MDS Spotlight: Meet Swapil Paliwal, MDS Okanagan, Class of 2020

An avid learner who enjoys working in interdisciplinary and diverse settings, Swapil Paliwal’s interest in the education field led him to a job within the analytics team at Apex Learning, an online education company in Seattle. His subsequent role as full-time Data Scientist exposed him to the enormous value, challenges, and applications of data analytics in multiple areas of the business.

This sparked a desire to acquire more specialized education in the fields of data science and analytics. But long hours, occasional high-pressure projects and other commitments didn’t leave much time for Paliwal to develop his technical skills in data science to the extent he preferred.

Swapil Paliwal.

“I was looking at programs that could help me sharpen my skills as a data scientist without a big break from work,” explained Paliwal.  “My preference was for an accelerated and intensive full-time program that had a rigorous curriculum, practical exposure, good reputation and diverse student background.”

Those essential requirements in a data science program led Paliwal to the Okanagan Valley, the UBCO campus and its Master of Data Science program “The MDS Okanagan program just provided the perfect mix of my preferences,” said Paliwal. “The presence of specialized courses in areas like optimization and simulation and a small cohort size made MDS Okanagan my preferred choice.” 

For Paliwal, the physical location of the program also played a huge role in his decision to apply to the MDS-O program.

“I preferred British Columbia schools,” explained Paliwal. “I have always heard really great things about British Columbia. Great weather and climate, amazing people, and lots of things to do outdoors. Kelowna was the perfect place to live and study as it provided for a calm and peaceful lifestyle. While it is not a noticeably large city, it has all the amenities. It is an amazing location where you have access to lakes and mountains, not to mention a growing tech industry.”  

Now that Paliwal has moved successfully through the 10-month intensive program, his experience has left a lasting impression.

“Exposure to concepts like simulation and modelling, privacy and ethics, natural language processing, deep learning, big data technologies, and optimization was a real benefit,” said Paliwal. “But the final capstone was perhaps the biggest benefit from the program. It challenged people from diverse backgrounds to come together and apply all the skills learned during the program and work as a team in an industrial and professional setting.”

But is wasn’t just knowledge, technical skills and project experience Paliwal took from his time in the MDS-O program.

“It was an extremely rewarding experience working with people with different backgrounds as we learned to approach a problem from different perspectives and we learned a lot from one another,” said Paliwal. “Excellent communication and respect for each other are key skills needed for successful teamwork and this is something I observed on numerous occasions throughout the MDS-O program.”

So what would Paliwal tell prospective students looking at the MDS-O program?

“This is an excellent program, in an amazing location. The MDS-O program provides an exceptional foundation in the areas of data science.”

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

  1. Stay on top of the coursework. Things can start to move extremely fast, especially in the last two or three blocks.
  2. It is highly beneficial to network as much as possible and develop a good connection with fellow students and alumni. This helps in navigating difficult subjects and projects with ease and also provides a strong social support both during and after the program.
  3. I highly recommend attending office hours, guest lectures from industry experts and also all the career development sessions as they provide valuable information besides regular classes and labs. I found that faculty and staff are extremely supportive and are always available to provide guidance and help, so never hesitate to ask for help if needed.

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