Nikhita Koul

Data Scientist (Marketing and Customer Insights), Adobe

What have you been up to since completing the program?

I finally finished renovating my home and landed a new job!

How has the program prepared you for your current job?

The Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) was a very balanced degree in terms of coursework because it provided a holistic view of what a data scientist’s job might look like, with the freedom to take a deeper dive into areas that were of personal interest to me. I also really liked the fact that the faculty was a mixture of academics as well as industry experts. While I got a good understanding of the course content from a theoretical point of view, I also got a sense of the challenges I might face while actually implementing some of these ideas in real-life production environments — something that really helped me while interviewing for jobs. Potential employers are looking for people who have the academic chops, but also know the pain points of implementing a solution at scale.

What was your favorite course and why?

I really enjoyed the “Scaling Up! Really Big Data” and the “Research Design and Applications for Data Analysis (RDADA)” courses. “Scaling Up” was a valuable course, since we covered what it would be like to deploy a multi-node cluster in a production environment, and automate the data pipeline from start to end. I liked RDADA because it gave me a solid foundation in learning how to think about problems that might arise at organizations and how data could help address some of those issues.

What is the most valuable thing you learned while in the program?

The idea that “more data is better” is not always true! It’s much more important to focus on the quality of data rather than its quantity. Also, apply the principle of Occam’s Razor to any problem you’re trying to solve. One’s likely to get better results by running a simple algorithm on top of clean data than by running a complex algorithm on top of bad, messy data.

What one piece of advice would you give to prospective or current MIDS students?

Focus on course projects as well as the capstone. Use this opportunity to build a body of work that you’re proud of and that you can showcase to prospective employers. Also, projects are a great way to learn something that you’re unfamiliar with or want to delve deeper into. Try working on projects that give you the chance to learn something new, rather than do something that you know you’re good at.