Tell us a little bit about your life before you enrolled in the Big Data program at SFU.
I grew up in Toronto and did my undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo. I majored in Kinesiology and minored in Computer Science. Introductory computer science courses were required in my major, and when I took my first class in CS, I fell in love with it. After my undergrad, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Computer Science and graduated in 2001. Soon after, I was offered a position at a small tech start-up in Vancouver, so I relocated. Unfortunately, the company ended up closing its doors, but I was soon able to secure work teaching first-year computer science classes at UBC and Capilano University. After several years of teaching, I decided that I wanted to branch out and do something different with my knowledge and skills. I researched the job market around computer science to find what types of skills were needed and what would fit with my interests. This is how I came across SFU’s Professional Master’s Program in Big Data.
What do you consider the greatest strength of the program?
I think the labs are probably the biggest strength of the program, because they consist of hands-on projects. We have amazing instructors for this course. Another big advantage is the small cohort for this program. The small setting allows you to really get to know fellow students and collaborate with them. Finally, I found the Co-op portion of the program to be a huge deciding factor for me, because I knew I wanted to work in industry, so I was looking for a program that would be in line with this goal.
What is the most important thing you have learned in the program so far?
The most important thing I have learned so far is how to learn the skills I need in order to succeed in this discipline. Since big data is still a fairly new field, resources can be hard to come by, and you cannot simply google what you need to know. Due to the nature of the program, I was always encouraged to problem-solve and find the information I needed to do well on projects, assignments, etc. As a result, I have become very self-sufficient when it comes to finding the best resources to get the job done.
What types of jobs are you looking for?
I am very open to different opportunities, but, generally speaking, I would like to work for an established company that offers big data solutions to clients, or that uses big data for its own operations.
What are some of your other interests and hobbies?
My #1 interest apart from everything big data is mountain biking! When I first moved here, people would often ask “What do you do?” Not realizing they were probably referring to my professional life, I would always say “Mountain biking!” (laughs). I also enjoy the spectacular outdoors in BC. I love skiing, hiking, and camping.
What would you tell potential students looking at SFU’s Big Data program?
If you are interested in Computer Science, you will like this program! Because big data is pretty much everywhere, it allows you to get into different areas. If you like coding, you could work in programming. If you have a head for statistics, you could do data science. And then, there is also visualization for those who are interested in the human-computer interface. Depending on your interests, you can focus your projects and electives once you are in the program.
I would also recommend that you review multivariate calculus and linear algebra, as a solid understanding is needed in the machine learning class, which is difficult, but really interesting!
Finally, keep an open mind about job opportunities! You never know where life might take you.