MDS Spotlight: Meet Darya Shyroka, MDS Computational Linguistics, Class of 2021

It was a desire in wanting to use her programming skills to work with language data that led Darya Shyroka to pursue a data science career.

“I was always interested in languages and linguistics, but I did not see myself as a translator or language instructor. I have an analytical mind, and I knew that using my skills in mathematics and programming to analyze language could be really interesting,” said Shyroka.

Prior to joining the MDS Computational Linguistics (MDS-CL) program, Shyroka completed her undergraduate degree in Computer Science with a minor in Linguistics at the University of Toronto. 

After undergrad, Shyroka felt she was not quite done with her education and knew she wanted to specialize in a particular area of programming that she was more interested in. This eventually led her to the MDS-CL program and its more immersive computational linguistics curriculum. 

“Most of the second half of the MDS-CL program consisted of computational linguistics courses, with processing tools for different areas of linguistics, such as syntax, semantics, and even machine translation,” she explained. 

During the 10-months of the program, Shyroka worked on a lot of projects and real-world data. “This gave us experience working on a data science team with effective project management techniques, which is what I think working as a data scientist would be like,” she noted. 

However, the most important thing that Shyroka learned during the program was end-to-end model development, which is how to develop a statistical or neural model pipeline from start to finish, starting from reading in the data, to performing an analysis or calculating a prediction and presenting the results. 

Another draw to the MDS-CL program was the inclusion of a capstone project, which gave Shyroka real-world experience.

“We got to develop part of an NLP application that would aid language learners in their language-learning journey, which has always been a dream of mine…I felt like I was truly able to combine all of my skills – languages, programming, and analysis.” 

All of these hands-on experience with real-world datasets and problems gives Shyroka the ability to mention on them on her resume and during interviews. 

With the program now complete, Shyroka is looking at her career options, which she hopes includes working with neural networks. “I would love to find a job in which I could use my language skills alongside my programming and NLP skills (like during my capstone) to do something truly interesting, unique and impactful,” she stated.

Darya’s Top 4 Tips on Succeeding in the MDS-CL Program

1.    Stay organized and on top of your work. The workload quickly becomes daunting, so it is best to complete even minor tasks as soon as possible to ensure that you have time to complete the labs by the end of the week. A part of this is also not spending too much time on one task – budget your time so that you can finish everything there is to do for the week, because there is a lot! 
2.    Ask questions, reach out for help when you are stuck. Even if you are a shy person like me, the TAs are really nice and helpful, even if you think that what you are asking is really basic. The one-on-one office hours really helped me when I was stuck. The TAs will even help you debug your code.  Being organized, as mentioned in tip 1, also allows you to have time to go to office hours. 
3.    Be curious and interested in the material. Try to find aspects of every class that you enjoy, that will help you stay motivated.
4.    Don’t take on too much. Make sure MDS is your main focus. You will not have time for much else outside the program.

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