MDS Spotlight: Meet Nihal D’Souza, MDS Computational Linguistics, Class of 2022

It was Nihal D’Souza’s fascination with the advancements in human-machine interaction through natural language that sparked his interest in the field of computational linguistics.  In particular, the application of machine translation, sentiment analysis, and computational morphology.

“To be able to understand these topics and be equipped to apply them in the real world, it made sense to pursue my higher education in this field and obtain a degree to back my knowledge from a reputed institution,” said D’Souza, who worked as a Software Engineer at Cisco for three years.

Nihal D'Souza MDS Computational Linguistics

D’Souza applied to the UBC Master of Data Science (MDS) in Computational Linguistics program because it covered a breadth of topics from computer science, statistics, and linguistics within a relatively short time frame, allowing him to go back into the workforce as soon as possible.

“I had the opportunity to study 24 different topics through interactive lectures and practical lab sessions,” he added. “The other benefit has been the cohort-based design of the program that allows students to work in a collaborative setting and an opportunity to meet new people.”

D’Souza discovered that he learned a lot from his cohort. “While solving assignments and working on the capstone project with my peers, I was exposed to an array of possibilities and alternative solutions that they brought from their background and it helped  broaden my horizon further.”

One of the biggest reasons that D’Souza applied to the MDS Computational Linguistics program was the capstone project, which happened during the last two months of the program.

“The ability to showcase my skills to an industry partner would be a huge advantage for future employment,” he explained. “One of the things I liked was the constant support, both from the capstone partner and the capstone mentor throughout the whole process. Moreover, I was able to deliver a real-world project using the skills that I had mastered over the past 8 months.” 

With the program wrapping up, D’Souza said it has been invaluable in preparing him to transition to this new career. 

“I feel I have the necessary skills and achievements to proudly showcase to any potential employer.”

As D’Souza prepares to enter the job market, he wants to use his background as a Software Engineer to apply the knowledge from this program and seek Machine Learning Engineer or Software Development Engineer roles in a ML/AI-focused team.

Nihal’s Top 3 Tips on Succeeding in the MDS Computational Linguistics Program:

  1. Time Management: There are a lot of deliverables throughout this program and you will find yourself burdened with work constantly if you do not manage your time well. Make sure you cut out time for not just your academic work, but to socialize and stay physically fit.
  2. Comfort Zone: Take the time during this program as an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. Open up to your classmates, and approach the faculty with anything that you may have on your mind. Sign up for clubs, events, and sports that will help decompress from the program, for which UBC has a plethora of options to offer.
  3. Practice Team Skills: Most of the program deliverables are designed to be done in cohorts, which means you will constantly be in groups when working on your assignments. This is similar to how most teams in the industry operate, so take the opportunity to practice your managerial skills, taking the lead and understanding the strengths of your fellow teammates to deliver the best possible results.

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