UC Berkeley Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) Graduate Spotlight: Kelsey Clubb

In our Q&A below, datascience@berkeley graduate student Kelsey Clubb and soon-to-be Tesla Motors intern discusses how the MIDS program prepared her for a future in data science and why she decided to pursue data science as a career path.

Why did you decide on a degree in data science?

My background is in astrophysics, but over the past few years my professional interests have gradually transitioned toward a desire to have a more direct impact on people’s lives. So, rather than using data to potentially help discover life on other planets, I decided I wanted to start using data to improve life on this planet. When I learned about the emerging field of data science, it seemed like the perfect transition to a career that could build upon the skills I had already acquired with plenty of job opportunities in the location I had already fallen in love with — the San Francisco Bay area.

Why did you ultimately decide to pursue your degree at UC Berkeley?

The MIDS program was the only program I applied to. I looked into other opportunities that might help me switch from astrophysics to a career in data science, such as the Insight Data Science Fellows Program and the Zipfian Academy (now part of Galvanize), but I didn’t have a Ph.D., so I couldn’t apply for the Insight program. I also had no real work experience outside of academia, so I wasn’t sure 12 weeks was enough time for me personally to learn all of the necessary skills to confidently make the transition.

One big advantage of the MIDS program was that I could keep my job while I pursued my degree; that way, if it didn’t work out for some reason, I wouldn’t have completely uprooted my current path. Other things I liked were that I could complete the program in less than two years (at half-time student status) and that I would have earned a master’s degree from UC Berkeley. In the future, degrees from prestigious higher educational institutions might not be worth as much to employers, but I thought it would be an advantage for me personally at this point in time.

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

To think before taking action: Focus on asking the right questions that will have the most impact, and fully consider the legal and ethical implications of whatever you do.

What is next for you? What do you plan to do after graduation?

This summer I’m excited to be interning with the data science team for reliability engineering at Tesla Motors in Palo Alto. Once I complete the internship and my capstone course, I’ll be aiming for a full-time data scientist role with a San Francisco Bay area company or organization starting this fall.

How did the MIDS program prepare you to be competitive in the job market?

The MIDS program has provided me with a broad set of technical (and less technical) skills, final projects to showcase, data-related conferences to attend, and opportunities to network. The School of Information Career Services (shout out to Rebecca Andersen!) has also been immensely helpful, offering webinars with tips for writing effective resumes, creating LinkedIn profiles, networking, and negotiating, and they provide one-on-one career advising. They want us to succeed as much as we want to succeed!

Check out this TED Talk: Mapping Ideas Worth Spreading.