Master of Information and Data Science Immersion Day One
The inaugural immersion for our Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) degree is off to a great start! Twenty-nine students, drawn from all across the country, have traveled to the UC Berkeley campus for three days of intensive workshops, networking, and even a baseball game thrown in for good measure.
The festivities kicked off Wednesday night with a welcome reception, where the Dean, staff, and various MIDS faculty members were on hand to greet our new students and welcome them to the Bay Area. After a full semester of classes held on the datascience@berkeley platform, students were accustomed to seeing everyone’s faces online, and they were excited to finally meet everyone in person. True to form, our students began talking at check-in hours before the reception and didn’t stop until well after the welcome reception had wrapped up Wednesday night.
With these new relationships established, the students were bright-eyed and eager for Thursday’s events to begin. After a group photo at UC Berkeley’s South Hall, the students were treated to a workshop on Leadership Communications with UC Berkeley lecturers Susan Houlihan and Doy Charnsupharindr. During the hands-on workshop, students were challenged to answer the question, “How can you find your authentic voice as a leader?”
The students broke out into smaller groups to brainstorm “Best Practices of Authentic Leaders,” which included the ability to be self-aware, to stay true to values, to draw on personal experiences when dealing with situations, and to remain transparent through it all. In fact, Charnsupharindr said, it’s a good rule of thumb to remain the same person in all parts of your life, carrying authenticity from home to work and back. If you slip up, however, he said it’s worth remembering that the key to all of these best practices is the word “practice.” In data science, as in other areas, leadership is a continual work in progress.
Charnsupharindr cautioned that every authentic and inspirational leader must somehow connect to their own story, and must be able to convey these experiences to others. To practice this skill, students listened to each other’s leadership stories and then retold them to the group, concentrating on the heart and meaning of the tales rather than the facts. The exercise let the group learn a little more about their fellow students, and served as a great example of Charnsupharindr’s reminder that truly strong leaders are “deep and brief,” meaning they know how to say a lot in just a little time.
The leadership workshop was followed by a networking lunch with representatives from Uber, LinkedIn, Captricity, Yelp, Pandora, and many more companies, after which the students helped kick off the first day of DataEDGE 2014. Thursday’s portion of the conference explored Hadoop, UC Berkeley’s own data science startups, and venture capital investments, and concluded with a keynote by Cloudera’s Jeff Hammerbacher, on ethics and data science.
In his talk, Hammerbacher made an impassioned plea for future data scientists to study topics that matter — ones that will make them feel good about the work they do. Essentially, he said, the best research is that which will benefit society and is done for the sake of the questions at hand, not for fame or monetary purposes. It was a lesson the MIDS students surely took to heart in a day filled with discussions about authentic leadership and the future of data science.
From the mouths of students:
I was extremely impressed with today’s session about authentic leadership. The session leader, Doy, had a unique ability to engage us with the material using memorable personal anecdotes and stressed the importance of self-awareness and not feeling like you have to be a different person at work than you are with friends and family. I left the session feeling encouraged and inspired.
It has become obvious to me that the MIDS program wants to not only give us the skills to become data scientists, but they want to empower us to become data science leaders. From day one, I have felt like the I School is invested in my success and today’s networking lunch was yet another example of this, as well as an invaluable part of this immersion. The company representatives were as excited to meet us as we were them and one even shared with me how impressed she was with the quality of the resumes of all of the MIDS immersion attendees that the I School provided her with.
-Kelsey Clubb, January 2014 cohort
The last two days have been a whirlwind of excitement for me and the other students that I have interacted with. Such an immersion has brought our online relationships to life and we have had a chance to deepen our connections and begin to form what hopefully will be lifelong connections and friendships.
The sessions today were great. I definitely got something out of all of them, but Jeff’s keynote address really stood out to me. The social responsibility that he grounds all of his work on inspires me to think about the broader context behind what we do — that we must always work on things that are meaningful and beneficial to people and do it in a way that is just to those involved in the creation of that work. I came out of that session with tons of thoughts running through my mind and that was exactly what I had hoped to get from this set of speakers.
-Rahul Bansal, January 2014 cohort
The biggest thing I got out of the first day of the DataEDGE conference is an evolving notion of what success looks like for a data science activity. When I applied for the MIDS program, I had this vague notion that success looked like doing more quantitative analysis than I was doing currently in my job as a UX Researcher. The notion that stuck out for me from day 1 of DataEDGE — in fact, I think this is a quote from the startup panel — is that “humans are the bottleneck” in a lot of the quantitative analysis. So it’s important to have a solid question to start with, but the art in Data Science seems to be finding the way to answer the question in the most efficient manner.
The keynote was stellar and fast-paced — I got so much out of it. The thing that made me most excited, though, came at the end when Jeff compared natural sciences to social sciences. He said that social scientists have more to say about how human behavior will impact the world — and that in 20 years, the cool science books will be written about social scientists. As someone with a Psychology background and a strong love of qualitative research, I got so fired up at that comment. So cool.
-Sam Zaiss, May 2014 cohort