Sombiri Enwemeka

Engineering Contractor / Self-Employed
Long Beach, CA

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an engineer. Since I was a child I’ve loved figuring out how stuff works. Back then, I would disassemble my parents’ and siblings’ things to study them and sometimes I’d even put them back together! I have always loved working with technology, and during my career I’ve been fortunate enough to work at some of the country’s preeminent technology companies such as GE Aviation and SpaceX, where I was responsible for Dragon Spacecraft avionics and avionics reusability. Today, I am pursuing a Master of Information and Data Science degree from UC Berkeley while also teaching STEM and Robotics to underrepresented students with College Track.

At what school and in what concentration did you receive your undergraduate degree?

I completed my B.S. in Computer Engineering with a minor in Computer Science at Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2009.

Why did you choose the I School?

The MIDS program offers a rigorous curriculum that goes beyond strictly technical knowledge; it makes you question your thoughts and decision-making process. The faculty have hands-on experience in their fields, and much of the technology used in the field was even developed here at UC Berkeley.

What is the I School's advantage?

Incredible class diversity: throughout the MIDS program I worked with, and learned from, students located all over the world. My classmates also worked in fields vastly different from my own, which allowed me to gain perspective into areas well outside of my comfort and expertise.

What has been your favorite class at the I School and why?

Behind the Data: Humans and Values was absolutely fascinating. We studied real-life examples of how data has been used with either unintended or undesirable consequences at a large scale as well as the current public policy landscape, both in the US and abroad. Understanding how data ethics and legality have evolved to where they are today — and how data science might shape them in the future — has provided me with a framework for how to think about and apply this degree at a much higher level than I could with a purely technical approach.

What are your future plans?

Data will be a pivotal component for progress in the imminent future. With the MIDS degree I feel empowered to become a change agent and advocate for those who have been underrepresented. I intend to both gain professional knowledge within the field and continue working with underserved communities.

Do you have any advice for aspiring information professionals/data scientists?

Think carefully about the long-term impacts of this technology, the datasets you use or don’t use, and which groups are included and why. Building models is fun and rewarding, but it is crucial to understand that a decision is not automatically correct just because a computer says so.

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