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Faces of UMSI: Carlo Tak

Carlo Tak, a data scientist from South Africa, is boundlessly curious about his own field. As one of the 149 students pioneering UMSI’s Master of Applied Data Science (MADS) degree, Carlo has found a platform to feed and explore his wide-ranging interests while working full-time. 

Carlo earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2019 while also working full-time as the principal data scientist for MultiChoice, a major satellite TV service in sub-Saharan Africa. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, he immediately set his sights on a master’s program in data science in order to engage more deeply with his work, which involves problems of natural language processing and cloud computing. “I investigated many master’s programs online before creating a shortlist of the programs that appealed to me the most,” he said. “I found the webinars to be the most informative. UMSI had quite a few webinars about the MADS program.” 

Carlo said he ultimately decided to enroll as a MADS student because the program seemed to have the most robust and relevant curriculum of the programs on his shortlist. Plus, he was already comfortable with online learning. “I’ve done many massive open online courses (MOOCs),” he said. “In fact, I have a problem with enrolling in too many at once sometimes and spreading myself too thin. There are too many interesting topics to explore.” 

With the MADS curriculum directing his zeal, Carlo said he enjoys the struggle and sense of accomplishment data science work entails. “It’s a struggle to try many different experiments with data, a struggle to rapidly learn a new programming library,” he said. “Sometimes something works, and a sense of accomplishment follows it.” There will be many opportunities for Carlo to enjoy that sense of accomplishment throughout the MADS program, and for now, he says his first few courses are going well. “My fellow students are very helpful,” he said. “It feels great to be part of the first cohort. I’ve been planning my master’s degree for a few years now. I wanted it to specifically focus on data science, but in South Africa there were no such degrees until recently. I knew what I was seeking was rare, so to be one of the first MADS students seemed very fitting.” 

Carlo said he’s looking forward to using the skills he gains to engage with parts of the data science field he hasn’t yet explored. “I intend to use the knowledge from the MADS program to augment the data science work I’m currently doing and other data science projects that I’ve only thought of but never known how to even begin,” he said. Through all his coursework, Carlo’s curiosity remains insatiable. “The more I learn about data science, the more I realize that I don’t know enough. It makes me want to consume more data science courses.”