Tell us a little bit about your life before you enrolled in the Big Data program at SFU.
I am originally from Hong Kong, but grew up in Vancouver. I did my undergraduate degree in Business Administration with a minor in Computing Science here at SFU. After I graduated, I worked as a Developer and Project Manager at TELUS for 6 years.
I’ve always liked working with databases. To me, working with data is like understanding a big puzzle and trying to find something valuable in it. I got interested in big data when I learned about the great things companies like LinkedIn, Google, and Netflix were doing with it, so I decided to look into academic programs and found SFU’s Professional Master’s Program in Big Data.
What do you consider the greatest strength of the program?
I think the greatest strength of the program is its blend of academics with hands-on, practical experience. The co-op and the lab courses really augment what we learn in the theory courses. The program is good at preparing students for real-world skills that are being used in industry.
What is the most important thing you have learned in the program so far?
I’m not sure if it is the most important thing, but I really enjoyed the machine learning class. Machine learning plays a huge role in how big data is used in the real world. When Netflix recommends a movie, for example, machine learning works behind the scenes, and this course helped me understand the mechanisms involved.
What types of jobs are you looking for?
I think, in big data, you can either go with the programming side of things or the more analytical/statistical side. I prefer the latter. I am looking to become what you call a Data Scientist, so I am interested not so much in programming infrastructure, but rather in analysing and interpreting data mathematically.
What are some of your other interests and hobbies?
I like to ride my bike, and Vancouver is great for that. I like cooking and I try to be physically active. I play soccer every week and I go to the YMCA a few times a week, you know, to keep me sane (laughs).
What would you tell potential students looking at SFU’s Big Data program?
Don’t be too concerned if finding a co-op placement takes a while. It will come. The co-op seeking process takes time.
When it comes to employers, it is important to show that you are a good learner, rather than pretend to know everything. I think most employers are looking for someone who is a quick learner and who will add value to their company. Also, don’t get turned off by long lists of expected qualifications in a job posting. Remember that this is the employer’s wish list and he/she will probably not get all of these qualities from any one employee.