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Big data means big career opportunities, UNC students learn at NCDS career event

A full house for the NCDS Big Data Career Event

As a leader in the growing and evolving field of data science, the National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS) works to share knowledge and recruit a new generation of data researchers to innovate and solve challenges in organizing and managing data.

To further this goal, the NCDS hosted a student networking event with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s University Career Services office (UCS), entitled “Networking with Data Science Professionals: A Panel Discussion and Meetup with Triangle Business Leaders.”

Monique Morrow of Cisco speaks to students during the Data Science Panel Discussion
Monique Morrow of Cisco, far right, speaks to students during the Data Science Panel Discussion. Other panelists are (from left to right) Craig Hill, RTI; Dianne Fodell, IBM; and Pat Herbert, SAS.

The event, held on Monday, April 7, at the UCS office in Hanes Hall, kicked off with a dinner reception for the panelists, NCDS Data Science Faculty Fellows from four North Carolina academic institutions, and NCDS members.

The Data Science Industry Panel began at 6 p.m., and allowed experts from NCDS member institutions to speak about careers and internships in data science, curricula focus areas, and the future of the field. The four panelists were Monique Morrow, services CTO at Cisco, Dianne Fodell, Global University Program director at IBM, Craig Hill, senior vice president of survey, computing and statistical sciences at RTI International, and Pat Herbert, principal systems architect for Big Data at SAS Institute, Inc. Ashok Krishnamurthy, deputy director at NCDS founding member RENCI, moderated the panel discussion. These industry experts offered students a broad overview of the future of data science, details on data science jobs at their organizations, and advice on how to pursue a career in the field.

After the panel discussion, students, professors, panelists and other industry representatives gathered for an informal meet and greet, where students scribbled notes, exchanged contact information, and had the rare opportunity to talk informally with industry leaders.

More than 100 students from a variety of disciplines and majors attended the event, which career services associate director Tim Stiles deemed a “great success.

Students agreed with that assessment.

“I thought it went really well,” said Amy Roberts, a Ph.D. candidate in nutrition and epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. “It was really interesting to hear from a variety of industry professionals, what they’re looking for in data sciences and to get a better sense of where someone with my background as a grad student might fit in.”

Andrew Chi, a Ph.D. candidate in computer science, said he was impressed by the caliber of the panelists. “They [the companies] sent some of their best people; Cisco sent their CTO of services,” he said. “This is somebody who’s actually really high up and really knows what the company’s direction is. It was very cool to hear about where Cisco is going and how they want people to be plugged into that position.”

Due to the great success of this event, the NCDS and UCS are planning a “Women in Data Science” event for fall 2014.