By Casey Wagner
Staff Writer, Data Science Institute


This past January the University of Virginia Data Science Institute (DSI) partnered with the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) for a career trek to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Select DSI and SEAS students visited companies across a range of industries who are using data science in a variety of ways, attended an alumni mixer for UVA alumni working in tech in the Bay Area, and some students scheduled their own networking meetings and informational interviews.

“It was awesome to have faculty, staff and students traveling and learning together,” said DSI Assistant Director for Career Services Reginald Leonard. “There is tremendous value for the students to be exposed to how truly ubiquitous and versatile the applications of data science are in industry.”

The group learned about a broad range of functions from different companies, including Facebook’s internal use of data science for their advertisement platform and the largest customer relationship management company’s use of machine learning and algorithms based on user preferences.

“Even when students were familiar with the companies,” Leonard said, “they weren't familiar with their organizational structures, the diversity of places data science could reside throughout those companies, and even the sheer amount of applications data science could be applied to.”  

Aside from what students took away from the experience, employers also benefited by gaining direct access to data science talent. Trek participants had their resume books sent ahead to the participating organizations and the companies were able to see what students in a one year Masters program are able to do.

Career treks help to create sustainable relationships with companies. Many of the site visits are coordinated through alumni and networking events. Leonard was able to organize the Facebook tour through a prior recruiting connection he had formed.

“Our visit [to Facebook] was successful, and they are now sending a Data Science Manager to be the keynote speaker at our upcoming IEEE SIEDS conference at the end of April, as another point of engagement,” Leonard said.

The partnership between the DSI and SEAS stems from the clear overlaps between the course of study and career paths that students in the two programs pursue. In addition to attending many of the same events, students from both departments also traveled to San Francisco together and shared housing on the trip.

“We saw an obvious opportunity to collaborate, by co-organizing the entire trek, sharing contacts, sharing costs, providing financial assistance for students, and coordinating both joint and separate site visits,” Leonard said.

The San Francisco trek is one of two sponsored by the DSI; another group of students traveled to New York City in October for similar company visits and networking opportunities. All students that attended both treks received full scholarship funding.

The DSI and SEAS look forward to collaborating again in the future, with treks and other events. They have recently hosted the first “Data Dinner” series in conjunction with the UVA career center.

“The trek was so successful that we're in the process of discussing where else we can take our students together,” Leonard said.

Career Treks are an opportunity offered to all DSI students, and are paid for through professional development funding provided by the DSI. Learn more about the 11-month Masters of Science in Data Science program and the MBA/MSDS dual-degree program, in partnership with UVA's Darden School of Business, and the benefits of becoming a student at the University of Virginia Data Science Institute.