MDS Spotlight: Meet Gautham Pughazhendhi, MDS Vancouver, Class of 2022

As Gautham Pughazhendhi was completing his bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from Anna University, he worked on a machine learning project that sparked his interest in data science.

Gautham - Master of Data Science Vancouver

This project had Pughazhendhi building a machine learning model to predict whether an earthquake can cause a tsunami given the earthquake characteristics. After graduation, Pughazhendhi worked as a software engineer as part of a machine learning team. There, he worked on building conversational AI agents for major multinational retail and financial corporations. 

“All these made me realize my interest in this field, and I wanted to pursue a professional master’s degree to gain in-depth academic knowledge,” Pughazhendhi explained.

In order to acquire in-depth academic knowledge in his field of interest, Pughazhendhi applied to UBC’s Master of Data Science (MDS) program. 

What attracted Pughazhendhi to the MDS program was its unique curriculum because it covered the broader aspects of the data science field and aligned with the current industry demands. 

“I wanted to find a curriculum that will enable me to add data science skillsets to my software engineering toolbox. The UBC MDS program perfectly matched all these requirements making me want to be a part of this program,” he added.

Once in the program, Pughazhendhi found one of the top benefits of the program was the hands-on lab sessions that directly complemented the lectures allowing him to try and implement the concepts learned in the classroom. Another benefit was the 2-month long capstone project. 

“The most important thing I got from my capstone project is the ‘art of experimentation,” he said. “Our problem was not straightforward, and we had to try different approaches also called “rapid prototyping” in software engineering to arrive at a working solution.”

Aside from the hands-on labs and the capstone project, Pughazhendhi enjoyed learning from his fellow cohort.

“It was mind-boggling to learn how the domain knowledge of students from different backgrounds was significant in solving data problems across domains such as health, mining, fashion, finance, and so on. Having come from a computer science background, this diversity helped me to understand how data science techniques can be applied to other domains,” he noted.

With the program in his rear-view mirror, Pughazhendhi is now a software engineer with Electronic Arts with their AI platform team. It is a role that met his desire to work in an area that would allow him to build products that can positively impact people’s lives. 

As he begins his career in the data science field, Pughazhendhi said the most important thing he learned from the MDS program that he will bring with him is time management.

“It’s an accelerated, intensive program, and I had to manage several responsibilities and deliverables in addition to the other things an international student should cover. So, this journey taught me to manage my priorities efficiently and be productive.”

Gautham’s Top 3 Tips on Succeeding in the MDS Program:

  1. Ask questions to the instructors and TAs when you don’t understand something.
  2. Learn from your classmates and help them when needed. Be proactive, inclusive, and respectful to others.
  3. Important: If you want to land on an engineering role, practice LeetCode problems from day one (from my own experience and what others said).

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