Denis Zubo

Class of 2017.

Tell us a little bit about your life before you enrolled in the Big Data program at SFU.

I am originally from Moscow. I graduated from Moscow State University with a Master of Science degree in physics and applied mathematics in 2002. During my studies, the internet was still fairly new to the Russian public, and I was fascinated by it. I began creating websites for myself, friends, and my family’s business. I was very interested in the online user experience and how to meet business needs through web development. This led me to a position with a travel agency, where I created a new company website and optimized the e-commerce system.

Later, I worked for a company which operated one of the largest websites for travellers in Russia, where I had the opportunity to work with more data and use analytics tools. I was promoted to the head of the internet projects department and gained even deeper insights into the vast potential of big data and the application of machine learning algorithms in the travel industry. When I learned about SFU’s Big Data program, I thought it was a great step toward my career goals. I was excited to live in Canada and gain a deeper understanding of data science.

What do you consider the greatest strength of the program?

I enjoy the Western teaching style, which is a new experience for me. The courses in our program are taught with the students in mind. They involve a lot of practice and class discussion. The labs are another advantage of the program. And the co-op really convinced me to apply for this program; other programs I was considering did not include work experience as part of their curriculum.

What is the most important thing you have learned in the program so far?

I think the most important thing I have learned so far is to not be afraid of big data. Massive amounts of data can seem overwhelming at first, but we have already learned many methods and techniques for starting to analyse the data. When I am presented with big data, I can now form a plan to tackle it. The data mining course and the lab course, in particular, were essential in this.

What types of jobs are you looking for?

I am looking for data scientist jobs, because I’m very interested in extracting actionable knowledge from large amounts of data to help others make informed decisions. I enjoy interacting with people and discovering information that is not easily found.

What are some of your other interests and hobbies?

Spending time with my family. I love playing games with my kids, watching movies, and going for walks. I used to accompany my 7-year-old son to his chess tournaments back in Russia and I look forward to getting him more involved in the chess community here. Another hobby of mine is analysing the success of video games with publicly available information. I love studying player behaviours, calculating retention rates, predicting churn, and so on.

What would you tell potential students looking at SFU’s Big Data program?

I would highly recommend the program. The staff is very helpful if you have any questions. Though I didn’t struggle with the mathematical side myself, I definitely recommend refreshing one’s knowledge of linear algebra and statistics. If you’ve already applied, read up on this before you begin the program, and consider bringing your favourite textbooks from your home country for added support. You will need this knowledge in your courses, especially for the labs and machine learning.