MDS Spotlight: Meet Chidera Okoma, MDS Computational Linguistics – Class of 2020

Aug 27 / 2020

It was during her time working as a data analyst at Nigerian start-up that opened up Chidera Okoma’s eyes to the world of data science.

“It helped me see the impact of data insight in decision making,” she explained.

To help augment her skill, she enrolled in the business and predictive analytics nanodegree program at Udacity. However, Okoma quickly realized that the data wrangling and visualization tools she was using in the program were not open source, were expensive and not all companies use them so the knowledge might not necessarily be transferable when she moved to other companies.

“I started looking for a more sustainable way of working with data that would not break the bank and had a lot more support with a larger community,” she explained.

Okoma then started researching how to transition fully into the field of data. She added that she was searching for a program that gave her the most credibility within the shortest amount of time.

That research led her to the Data Science program at the University of Melbourne, Western University and UBC MDS Computational Linguistics (CL).

While she was accepted into the University of Melbourne program, Okoma said she chose the MDS-CL program because it gave her a broader content within a shorter amount of time.  As well, the MDS-CL faculty, which included Dr. Julian Brooke, as another reason why she chose the MDS-CL program.

“I saw the MDS-CL program as a typical MDS program but with the cherry on the cake. It offered mostly what the [UBC] Master of Data Science offers with an additional focus on natural language processing (NLP). This was the deciding factor for me. NLP was important for me because a lot of the data I had come across came as free form texts and it was important that I learnt to work with those,” she added.

Just before beginning the MDS-CL program, to better prepare herself, Okoma took online courses that included the Business and predictive Analyst course at Udacity, and Python programming and machine learning courses at Udemy.

Also, Okoma believes her STEM background definitely prepared her for the program. Okoma has a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Computer Engineering from Covenant University.

“It made me more analytical and gave me a general background and workflow on how programming language works. It gave me a system thinking approach which was critical in excelling in the program,” she explained.

One of the benefits of the program, said Okoma, was the rigour of the program. “Before the program, I had not done anything as challenging yet so rewarding as the MDS-CL program.”

As well, Okoma credits the MDS-CL faculty for being ever so present and helpful during the entire span of the program.|

As Okoma prepares to enter the workforce, she the program has taught her that data science is very fast paced and ever evolving, therefore being tenacious and that it is okay with not knowing every single thing but also being willing and able to learn it when you need to.

With the program now finished, Okoma is looking to pursue jobs in the tech space including but not limited to: financial technology, healthcare, transportation, government and e-commerce. Okoma is seeking roles that are geared towards product development and consulting, and that would allow her to find trends and patterns in the organization for business intelligence and reporting.

“I am thankful to the MDS-CL at UBC for arming me with the skills to be a creative problem solver and a great critical thinker. These are skills that experts in the field are renowned for and I am confident that my training at UBC has prepared me adequately.”

Chidera’s Top 3 Tips on Succeeding in the MDS Computational Linguistic Program:

  1. Be prepared mentally to learn fast.
  2. try as much as possible to interact well with your colleagues (Don’t be an Island)
  3. Taking a break when you need to is not a crime. Rest well.

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