Sotaro Kato is the newest member of our Internship Program, which provides top-notch education and experience for graduates and postgraduate students. Living and studying in Tokyo we may well say that he has come a long way to becoming part of the Data Masters two-month internship program through IAESTE Macedonia. As a side benefit to it, he is learning the Macedonian culture and language and as he says, he wants to promote the country and Data Masters to his friends because as of now he has an amazing first-hand experience of it.
We talked with him on various topics, starting from the motivation to come to Skopje, why he has chosen to study computer vision and his impression of Macedonia.
Hi, Sotaro, and a warm welcome to our data house and country!
Zdravo! I have been in Macedonia for a couple of weeks now, and I found that Macedonia is a good place and such a friendly country. It is a pleasure to share my thoughts with you about the country and Data Masters. Thank you very much for the opportunity to express my opinion and my experience so far.
You are currently studying computer vision at Keio University. What motivated you to study specifically this and what attracted you to the field of Data Science?
I started studying computer science because I wanted to use cutting-edge technology to create things. As far as I can remember, I have always loved developing things, building plastic models, and making houses out of lego blocks.
Ever since high school, I have used software through smartphones in my personal life and gradually decided that I wanted to create things using programming.
My motivation for studying data science was because I wanted to create something with high functionality. Technologies that use data science nowadays are very close at hand. For example, some systems can automatically trade securities assets, there are facial recognition IDs for cell phones, and recommendation systems displayed when you search on the web. I am currently studying to use such technologies.
You point out that finance is the domain where you want to work and create. Is there something that you want to accomplish in this field?
Yes, I would like to apply data science techniques to securities systems. I believe that finance has great potential for applying data science, especially in the securities sector where we often deal with numbers.
In Japan, even though the Tokyo Stock Exchange ranks third in the world in terms of market capitalization, its vast amount of money flow on the stock exchange is not well utilized. This is because the stock exchange system has existed for a long time and is not flexible.
In recent years, the possibility of operating various types of data has increased due to the improved performance of servers. However, stock exchanges spend too much time lowering system failures and not enough time utilizing big data. That is why I decided to focus my work in finance & data science and create something with impact that also contributes to society.
Why have you chosen to come to Macedonia and become part of the Data Masters Internship Program?
I chose this company because of the attractive business it is doing. The truth is, there were also other options. For example, one of the options was a data science company whose domain was healthcare, and, also there was another data science company whose domain was hardware.
Even though there were many different options, I chose this company. This company has the capabilities in finance and data science that I have and need, so I think it is a good fit for me. Besides, the Data Masters Instagram account helped me see what kind of people work here and what kind of a workplace it is. And I loved the vibes.
What were your first impressions of the country and the working atmosphere at Data Masters?
At first, I had the feeling that people, let’s say, noticed me in the crowd. Perhaps, because I am a rare Asian, passersby often looked at me when I was walking in Skopje. However, when I actually talked to them, I found that they are kind people. My current impression of Macedonia is that it is a wonderful country.
The employees at Data Master were friendly from the beginning and made a great first impression. (I must say that in Japan, we don’t use body language such as hugs and handshakes when greeting people, so this was a culture shock for me 🙂 )
I love that the employees get along well, and I think it is an ideal place to work and learn in a free environment with a clear on-off schedule.
Throughout the internship, you are going to work with your mentor Pavel Andonovic on creating a random forest model for time series prediction. Can you please tell us more about the assignment and the expected outcome of it?
The goal is to create an explainable and quickly trainable machine learning model for time-series data. LSTMs, RNNs, and other neural network models are very precise, but take too much time to train, making them unusable for this project.
I am working on improving the accuracy of the model by analyzing how many items are purchased in a store in a day.
Therefore, we are trying to predict the future demand for each store’s products using a machine learning model called RandomForestRegressor, which does not take much time. The outcome is to improve the forecasting accuracy and to find the variables that are important in demand forecasting.
What was the first reaction of your family when you told them that you are coming to Macedonia for a two-month internship?
My family was surprised. Their question was: “Why are you going to Macedonia?“, and I had to explain the decision to everyone. They were just worried about me. The whole situation with Ukraine and Russia was one of the reasons why they worried. So I remember it was very hard to convince them that I was going to Macedonia.
What are your expectations of the internship?
I hope this internship will give me the opportunity to experience working abroad and provide valuable material for my future career. I have lived in Japan for 24 years but have never been abroad. I have always wanted to go overseas, and I would like to work in a country other than Japan in the future. I would like to use this internship as an opportunity to make a firm decision about my career.
And I hope that through my internship experience at a data science company, I can improve my own data science skills and contribute to the company.
You say there is a big difference between Japanese and Macedonian culture and there is beauty in it. Can you point out some of them and how you have experienced them?
The biggest difference between Macedonia (Skopje) and Japan (Tokyo) is the relaxed approach to living. Many Japanese people, especially those in Capital Tokyo, don’t have a relaxed mind. It is because they have the idea that working long hours is a thing of beauty. Thanks to this, trains come on time without a minute delay, and 24-hour convenience stores are everywhere. It is a great thing in general, but for me, sometimes, it’s draining.
Macedonia, on the contrary, has an atmosphere of freedom. People here value their private lives. They relax in coffee shops all over town, and Data Master’s colleagues play videogames during their breaks. This approach is unthinkable in Japan. Even cats and pigeons are calmer than in Japan, I feel. I like such an atmosphere!
What are your dreams for the future? How do you imagine your career going forward and what are the next steps for you on that matter?
My dream for the future is to introduce AI technology into the back office systems of Japanese securities firms. I will work for a Japanese IT company next year (after finishing my master’s degree), where I would love to apply everything I know and learn even more. I plan to work for this company for about ten years and develop my IT project management and software skills. After that, I would like to change my career as a data scientist with experience in large-scale IT software development.
I believe that my experience with Data Masters in the IAESTE internship program will be useful to accomplish that and I hope that in the future, I could work with Data Masters in some way in the financial field.