August 18–22, 2019, 89 Master of Information and Data Science students joined I School faculty and staff in the Bay Area for the School’s 13th MIDS Immersion program.
Students traveled to the Bay Area from across the country and world to attend the Immersion experience, including from as far as Brazil, Norway, Russia, Germany, China, India, the UAE, Singapore, Canada, Spain, Mexico, Columbia, and Thailand.
The program kicked off with a welcome dinner at the University Club, where Head of School John Chuang welcomed the participants and encouraged them to maximize their time together and connect with people they hadn’t yet met.
“While we come from different places, and will go back to different places, we all share something in common,” said Professor Chung. “We are all part of this [MIDS] community, we are part of the I School community, and we are part of the UC Berkeley community; and this is something that you will carry with you for the rest of your lives.”
Day two kicked off with a personal branding session with Rebecca Andersen, Director of Career Services and Alumni Relations, followed by a session with Julia Nalven, Metrics Team Lead with Payments Trust and Safety at Google who shared her “Unintentional Journey in Data Science.”
Nalven stressed the importance of storytelling and visualization to make data make sense, and shared the number one thing she wished she had known in starting her career: to be more aggressive, and ask for what you want and how to get to the next level.
After lunch students traveled to San Francisco for “Tech Treks” to local tech companies.
At Indeed, students learned about the pathways for data science and explored the inconsistency around the definition of data science. The data science team described how they organize data science roles in data engineering, business intelligence, product, and decision science.
At Credit Sesame students were hosted by Matthew Burke, MIDS 2017 alumnus. Data scientists at the company shared how they use predictive models, and what it is like to work in a growing, fintech startup environment.
At Tubi, the Senior Director of Data Science introduced the product, and a panel of data scientists and machine learning engineers answered questions and shared what it is like to work in a data-driven, rapidly growing video streaming startup environment.
At Stitchfix students were hosted by Vincent Chu, MIDS 2018 alumnus. A Data Platform Engineer discussed Stitch Fix's data platform; a Data Science Manager explained how algorithms improve the process of buying inventory from vendors, and a Data Scientist described how Stitch Fix's styling algorithm helps their stylists make better selections for their customers. The visit concluded with a brief overview of open roles from members of the recruiting team.
On day three, students came to campus for a variety of lectures, workshops, and time to socialize.
In the morning, students participated in a design thinking workshop led by practitioners from the Berkeley Innovation Group at Haas. Students worked in small groups and learned how to apply design thinking principles to business cases.
MIDS lecturer and 2016 alumnus Christopher Llop, Manager at Analysis Group, discussed challenges and opportunities for data science within a consulting firm.
Andrew Fiore, I School 2010 Ph.D. program alumnus and lecturer, and Head of Data Science at Asana, discussed how at Asana and Facebook they combine Data Science with complementary methods like qualitative interviews and survey research, and how the results can shape product direction.
I School Professor Joshua Blumenstock discussed ongoing work that capitalizes on recent advances in machine learning to tackle some of the problems affecting poor and marginalized populations in his talk “Fighting Global Poverty with Big Data.”
The day ended with the annual I School community picnic. Immersion participants were joined by on-campus students, staff, and faculty for a relaxed evening on the South Hall lawn.
On the final day, faculty and staff from the I School leadership joined participants for brunch, followed by an alumni panel facilitated by Professor Alex Hughes.
Following the program, students shared that the time spent making in-person connections was invaluable. “It was all excellent,” one student said, “but I think spending time with other students face to face was my favorite.”
“Meeting other students was more fun and less stressful than I expected,” shared another.
“It was really great to meet people I’ve taken classes with,” another student shared. “Connecting with them on a personal level was something I didn't realize was important until it happened.”