I'm going back to school

[ omscs learning ] · 5 min read

Update: I’ve graduated! You might also be interested in this OMSCS FAQ I wrote after graduation. Or view all OMSCS related writing here: omscs.

I’ve been accepted into Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS)!

What’s that?

Georgia Tech is one of the top schools for computer science (5th on Business Insider and TFE Times, 9th on US News). The price tag? Around USD$7,000. That’s less than 1/10 of the cost of a degree from comparable US colleges. Furthermore, graduates earn a full Masters degree that’s indistinguishable from those earned by residential students.

Bottom line: I get to learn at a top CS school and apply it (at work) simultaneously, and not forgo real-world industry experience. At a great price.

Here’s part of the short essays I wrote for the application.

Essay 1: Background

Please describe your background (academic and extracurricular) and experience, including research, teaching, industry, and other relevant information. Your space is limited to 2000 characters. (My interpretation: What has prepared you for this program?)

Using data to create positive impact—this sums up my career so far. Though I have not formally studied computer science, I have developed coding and engineering skills through online learning and work experience in technical roles at IBM and Lazada (Southeast Asia’s leading e-commerce site). My self-learning and 3 years of technical experience have prepared me for OMS CS.

I graduated top of my cohort with a degree in Psychology and Business from the Singapore Management University (SMU). At SMU, I gained skills in advanced statistics, research, and experimental design. For my thesis, through regression analysis, I found that competition improves performance of ego-oriented (success means being better than others) but not task-oriented (success means skill mastery) people. I was also a research assistant to two professors, and helped on experiments, analysis, and publications.

After college, I joined the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Using economic and political data, I developed policies and concluded trade agreements. I also further honed my communication skills. With a yearning to work closer to data and build automated systems, I joined IBM (after much self-learning).

At IBM, I worked on social media analytics, anti-money laundering, and workforce analytics (WA). For WA, I built job demand forecasts and a job recommendation engine. The latter suggests in-demand skills and roles to employees—this helped develop IBM’s talent pool, helped outdated employees transit, and reduced attrition. With an interest to join a fast-moving start-up, and build systems from scratch on open source, I joined Lazada.

At Lazada, I build systems to improve user experience. To help sellers categorize products, I built an API with 95% accuracy. To help customers find relevant products easily, I built a product ranking system and increased conversion by 3-8%. Both systems were built on Python, Scala, and Spark.

In my free time, I build data products and share them on datagene.io.

Essay 2: Statement of Purpose

Please give a Statement of Purpose detailing your academic and research goals as well as career plans. Include your reasons for choosing the College of Computing as opposed to other programs and/or other universities. Your space is limited to 4000 characters. (My interpretation: Why now and why Georgia Tech?)

My mission and career revolves around using data to create positive impact, through building automated and scalable systems to help people. Currently, I am focusing on improving user experience in e-commerce. In future, I aim to improve healthcare for the masses.

To identify which key skills are required to succeed, I have interviewed many experts on what contributed to their success. After distilling their sharing, three broad skill sets emerged: (i) communication, (ii) data exploration and feature engineering, and (iii) computer science and software engineering.

With regard to computer science, I have gained much from self-learning and work experience. Nonetheless, at my current stage of development, I believe I will learn much more from a holistic and structured program at Georgia Tech. To make greater progress on my mission, I will require a deeper understanding of the fundamentals (e.g., software design, networks) and advanced topics (e.g., high-performance computing, computer vision).

During OMS CS, I will further develop my skills in computer science and software engineering, and build scalable and high-performance systems in course projects and at work. I will also seek like-minded people with a passion in healthcare to collaborate on a side project.

After graduating from OMS CS, I intend to join the healthcare industry, focusing on using data to improve healthcare (e.g., providing continuous diagnosis via wearables, image diagnosis through machine learning). Ideally, I will do this through my own start-up and team so I can better shape and ensure data privacy.

The Georgia Tech OMS CS is the best fit for several reasons.

(Excluded to prevent plagiarism)

Busy studying from Jan 2017 onwards

So there you have it. I’ll have to figure out how to continue building datagene.io, write, and study at the same time. Please do share your stories on how you studied part time and managed your time effectively.

If you found this useful, please cite this write-up as:

Yan, Ziyou. (Nov 2016). I'm going back to school. eugeneyan.com. https://eugeneyan.com/writing/im-going-back-to-school/.


  title   = {I'm going back to school},
  author  = {Yan, Ziyou},
  journal = {eugeneyan.com},
  year    = {2016},
  month   = {Nov},
  url     = {https://eugeneyan.com/writing/im-going-back-to-school/}

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