Uzma Ali

Class of 2017.

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

I am originally from Pakistan, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Systems at N.E.D. University of Engineering and Technology. I started my career as a web development instructor in Dubai and mentored graduate level students and professionals.  I, then, worked as a web administrator for a regional intranet site for the world’s leading supplier of technology in the oil and gas industry.

I immigrated to Vancouver 10 years ago with my family. I have had varied experiences in Canada as a systems analyst in the transportation, health, and telecommunication sectors. I realized that the opportunity for an organization’s success resides in improving operations, and business intelligence reporting was playing a major role in fostering sound operational and strategic decisions.

In the past 5 years, I have been involved in designing reports and architecting sustainable solutions. To enhance my skill set for complex reporting needs, I joined the Professional Master’s Program in Big Data at SFU. I believe that the world is headed towards a data explosion and I want to be ready for the challenge!

What do you consider the greatest strength of the program?

The big data lab course provides hands-on practical experience and leads towards a final project submission. This project provides us with an opportunity to understand industry challenges. Also, the mandatory courses are well-blended into the program. The courses are led by experienced instructors, and additional assistance from both professors and teaching assistants is readily available. Finally, because SFU has an established relationship with industry contacts, there is a wide selection of co-op positions from all over Canada.

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

The most important thing that I have learned so far is the application of machine learning and data mining algorithms to uncover data insights, which would not even be conceivable from traditional data query methods. The most important skill set I learned was to combine these data analysis methods with massive amounts of data.

What types of jobs are you looking for?

I would like to bring value to an organization that proactively uses big data analytics to transform business decisions for the future. I will be looking at applying for data scientist or big data programmer roles. I would like to contribute towards the evolving high performance analytics in the industry with continuous innovation.

What are some of your other interests and hobbies?

I enjoy going on hiking and biking day trips with my family around Vancouver. Zumba class is also a great way to wind down. I have done bungee jumping once, and I am not planning on doing it again anytime soon! Apart from being active, I love to read fantasy novels, and I am a huge Harry Potter fan.

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

This is a very intensive program, so you should expect to devote most of your time to coursework. I do not recommend working on the side. I agree with Denis' advice on reviewing calculus and linear algebra prior to joining the program, because the courses require a solid understanding of mathematics. In addition, talking to the Academic Program Coordinator was very helpful in understanding how the program fits into the industry market and aided me in my decision to join the program.