’ll apply your skills to the design, development, and implementation of new complex tech systems that each of these teams are working on.”

Closes: 5th April 2019, 5:00pm
Location: Melbourne
Internationals: Yes
Starting: Early February
Length: 18 months
More Information

City West Water

City West Water 2020 Graduate Program
“City West Water is excited to announce the launch of its 2020 Graduate Program. Be part of a dynamic and customer focused business that puts the customer first and benefits the community. A role with us will see you join 450 people including engineers, planners, Information Technology and various environmental experts working across our sites in the western suburbs of Melbourne.”

Closes: 7th April 2019, 11:59pm
Location: Melbourne
Internationals: Yes
Starting: Early February
More Information.

Digital Alchemy

Graduate Program
“Digital Alchemy (DA) is Asia Pacific’s leading data-driven marketing services provider that helps companies all around the region achieve their marketing goals by implementing world class solutions to optimise the use of customer data. Digital Alchemy services Australia’s largest companies across all industry sectors including financial services, telecommunications, retail, media and other industry sectors. Our headquarters are in the heart of Sydney, with offices in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand and Melbourne with over 300 employees.”

Closes: Open now
Location: Sydney
Internationals: Yes
Starting: Early February
More Information.

Atlassian

2020 Graduate Analytics Associate
We are blazing new trails to enable meaningful growth decisions, so we’re constantly growing, learning, and trying to do things differently. We’re data unicorns that distill complex analytical terminology and concepts into concise language, and we interface directly with Product leaders to transmit that knowledge effectively. We’ve been described as fearless, but thorough, because we’re dedicated to an agile methodology that enables moving fast while still ensuring high-quality output. We also know all too well the importance of validating assumptions in our data, and we use various types of testing to prove those assumptions right (or wrong).”

What you’ll be working on:

  • Developing quantitative models of user behaviour and product performance.
  • Communicating the modelling, analysis and results via writing and visualisations.
  • Identifying areas for further investigation and creating innovative analysis methods.

Closes: Open now
Location: Sydney
Internationals: Not explicitly stated – though appears so
Starting: Late January
More Information.

  • AstraZeneca
  • Carlton & United Breweries
  • EML
  • FDM Group
  • Grand Metal
  • IRESS
  • Annalect
  • SAS
  • Schneider Electric
  • Tibra Capital
  • Strategy&
  • LEK
  • TAL
  • SIG
  • WPP Consulting
  • ThoughtWorks