MDS Spotlight: Meet Gavin Grochowski, MDS Okanagan, Class of 2022

Before Gavin Grochowski began considering a career in data science, he was thriving as a showband musician on cruise ships embarking on international voyages. But, like so many others, Gavin’s life changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the pandemic canceled my ongoing contracts, I got more and more curious about programming and data science fundamentals in an attempt to re-skill into a more sustainable and fulfilling career,” said Grochowski. “I decided to pursue data science because I wanted to be able to make a meaningful impact in my future workplace, while at the same time enjoying the excitement of dynamic problem solving.”

This eventually led Grochowski to the MDS-O program and its reputation for academic excellence. 

Gavin Grochowski Master of Data Science Okanagan

“I’ve always thrived in academics, so when I was researching how to enter the field of Data Science, I knew that I would be happier in a Master’s degree program than in a short-term bootcamp. As a Vancouverite, I respected UBC and UBCO’s reputation for their quality of education,” explained Grochowski. “The MDS Okanagan program is uniquely designed for students with technical abilities and interests, but not necessarily requiring a technical undergraduate degree – students exactly like me. I found no other Master’s program that catered to my unique situation.”

During the program, Grochowski really enjoyed the intimate learning environment.

“The top benefit of the program has been my outstanding peers – I have made lifelong friends that I respect and admire,” he said. “And the network of connections this program offers to previous alumni brings with it a wealth of opportunities to apply for relevant jobs.”

Grochowski also explained learning the importance of clarity and understanding in both technical and communication roles was invaluable. 

“Without a clear understanding of the mathematics in the techniques you implement, you won’t be able to trust your results, even if you know how to code. Without clear and direct communication of your findings, you won’t be able to get anyone else to trust your results either,” he said.

An unexpected benefit of the program, one Grochowski came to love, was the incredible surroundings of the UBCO campus. 

“One of the best surprises in my stay here in Kelowna has been the active and athletic community,” said Grochowski. “Between UBCO’s intramural sports and Kelowna’s recreation sport leagues, I’m playing volleyball three nights a week! It’s been a key factor in making new friends outside of the MDS program, and a break from my studies.”

So, now that he has completed the program, what would Grochowski tell prospective students considering applying to the MDS-O program?

“The UBC MDS Okanagan program is perfect for the right candidate: a sharp student wanting to transition into data science. It is not necessarily past experience that translates into success in the program – instead it is aptitude and attitude. It seems to me that the students who are thriving are the most curious and the most comfortable with independent problem solving and troubleshooting in a programming language.”

Gavin’s Top 3 Tips on Succeeding in the MDS-O Program:

  1. Your independent problem solving when programming is so important! If you take advantage of your opportunities to dig through error messages and look for solutions on your own, then by the end of the program the inevitable errors you face will be no match for your “Google-fu”.
  2. Your grades on assignments and tests are not as important as your relationship with the subject matter for the long haul of the intense program. If you lose interest in the material, it will be difficult to keep learning through willpower alone. Studying and preparation are important, but they need to be balanced with a variety of breaks to stay motivated.
  3. Brush up on your programming skills before attending the program! A little bit of familiarity with error messages and git workflows would go a long way in your group projects.

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