DataScience@SMU Student Spotlight: Sam Coyne

Previous Education: Bachelor of Science, Logistics, from the University of Tennessee
Location: Atlanta, Georgia 
Occupation: Analytics Specialist

Tell us a bit about yourself.

After graduating from the University of Tennessee, I started my career in Washington, D.C., with DHL. I eventually made my way to Atlanta. I love the music scene here as well as in nearby Athens, Georgia. I try to attend as many shows as possible. Some favorite venues are the 40 Watt Club, EARL and Terminal West. I’m also an avid reader of science fiction and horror. Maintaining a school, work and personal life balance is key to not getting overwhelmed. Finally, I enjoy lifting weights and exercising. As expected, I use analytics to fuel improvements in my workouts!

What initially attracted you to the field of data science?

I was attracted to the field of data science because I love working with data. I took my first analyst position in 2011 and quickly discovered working with data is not just a job; it’s fun. Through the years, my analyses grew in scope and complexity. At some point, I discovered both Python and R and rediscovered why I liked the statistics classes I took at the University of Tennessee so much. I started to consume as much information as possible about data science: I took online courses, I read books, I did example problems. I decided it was time to take a formal approach to following this interest and applied for DataScience@SMU.

Why did you choose an online program?

As I hit the four years out of undergraduate mark, I knew I wanted to go back to school. My work was becoming more data focused, so picking a master’s in data science program was not a difficult decision. I ultimately decided on SMU’s program because I could not walk away from the exciting analyses that awaited me in my current job. The online program granted me the flexibility to work as an analyst and pursue my education in the evenings and on weekends.

Were there any adjustments you had to make to acclimate to an online learning environment?

Absolutely! Adjustments had to be made both in getting back into the flow of school and adapting to the online environment. I think I had some first semester jitters around the online learning environment. But diving into the deep end is the best way to adjust to the online classroom. Once I started participating and working in groups, it felt just like the traditional classroom environment. Any concerns I initially had didn’t last after the first two weeks of class.

What is your current profession, and how have you been able to incorporate concepts or tools you’ve learned in the program to your current role?

My current position is a data analytics specialist role. Since 2011, I’ve been an operations analyst, packaging analyst, sourcing analyst, senior analyst and lead analyst. I love using data science to solve problems. I believe the program directly contributed to my recent promotion to analytics specialist. There’s no doubt statistics is the foundation of data science: Both Statistical Foundations for Data Science and Applied Statistics: Inference and Modeling allowed me to apply advanced modeling concepts to my projects. The other courses have also contributed to my ability to use both Python and R confidently for various projects.

How will earning your Master of Science in Data Science degree from SMU help you achieve your future career goals?

To some degree, this program has already helped me achieve my goals. I recently accepted a data science position from an internal job posting. From my bridge courses to my current classes, I’ve been able to apply something from each course to my work. The concepts taught in the program apply to many industries and job functions. These classes do not solely focus on the how-to side of data science; the classes cover how to interpret data, which will help any aspiring data scientist reach their career goals.

How do you foresee the evolution of usage of data science in the future? How will that impact DataScience@SMU graduates?     

Data are simply everywhere. Business decisions were once driven mostly by intuition, but now business decisions are driven by data. Even political campaign strategies are driven by data. Plus, the topic on everyone’s mind – artificial intelligence – is also driven by data. The DataScience@SMU program prepares aspiring data scientists to work with, understand and make sound conclusions based on data. Tools, buzzwords and catchy acronyms come and go. SMU provides the M.S. in Data Science students with a foundation of skills that will not fade away. The “datafication” of society is here to stay. The way to approach this future is not with fear but with intellectual curiosity and a desire to apply what is taught in the program to the data science field. It’s a great time to tackle complex problems with data science concepts! Things are only going to get more interesting. So for all those on the fence about studying data science, come join us: It’s a decision you will never regret.

Last updated September 2017