MDS Spotlight: Meet Ricky Heinrich, MDS Okanagan, Class of 2023

While pursuing their Bachelor of Science in Physical Science (and a minor in business) from the University of Alberta, Ricky Heinrich found the courses they enjoyed the most involved data. 

“I was obsessed with any of my courses that involved using Excel and data; from operations management and accounting to chemistry and physics,” Heinrich explained. 


Master of Data Science Okanagan Ricky Heinrich

In their role as a research assistant, Heinrich offered to make graphs synthetizing the information from the data to gain insights and provide visuals for presentations and talks. A friend pointed out that their half-joked aspirations of being a “freelance graph-maker” sounded pretty close to “data science” and sent them the link to UBC’s Master of Data Science (MDS) program.

“Data science is a field that is applicable to many, and arguably all, industries as everybody collects data nowadays. Getting trained in data science would give me skills to go work anywhere and with anybody,” they added.

What attracted Heinrich to the MDS program was that it was the only program they found that didn’t require a statistics or computer science background but rather accepted those from interdisciplinary backgrounds. “This meant that not only I could apply [to the program], but my peers were sure to come from varied and interesting backgrounds.”

For Heinrich, one of the top benefits of the MDS program was that it provided them with a base of knowledge for many different data science tools, which may be picked up and advanced as needed. In addition, the program gave them confidence in their ability to learn any skills.    

As well, learning in-person made connecting with professors and peers easier and more natural for Heinrich. 

“Working in the same room as others in the labs provided casual opportunity to ask for help from the TAs and other students, enhancing the learning experience as there was a greater feeling of support,” they noted. 

And, Heinrich said being in the Okanagan Valley, with its beautiful scenery, provided a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. 

The capstone project also attracted Heinrich to the MDS program as it gave them the opportunity to work directly in the industry with real life data and was great to build confidence in the skills learnt in class. 

“The capstone project really emphasized the necessity not only for technical skills and knowledge, but also for communication and project management skills. It provided the opportunity to work with and alongside different types of people, and proved that there are still many places to grow and learn,” they explained.

As Heinrich begins to start their career as a data scientist, they are looking for roles in urban planning, sustainability, and human-centered data and tech. “I want to help improve the well-being of people and the planet. As a result, I’m looking for jobs more on the data analysis and research side of data science.”

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

  1. Know how to manage your time: Set focused time to complete work and study, but don’t let it overwhelm your life. Make sure you have regular time for yourself and your personal life. 
  2. It is what you make of it: Don’t be satisfied with just completing the basic requirements, rather practice as much as you can and connect what you’re learning with what you’re interested in.
  3. Talk to people: Connect with your classmates, TAs, and professors. You learn more and better with support from others.

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