MDS Spotlight: Meet Jacqueline Chong, MDS Vancouver, Class of 2022

While pursuing her undergraduate degree in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Jacqueline Chong was studying about global politics through the lens of major theories. It was during this time that a question kept on cropping up for her: why these major theories were not backed up quantitatively?

“Thus, the academic pursuit of data science was born,” said Chong.

Several summer internship stints in the public service in Singapore only made Chong realize that she had a knowledge gap in terms of how to effectively deal with large swaths of data. 

Jacqueline Chong Master of Data Science Vancouver

“I felt that it was necessary to arm myself with the technical knowledge to solve organizational pain points and drive innovation when I return back home,” Chong said.

Knowing that she wanted to pursue a project-based rather than a thesis-based Masters’ program, led Chong to UBC’s Master of Data Science (MDS) program.

“A major selling point of this program for me is definitely the capstone project,” she explained. “It was a chance to deal with a real-world dataset - one that is sparse, requires a lot of feature engineering and so on. As I had no prior related work experience, this was indeed a taste of what is expected of and from a data scientist.”

Chong added that another benefit of the MDS program has been the breadth of content that learned. 

“Having the breadth equipped me with the tools that I can delve further into if required during a project,” she said.

Another takeaway for Chong was the importance of being able to translate one’s technical knowledge into something comprehensible to one without it. “Effective communication was something that I had to practice week after week to ensure that our message, ideas and solutions were understood by various audiences.”

Additionally, Chong really enjoyed learning from her fellow classmates. 

“I truly enjoyed learning alongside these individuals from various cultural and vocational background with varied work experience.”

Chong liked how having a diverse cohort allowed them to each tackle labs and grasp concepts differently, drawing from their educational and vocational background. 

“It allows us to share our ideas on how to solve lab questions and surface solutions that I would have never thought of,” she added. 

Post program, Chong wants to pursue a public service career back home in Singapore where she hopes to use her data science skills.

“This program has equipped me with the technical know-hows to embark on a project whenever I am called upon to do so, and be an effective conduit between data scientists / engineers and the project lead,” she added. 

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

  1. Be present on campus - be it to attend live lectures or labs, or to grab lunch/tea/dinner with others - make the most of this 10-month ‘down time’ before heading back to or starting out on your career. You will learn a lot more about and from others, clarify your doubts much faster, and build stronger friendships and work relationships.
  2. “Have a break, have a KitKat”. There is a tendency to want to constantly be working on your labs, revising the week’s content, or perhaps applying for (part-time) jobs. However, work never stops, and we thus need to make a conscientious decision to close the laptop once every few hours, walk around and make some coffee. 
  3. Work hard, play harder. Work/study efficiently within your designated work hours. Then close the laptop, play with your kids/paint/exercise/…. Your body and mind will appreciate that.

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