MDS Spotlight: Meet Selma Durić, MDS Vancouver, Class of 2021

Prior to entering the MDS Vancouver program, Selma Durić was working as a senior accountant where much of her accounting work relied on data. “I realized that there was a lot of potential value that I could bring by being able to work with data. I also began to notice the limitations of spreadsheets and conventional accounting software and knew there had to be a better approach.” 

All of this led Durić to explore how to obtain data by learning how it is stored and how she can extract it.
Durić tried learning programming on her own but quickly realized that there was too much content and no simple way to prioritize the learning or to get an understanding of how it all fit together. As well, Durić found opportunities to learn some of the skills on the job limiting. Those two reasons made Durić realize she needed a more formal program that would provide the structure that she needed. 

Selma Duric

This led Durić to the MDS Vancouver program because it had the right balance of computer science and statistics and also didn’t require an undergraduate degree in those areas.

“Prior to MDS, I viewed computer science as something that was unapproachable. It was difficult to get started and finding resources for beginners without assumed knowledge was very challenging. MDS has definitely changed my perspective and has opened a lot of opportunities for further learning,” she added.

During the program, Durić really liked her cohort and their diverse backgrounds.

“One of the greatest strengths of the MDS program is their openness to students from different academic backgrounds. After the first few months, everyone is up to speed but you continue to learn a lot by seeing how people from different academic backgrounds approach problems differently,” she said.

Helping along with all of this, Durić said, is MDS program’s “fantastic instructional team.”

Durić explained that students get the benefit of being taught by instructors from different faculties, teaching the topics they specialize in. “The consistency in the teaching staff means that the staff understand what material is covered within the various blocks and continue to build on it without creating gaps in learning. The program is very well run and the instructors focus on teaching you the skills and tools to help you succeed.”

Another important aspect of the MDS program for Durić was the capstone project. 

“Having to complete a project from start to finish with minimal intervention is very different from working on weekly lab assignments. It gets you to start thinking about how it would be in a work environment and combines all of the topics learned during the program,” she explained. “It also gives you an opportunity to work on a project where you have to rely on your teammates as the scope is too large for one person to handle on their own.”

What Durić liked most about her capstone project was that it related to the finance industry and it allowed her to work on a familiar topic but using a data science lens. 

After completing the program, Durić is looking to leverage both her accounting and data science background.

“I see many opportunities in improving the way that businesses operate, from real-time financial and operational reporting to better forecasting and predictive analysis.” 

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

1.    Don’t let doubt hold you back. If you’re new to programming or statistics, believe in the learning process and know that the instructional team is there to see you succeed.
2.    Try to apply what you’ve learned. I find that the easiest way is to collaborate with a friend on a small project or to join a friendly competition. This makes it a more social experience and you can learn from each other. 
3.    Take time for yourself. I found that taking having a full day where I didn’t work on assignments or read lecture material was really important. It gave my mind a break and helped me set a schedule so that I could be more productive.

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