UCLA Extension

Digital Technology Instructor Interview: Connie Fan

Please tell us about yourself and how you got to where you currently are in your career?

I am currently working as a data solution architect at Microsoft, my primary job function is to help my customers in their journey to use data and application of data to digitally transform their business.  I started my computing career 2nd year in my college when my then employer asked me to switch from the medical assistant job he hired me for and become his computer expert in his office.  Since then, I’ve worked as a firmware engineer, software developer and now a data solution architect.  Throughout my career, I believe these few guidelines had helped me to open doors and overcome blockers:

  • Always look deeper beyond surface of a business problem you are tasked to solve
  • Be passionate about what you love to do with your career and add skills in that area even when it is not your day job

Is there anything you are currently working on that you would like to share with us?

I am currently working on few advanced analytics and ChatBOT projects.  In particularly in the areas of applying text, voice and speech analytics to improve computer and human interactions.  The advancement of processing a large amount of data quickly with data platforms such as Hadoop and cloud computing open many doors for such projects.  I genuinely believe that the age of assisted intelligence has arrived.

Could you tell us about your course “Hadoop and Managing Big Data” and what students can expect to take away from it?

As I shared in my prior comments about the age of assisted intelligence has arrived. Based on my observations, there will be a great demand for talented data scientists, data architects, data engineers and data analysts in the next few years.  Because of this, in my class, I am focusing on helping my students to gain an understanding of the landscape of Hadoop data platform, its applications and the design patterns of different data solutions.  In my class, students will have the opportunity to bring a real-life data problem to solve using knowledge learned from the class as a team.  In addition, when opportunities surface, I will arrange a live conference call with accomplished data scientist/data architect to share his/her insights about a career in the data field. For example, during the last session, my students were able to join a conference call with the Chief Data Scientist from the City of Los Angeles.

What advice can you give to our students trying to break into the Data Science field?

Data science is a rewarding field and there is a great demand for data scientists. From what I observed, in addition to having strong statistical and analytic skills and a basic proficiency in one or more common data scientist programming languages such as R or Python, these two qualities make a data scientist stand out from his/her peers:

  • Able to explain highly theoretical and statistical concepts to common folks
  • Have a flexible mind that can see a problem from all perspectives


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