Digital Technology Instructor Interview: Vera Kalinichenko

Vera Kalinichenko is one of our new Data Science instructors and is a professional in the field. We are very excited to have her join our team!

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

Vera: I was born in a small town in the west of Ukraine. I participated in national mathematical competitions while I was in high school. I have graduated from VZMS (http://math-vzms.org/) which was an old USSR-style mathematics school for high school students. I was accepted into Kiev State University named after T. Shevchenko and spent two years there studying pure mathematics. In 1997 I came to the United States.

I went to UCLA for my undergraduate and graduate work. After UCLA, I worked for many years as a software engineer, building software for finance companies to trade bonds, options, and currencies. During 2012, when Big Data started to rise, I switched to the field of data science and have been doing data science since. Currently, I work as Principal Data Scientist at Atom Tickets, LLC. My personal goal is a constant search for knowledge since life is a puzzle.

 

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

Vera: Currently, I am working on a customer movie list personalization for Atom Tickets and a variety of others projects; from basic model tuning to experimentation with neural nets and deep-learning libraries from TensorFlow. I love opening a probability graduate book or any mathematics textbook and reading a few pages for inspiration. I strongly believe that discrete mathematics, combinatorics positively influence your creativity and help build elegant and simple models.

 

UCLAx: Could you tell us about your course, “Introduction to Data Science,” and what students can expect to take away from it?

Vera: My course is about developing a strong foundation in data science, familiarizing my students with data exploratory analysis, illustrating to my students the practical overview of several commonly used models in a wide range of fields. Data Science applications range from retail to finance, the medical field to engineering. I would like to prepare my students for their professional career as a data scientist/data analyst.

 

UCLAx: What advice can you give to our students trying to break into the data science field?

Vera: Mostly my students will not build gradient descent models from scratch at their workplaces, since there are so many libraries already written and available for use, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. However, I strongly believe that it is very important to understand the main concepts behind the most commonly used models. What really lies behind the models are basic optimization techniques. It is important to develop an intuition of how to build a model and know what techniques work in what use case. It really makes sense to spend time and develop that foundation if you are serious about data science. I think data science is a combination of art and science, that uses key ideas from mathematics, statistics, machine learning, and physics, so it is useful to review the basic statistics and linear algebra concepts, then just keep building on that foundation.

There is so much information available nowadays, you just need to allocate time and use books and lectures, read blogs and start developing code, and practice modeling. I think if a person wants to learn something, now is the best time to be living and achieving it. There is so much quality information available, you should use it as learning opportunity. The only commodities we need are time and perseverance.




June 2018 Digital Tech Newsletter

Spotlight: New programs

The certificate is a 4-course (16-unit) program that provides training and education for those who would like to pursue a career in data science. Courses cover data development and management, machine learning and natural language processing, exploratory data analysis, statistical models, data visualization, and inference. Additionally, the program includes hands-on training in real-life data science problems.

This program is available in standard or intensive formats. For more information, click here.

Grads of this certificate program will be granted UCLA alumni status. Many of our certificates, including Data Science, qualify for employer reimbursement. Please check with your employer.

 

The Python for Data Engineers specialization provides training and education for those who would like to specialize in big data analytics. Courses cover Python as a data analysis programming language, numerical computing, data analysis, unstructured data, statistical modeling, and data visualization. Additionally, the specialization includes hands-on training in design, analysis, and implementation of data-driven analytical strategy and tools to support business decision-making. This program has three required courses (12 academic units). For more information, click here.

 

Instructor Interview:

Vera Kalinichenko is one of our new Data Science instructors and is a professional in the field. We are very excited to have her join our team!

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

Vera: I was born in a small town in the west of Ukraine. I participated in national mathematical competitions while I was in high school. I have graduated from VZMS (http://math-vzms.org/) which was an old USSR-style mathematics school for high school students. I was accepted into Kiev State University named after T. Shevchenko and spent two years there studying pure mathematics. In 1997 I came to the United States.

I went to UCLA for my undergraduate and graduate work. After UCLA, I worked for many years as a software engineer, building software for finance companies to trade bonds, options, and currencies. During 2012, when Big Data started to rise, I switched to the field of data science and have been doing data science since. Currently, I work as Principal Data Scientist at Atom Tickets, LLC. My personal goal is a constant search for knowledge since life is a puzzle.

 

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

Vera: Currently, I am working on a customer movie list personalization for Atom Tickets and a variety of others projects; from basic model tuning to experimentation with neural nets and deep-learning libraries from TensorFlow. I love opening a probability graduate book or any mathematics textbook and reading a few pages for inspiration. I strongly believe that discrete mathematics, combinatorics positively influence your creativity and help build elegant and simple models.

 

UCLAx: Could you tell us about your course, “Introduction to Data Science,” and what students can expect to take away from it?

Vera: My course is about developing a strong foundation in data science, familiarizing my students with data exploratory analysis, illustrating to my students the practical overview of several commonly used models in a wide range of fields. Data Science applications range from retail to finance, the medical field to engineering. I would like to prepare my students for their professional career as a data scientist/data analyst.

 

UCLAx: What advice can you give to our students trying to break into the data science field?

Vera: Mostly my students will not build gradient descent models from scratch at their workplaces, since there are so many libraries already written and available for use, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. However, I strongly believe that it is very important to understand the main concepts behind the most commonly used models. What really lies behind the models are basic optimization techniques. It is important to develop an intuition of how to build a model and know what techniques work in what use case. It really makes sense to spend time and develop that foundation if you are serious about data science. I think data science is a combination of art and science, that uses key ideas from mathematics, statistics, machine learning, and physics, so it is useful to review the basic statistics and linear algebra concepts, then just keep building on that foundation.

There is so much information available nowadays, you just need to allocate time and use books and lectures, read blogs and start developing code, and practice modeling. I think if a person wants to learn something, now is the best time to be living and achieving it. There is so much quality information available, you should use it as learning opportunity. The only commodities we need are time and perseverance.

 

Summer Course Preview:

Introduction to Data Science

This course introduces students to the evolving domain of data science and to the food-chain of knowledge domains involved in its application. Students learn a wide range of challenges, questions, and problems that data science helps address in different domains, including social sciences, finance, health and fitness, and entertainment. The course addresses the key knowledge domains in data science, including data development and management, machine learning and natural language processing, statistical analysis, data visualization, and inference. The course also provides an exposure to some of the technologies involved in the application of data science, including Hadoop, NoSQL, and Python Programming language. The course includes case studies that require students to work on real-life data science problems.

Summer offerings: in-person, online, or in a hybrid format. 

 

Instructor Interview from Product Management:

Roy Firestone is the Sr. Director of Product for the global ad tech firm OpenX and teaches the course Tactical Product Management: Build it, Launch it, Grow it

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

Roy: I started computer programming at age 8 on one of the first home computers, the TRS-80 from Radio Shack. Computer information systems was a natural fit in undergrad. My first job was with Accenture in the technology practice in D.C., where I traveled around the world implementing software and training local staff in places like Rio de Janeiro, Bangkok, and Taipei. Through media companies like USA TODAY, I grew into advertising technology roles. My client-facing focus led to a career in product management, where I speak two languages: business and technology.

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

Roy: In my current role as Sr. Director of Product for the global ad tech firm OpenX, I am growing our digital video business by entering new markets like Connected TV.

UCLAx: Could you tell us about your course “Tactical Product Management: Build it, Launch it, Grow it,” and what students can expect to take away from it?

Roy: Tactical product management teaches how to shepherd digital products through the software development process. Product management roles and tasks differ from software engineering but are closely correlated. The objective is to make products successful through a combination of business and technical skills. It’s this unique combination of talents that define product management.

UCLAx: What advice can you give to our students trying to break into the Product Management field?

Roy: When trying to break into Product Management, it’s important to focus on accomplishments that align with this dynamic and exciting field. If you haven’t had a product role yet, revisit your resume and view it through a product lens. What turned you on to the product in the first place?  Were you a power user who helped design and launch a new system?  Were you the go-to resource for figuring out complex tech solutions?  Be ready to tell stories that are relevant to product management. If you are transitioning from software engineering, try using less engineering jargon and acronyms and highlight your experience using language from the product life cycle.

 

News:

-June 21st SBi-Lab Meet-up: Data Science and Entrepreneurship, for more information please email us at DT@uclaextension.edu

-Summer Quarter will begin on June 25th. You can enroll now!




Digital Technology Instructor Interview: Kelvin McKisick

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

Kelvin: My story starts with the television show Mission Impossible, which portrayed an elite group of operatives carrying out highly sensitive missions for the government. In that group was an African-American actor who played the character Barney Collier, and was the gadget maker. In the show he owned an electronics company, and in every episode he was tasked with creating some gadget vital to the mission. Each mission, Barney would be asked if he could complete his part, to which he would reply, “Sure Jim, I will have it ready.”

That impressed me because outside of my immediate family, who were all construction contractors, I had not seen a strong, confident, black man who knew what he was doing. So in my teens I started playing with electronics … Radio Shack was my second home. I learned more about electronics in high school, where I first used a TRS-80 computer. From there I decided I wanted to be an electronics engineer, so off to college I went. After college I started working at a bio-medical company doing hardware designs, then I went to another company to do electronic music design and development. From there I moved away from hardware and started working in the software field.

Today, I own my own electronics company, doing hardware and software development.

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

Kelvin: Early in my career I worked at an electronic music company, doing hardware and software design and development. From there I moved on to pure business and enterprise software development. Now I am going back to my hardware roots, designing electronic guitar effects pedals and rack-mounted sound processors.

UCLAx: Could you tell us about your course, Relation Database Management, and what students can expect to take away from it?

Kelvin: This course is designed to help the student learn about relational database technology, and how to use techniques such as data modeling and data normalization to design database structures. Then they will learn the process of translating their data model to a logical model, and from there to physical storage structures. Students will learn the topics of indexes, storage management, transactions, database integrity, concurrency control, data recovery, client/server relational database management, and introduction to SQL query optimization.

The students can expect to take away:

  1. The knowledge to create basic data and process models
  2. Better understanding of how to use existing database resources
  3. A greater grasp of how to develop and implement relatively complex database designs
  4. An understanding of how to be an effective member of a database development team
  5. The knowledge to create a basic relational database model based on the data and process models

UCLAx: What advice can you give our students trying to break into the data science field?

Kelvin:

  • Learn coding and statistical basics as early as possible
  • Learn to work with new sources and types of data
  • Check out community sites such as Kaggle and join competitions. This is probably as close as you will get to real-job tasks.
  • Continue to keep up-to-date with the latest in machine-learning
  • Learn how to use R programming language and tools such as Power BI
  • Wake up every day and know that something new is in store with Big Data

 




May 2018 Digital Tech Newsletter

Spotlight:

Coding for Beginners Using Games

Learn to code using Minecraft, the wildly popular video game. In this course, you will build mods that can build cities, turn water into gold, or even create multi-player games. Your imagination is the limit as code gives you the superpower to do anything. In the process, you will see how code is used to automate processes much as in real life, and develop real coding skills. No coding experience required.

This is a 2-week course, which meets 4 days a week, with options in the morning (9 am to 12 noon) or afternoon (from 1:30 – 4:30pm). For more information and schedule options, please click here.

Instructor Interview:

This month we interview one of our new instructors, Kelvin McKisick. Kelvin has been working in the programming and data science fields for more than two decades.

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

Kelvin: My story starts with the television show Mission Impossible, which portrayed an elite group of operatives carrying out highly sensitive missions for the government. In that group was an African-American actor who played the character Barney Collier, and was the gadget maker. In the show he owned an electronics company, and in every episode he was tasked with creating some gadget vital to the mission. Each mission, Barney would be asked if he could complete his part, to which he would reply, “Sure Jim, I will have it ready.”

That impressed me because outside of my immediate family, who were all construction contractors, I had not seen a strong, confident, black man who knew what he was doing. So in my teens I started playing with electronics … Radio Shack was my second home. I learned more about electronics in high school, where I first used a TRS-80 computer. From there I decided I wanted to be an electronics engineer, so off to college I went. After college I started working at a bio-medical company doing hardware designs, then I went to another company to do electronic music design and development. From there I moved away from hardware and started working in the software field.

Today, I own my own electronics company, doing hardware and software development.

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

Kelvin: Early in my career I worked at an electronic music company, doing hardware and software design and development. From there I moved on to pure business and enterprise software development. Now I am going back to my hardware roots, designing electronic guitar effects pedals and rack-mounted sound processors.

UCLAx: Could you tell us about your course, Relation Database Management, and what students can expect to take away from it?

Kelvin: This course is designed to help the student learn about relational database technology, and how to use techniques such as data modeling and data normalization to design database structures. Then they will learn the process of translating their data model to a logical model, and from there to physical storage structures. Students will learn the topics of indexes, storage management, transactions, database integrity, concurrency control, data recovery, client/server relational database management, and introduction to SQL query optimization.

The students can expect to take away:

  1. The knowledge to create basic data and process models
  2. Better understanding of how to use existing database resources
  3. A greater grasp of how to develop and implement relatively complex database designs
  4. An understanding of how to be an effective member of a database development team
  5. The knowledge to create a basic relational database model based on the data and process models

UCLAx: What advice can you give our students trying to break into the data science field?

Kelvin:

  • Learn coding and statistical basics as early as possible
  • Learn to work with new sources and types of data
  • Check out community sites such as Kaggle and join competitions. This is probably as close as you will get to real-job tasks.
  • Continue to keep up-to-date with the latest in machine-learning
  • Learn how to use R programming language and tools such as Power BI
  • Wake up every day and know that something new is in store with Big Data

 

Interesting Finds:

Games Change How We Think

News:

Digital Badges Now Available!

UCLA Extension can now issue you a digital badge to show completion of your program. You can show off your achievement on social media by sharing your badge to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Click the link to review a video on how to receive and accept badges issued to you.

Events: On Thursday, June 7th, join us at 6pm for our next UCLAx SBi-Lab meet-up! For more information, please email us at DT@uclaextension.edu.

Summer Enrollment: Enrollment for the Summer Quarter opened on April 30th. To see our course and certificate offerings, click here.




Digital Technology Instructor Interview: Ali El-Annan

This month we had the pleasure of interviewing one of our new Data Science instructors, Ali El-Annan.

UCLAx: Please tell us about yourself and how you got where you are in your career?

Ali: I could probably say it all started with a Lego set as a child when I had that “I want to be an engineer” moment. But I’ll pick up from when I graduated from UC Berkeley with an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degree. I was determined to build satellites, shuttles or go work for NASA. Destiny being as such, I ended up going into financial services post-Cal, and later worked at a technology company rather than go back to finance. It was great — I contributed across roles, from portfolio management to quantitative research to analytics, and beyond. It was challenging at times, rewarding at others. I’ve built skills across domains and networks across the globe. Currently, I work on a variety of data science, analytics, and technology efforts at a financial services firm.

To close it out with that Lego set and my core ambitions, I am blessed to have grown up in a house where my Mom always encouraged active citizenship and participation in the community, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and to always be open to learning new things. As such, I’m happy to be able to instruct at UCLA Extension and be part of the community.

 

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

Ali: Absolutely. There are a few ventures I’m pursuing. One is a very creative project (my first in the non-technical sphere). A few others are projects with fellow Cal Alumni that we (hope) can make the world a better place. I’m also independently learning some interesting “Internet of Things” technologies and tools for use with 3D printing and design.

 

UCLAx: Could you tell us about your course “Exploratory Data Analysis and Visualization,” and what students can expect to take away from it?

Ali: I’d love to talk about the Exploratory Data Analysis and Visualization course, which is part of the suite of Data Science courses UCLA Extension offers. Students will be able to approach existing challenges, frame and define new problems, and solve them using both the skills and tools they will learn through the course. It will be challenging, as we will use a lot of tools to give broad and deep exposure to all things data, to all things visualization, and tie them together. We will trace back and forth through the problem with data and visualization solutions. Effectively, students can leverage these skills for their entrepreneurial interests/starting a company, by using them at an existing company or institution, or for their own academic learnings.

 

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

Ali: Learn core concepts across domains (i.e., mathematics, computer science, design, etc.), learn different approaches (i.e., be able to solve the same problem using different techniques, or understand the available options and their trade-offs), and be ready to pivot (i.e., know the field will continue to grow, so grow with it and perhaps even contribute to it). Practice, exercise, and build intuition around what you are learning. Be aware of trends, but be careful about chasing them and have a diverse portfolio of skills. The field of Data Science can arguably be said to have existed from the beginnings of math and computer science, but essentially the improvements in computational capabilities have created a platform for amassing, processing, and understanding mass amounts of data by individuals with a computer and some skills. Practice, practice, practice. If you have a problem you want to solve, be patient with yourself, but try and solve it using the tools and skills you learn so that you can continuously improve. Create portfolios of your work, and be creative in gaining experience (i.e., seek an internship or work on a project with a non-profit). Attend networking events, technical talks, participate in competitions and find companies that — although they may be riskier from a career perspective — might give you the exposure you seek. Another route could also be to provide consulting services while you build your experience. There are many paths to success, and you’ve already started the most important part — learning and growing.




Digital Technology Instructor Interview: Eric Kellener

This month we interviewed Eric Kellener. He is a professional management consultant and has been teaching with us for the last year.

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

Erik: I’ve had the good fortune to know what area I was interested in from an early age. I was one of those kids working with computers since I was 11 years old. I continued the path and studied Computer Science in both Undergraduate and Graduate school. To date, I’ve spent the first 1/3 of my career writing software, another 1/3 in building and leading engineering teams, and the recent 1/3 focusing on developing the next generation of great technology leaders.

 

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

Erik: For the past 6 years, I’ve been building a consulting practice focused on helping companies scale their teams and organizations through the lens of technology leadership. I generally serve as a consulting CTO, a business coach, mentor and target team and leadership development. http://www.kellener.com

 

UCLAx: Could you tell us about your course “Introduction to SQL” and what students can expect to take away from it?

Erik: This is a fairly new experience for me, especially as an online-course instructor. When designing the content, I honestly struggled on how to effectively measure a student’s grasp of the curriculum (e.g. quizzes and tests) with an online format. After speaking with number of colleagues, I landed on an approach that is heavily weighted on solving real-world, practical problems, as opposed to measuring their accuracy of technical structures and syntax (Google and Stackoverflow are great for that). In other words, examples and problems would be framed as “You have been asked by the Human Resources team to develop an employee report that shows […]; write a solution to accomplish this.“  I think of these problems as mazes which have many successful paths to the exit.

 

UCLAX: What advice can you give to our students trying to break into the Database Management field?

Erik:

  • Get practical experience as soon as possible. Build a database backend for a friend’s website. Volunteer to help out your IT team in building an asset-tracking system. The more you keep close to the domain, the quicker you’ll gain momentum in your learning.
  • Don’t specialize early on. Learn about the tools and technologies available and used by the industry. Familiarize yourself with the database technology landscape, from MongoDB, to MySQL, to Oracle, to Neo4j. When working with my clients on hiring, I almost always recommend they hire generalists with a high capacity to learn and adapt.
  • Find someone who can be a mentor. Pair with someone who has the skills or experiences you want to develop — this applies to most things in life.



Digital Technology Instructor Interview: Ray Han

Instructor Interview

This month we interviewed our instructor, Ray Han. Ray teaches a number of courses here at UCLA Extension; including Introduction to SQL, Relational Database Management, and Advanced Database Management Concepts.

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

Ray: I was born in the US. My dad was an aerospace scientist, and my mom was an elementary school teacher. So I was destined to succeed academically. I went to Yale for undergrad and studied applied math and computer science and I went to grad school in systems engineering at Stanford. I have also studied at Tsinghua,Peking, and Renmin Universities in China. I have worked at Honeywell, Oracle, and Arthur Andersen (Accenture). I can say I worked pretty hard but there were some lucky breaks along the line. The key is to never quit. Expect good things to happen if you try hard.

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

Ray: I am on the board of three startups. One of them Law Totem is already making money. In this role I helped them with building training software for lawyers preparing for the bar exam in China. There has been a venture DeveloBrain which was to help foreign students find jobs in the STEMs fields. However President Trump has made this very difficult. So I have temporarily directed people towards the Silicon Beach Innovation Lab. My focus is now on helping UCLA students connect. So if you are a perspectives STEMs person send me your resume.

UCLAx: Could you tell us about your course “Relational Database Management” and what students can expect to take away from it? 

Ray: Notice that this class is called Relational Database Management and not Intro to Databases. By the end of class the students should be able to understand relational databases i.e. MS Access, MySQL, SQL Server, and Oracle pretty well. The class moves quickly so I would say by the end of the class the student should be good enough to be ready for an intro job in the field or something that requires 1-2 years of experience. In the final project we design an actual RDBMS. We cover ER diagraming, normalization, and SQL in depth. We learn Access and touch upon SQL Server and Oracle.

UCLAx: What advice can you give to our students trying to break into the Database Management field?

Ray: Start small then move up. If you are entirely new to the field try smaller databases and easier books. Try learning the small personal database Access first. We do this in my class. We then move to MS SQL Server and then to Oracle. I would start with an easy book. We use the lightweight book by Kroenke then build up to a more advanced book Silberschatz. Also, try to have friends in the class and in the field. Almost every CS person has some knowledge of databases. The small PC database MS Access comes with MS Office. Instead of using forms, etc., actually do the SQL. Also, it would be great if you could use Apporto, which allows you to work with SQL Server and Management Studio. In our class the student gets access to Apporto and they can work with many sample databases which can be attached. Nothing beats hands on experience. So play around with Access and Apporto.




Digital Technology Instructor Interview: Joshua Cook

This month we interviewed our newest instructor, Joshua Cook. Joshua has a Master’s in Computer Science from Georgia Institute of Technology and a Master’s in Education from UCLA. We are really excited to have him join our Digital Technology team.

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

Joshua: I have been in academia on one side of the desk or the other for most of my life. I love teaching and learning (and often learn more as a teacher then I do as a student). One of the things that really excites me about data science and machine learning is that it is so research oriented even when being applied to a real-world application.

 

I have been programming since I was a kid. I got my first computer, a Commodore Vic 20, in 1982! I really started my transition into data science, though, when I was teaching high school. I learned to code in Perl and wrote test generation software to use in my class. When I stopped teaching high school, I went back to school and got a degree in applied math. At this time, the data science boom was already underway so I was able to take a lot of classes in numerical python and scientific computing. About the same time, I discovered Jupyter notebooks. After school, I worked for a variety of startups and was able to develop a handful of machine learning models that are still in production. Last year, I returned to the classroom, this time as a data science instructor at General Assembly in Santa Monica.

 

All of that brings me to teaching the Data Science Intensive here at UCLA Extension. As a Bruin, I am very excited to be returning to UCLA as an instructor and hope to grow my data science practice by helping students begin and develop their own.


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

Joshua: Last year, I published my first book, Docker for Data Science(Apress, 2017, https://www.apress.com/us/book/9781484230114). I really enjoyed the writing process and digging into a topic to develop a deeper discussion. I am currently working on my second book, Introduction to Linear Algebra with Python. I am excited to be working on this, not only because I really enjoy the writing process, but also because I have a great passion for the subject of linear algebra and especially its applications in machine learning and data science.

UCLA Extension: What excites you about this field?

Joshua: I love the combination of theory and practice that is data science. I love being able to dig deeper into the theory of a particular method, but that there is always a practical application to what I am learning in the end.

I also love the power of the techniques we are applying. Lately, I have been working with a technique called latent semantic analysis (LSA). LSA is a natural language processing technique that allows you to find hidden patterns in a large body of text information. For example, you could use this technique on all the tweets sent from the UCLA campus last week and start to develop an understanding of what Bruins were talking about. I just think it is so cool that you can apply mathematical modeling to something as open and unstructured as text data and learn things that are useful and understandable even to someone without an expertise in the field!

UCLA Extension: What advice can you give to our students trying to break into the data science field?

Joshua: Three things:

1) Stay curious and keep learning. This is a field defined by change. The ability to adapt can be almost as important as learning to understand the different models.
2) Never underestimate the linear model. With all of the fancy talk about neural networks and boosted decision trees, remember that regression is still incredibly useful and powerful.
3) There is always an open door for the passionate and motivated, but it might not look like what you expect it to. What I mean by this is, don’t hold out for what you think is the perfect data science job. Get your foot in the door and let your passion and enthusiasm for data science carry you to where you want to be.

 

Click to learn more about our Data Science program!




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

 

Click to learn more about our Data Science program!




Digital Technology Instructor Interview: Carlos Villegas

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

Cybersecurity is my passion.

Architecting systems that are so hard to penetrate is what I love to do.

I’m one of those few lucky people that found, at an early age of 13, why they like to do. In my case, Computer Programming and Cybersecurity. Programming allowed me to be sort of an artist, a digital artist that created programs and made computers do complex things. I still ‘The Peg Game’, a game I programmed in a computer language called Basic on my IBM PC Jr. I was hooked on programming from that day on. Looking back, I realize that I didn’t make the best software game design at the time, but it served me as a springboard to bigger and better things that I’ve done up to the present, and continue to do.

That was programming. Now for Cybersecurity.

Ever since the age of 15, when I installed my first modem, I have been infatuated with how machines communicate. But I didn’t pursue that curiosity too much because, at the time, messing around with networking could get you into trouble if we weren’t careful. That remains true today as well. The difference today is that there is a clear distinction in society between intent: hackers with good intent vs. those with bad intent. Work went into a brief partnership with an East Coast University to create a Master’s in Cybersecurity cohort for a few of us at work. Twenty-six of us started the 3-year intense program, but only twelve of us finished it. The hardest thing I’ve done in my life is work full-time, go to school, be husband and be a father all at the same time. But I did it! In return, I got a huge sense of accomplishment.

The learning in Cybersecurity doesn’t stop with getting a degree or a certification. The cyber landscape is among the quickest moving fields; within the blink of an eye, a lot happens. Cybersecurity is a “contact-sport” with the zeros and ones (and very soon with the Quantum ‘qubit’). Aspiring cybersecurity professionals must augment their formal studies with hands-on studies and activities: participating in as many Capture-The-Flag (CTF) hacking competitions as possible, setting up a Cybersecurity test lab at home using virtualization, building your own firewall (i.e. pfSense), and trying to break into their own equipment. Lastly, try to keep up with Cybersecurity news on a daily basis. In doing all of these things, they will develop the much-needed Cybersecurity skills of today.

 

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

At work, I using my Cybersecurity and programming background to keep military Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), such as the http://www.northropgrumman.com/Capabilities/GlobalHawk, impermeable to cyber-attack. The goal of doing everything I can to prevent a 9/11 with UAVs is why I get up every morning and go to work.

I’m big on giving back to the community; so, outside of work, I use my Cybersecurity background to help young students find their passion in Cybersecurity by mentoring them. On a regular basis, I’m mentoring between 50 and 60 high school students in a year-long cyber defense youth competition called CyberPatriot (http://uscyberpatriot.org/). Additionally, when given the opportunity (now 3 years in a row), I get to spend two days with ~300 Girl Scouts and bring them Cybersecurity at a GenCyber event at one of the local university.

Could you tell us about our partnership with IBM and the benefits that our students will receive from taking your Cybersecurity Lab (Defensive Tools) course?

IBM Developed security solution that when properly tuned can detect anomalies in organization’s network and devices before they become a problem.

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

Participate in as many CTFs as possible. Participate in organization Bug-Bounty programs.

Is there anything new and groundbreaking in cyber security field that students should be aware of?

All WiFi networks (as of today, 10/16/17) are vulnerable to attackers as a result of a new vulnerability found that attacks the WPA2 protocol by a “Key Reinstallation Attack forcing the reuse of nonce”.

 

Click to learn more about our Cybersecurity program!