Christopher Havenstein

Location: Houston, Texas

Occupation: Business analyst at ConocoPhillips

Education: B.S. in business administration from Kansas State University

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Following graduation from Kansas State University, I began my career at ConocoPhillips in Houston, Texas. My favorite thing about Houston is the incredible cultural diversity, especially in respect to food and restaurant options. Once I had my first Lupe Tortilla beef fajita and my first real bowl of tonkotsu ramen from Tiger Den, my life was changed! In my spare time, I enjoy playing tabletop role-playing games, watching anime and reading. These activities keep my mind balanced with the deep analytical tasks performed in the engaging DataScience@SMU curriculum.

What initially attracted you to the data science field?

Early on during my undergrad at Kansas State, I took a management information systems data-mining topics course. The course introduced me to data mining and the concepts of machine learning, including supervised and unsupervised learning techniques. I was captivated by the material covered in the course, and I knew after taking that course that I wanted to eventually become a data scientist. From there, I focused on acquiring as much data management and statistics experience as possible to build a strong data science foundation. 

Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Science in Data Science?

After being placed on the ConocoPhillips data architecture team in 2015, I decided to spend time outside of work taking massively open online courses (MOOCs) to learn as much about data science as I could. I loved the data science-related conversations I was able to have with data scientists in my company. After completing three R-related MOOCs, I decided to pursue a Master of Science in Data Science. 

Why did you choose DataScience@SMU?

I was intrigued by DataScience@SMU’s interdisciplinary approach to data science. While other data science master’s programs required an undergraduate degree in computer science, the DataScience@SMU program wisely acknowledges that other disciplines are capable of learning and benefitting from data science. When I began to explore the curriculum, I quickly realized how well thought out the program was.

Which skills and tools that the program covers do you find most appealing? Why?

I am most interested in applying data science on a cloud scale, and DataScience@SMU gave me the skills I needed to do this. After you find a great predictive model through statistical analysis in R, Python or SAS, DataScience@SMU’s cloud computing course provides you with the skills to "productionize" those insights. I feel this knowledge gives you the capability to become a tremendous value multiplier for your business! 

How are you able to apply what you are learning to your current position?

In my current role as a business analyst, I have already been able to expand my effectiveness using experimental design concepts to perform application tests. Using skills I learned in the M.S. in Data Science program, I can interpret those test results based on the population sampling method and how any assignment of treatments occurred. Furthermore, the data and network security course has given me the ability to credibly and successfully talk with my company’s IT security team to improve application security. 

What surprised you most about the online learning environment?

Often, much of the course content is initially made available to you prior to the first day of class. Each time you start a new DataScience@SMU course, you need to be proactive to learn what is expected of you. This could just be finishing the first unit of material before your first live session, but it could be different. Check the available files and folders to get the lay of the land and communicate with others in your cohort. This way you can ask other students questions and learn more about your talented cohort-mates!

What advice do you have for prospective students?

If you are fascinated by data science, consider earning a master’s in data science from DataScience@SMU! Prepare for classes by taking the available bridge courses on the online platform. You will be challenged, but surprised by how much you learn in a short period of time. When you emerge from DataScience@SMU, you will be well prepared to begin or augment your career in data science!

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