Data Science Masters

May 24, 2019

Alumni Profile: Charles Duze

Part-Time Student, Class of 2019

Undergraduate: Syracuse University

Current Employer: Shopify

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Benin City, Nigeria. At about 11 years old, I left home for the first time to go to a boarding school four hours away. Although extremely challenging at first, they were some of the best character-forming years of my life. About six years later, I left Nigeria to attend Syracuse University in New York. I completed my B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science at Syracuse University before attending the M.S. in Data Science program at the UW.

Why did you choose the M.S. in Data Science program at the UW?

At some point in my career, I stumbled upon the field of data science, although I didn’t know it at the time. After tinkering around with my self-taught knowledge, I decided to explore and learn more about data science. I took the 9-month UW Data Science Certificate program. It confirmed for me that this was the direction I wanted to go and left me with a burning desire to go deeper. Luckily, the M.S. in Data Science program checked most of my boxes. I wanted a reputable program from a renowned university that I could do part-time and in-person.

What was your favorite class? Why?

It is tough to pick just one. But since I have to, I would say Applied Statistics and Experimental Design with Dr. Brian Leroux. This class was very applicable to day-to-day work. Dr. Leroux broke down complex fundamental statistics concepts with a gentle and patient introduction. The quizzes and homework helped reinforce what we learned. There were two things I really appreciated: The first was that he held office hours late in the evening via conference call to accommodate the schedules of those with full-time jobs. You could tell he really wanted to be present and help students learn. The second was that he created customized materials for the class. These materials were so valuable and easy to understand that they were my study materials when I was interviewing for jobs.

What was your cohort experience like?

My cohort experience was great. Two and a half years of attending classes, study groups, and team projects and just struggling with homework problems together creates a special bond. Of course, the happy hours, when I could make them, helped too.

During your time in the program, you changed jobs – what role did the M.S. in Data Science program play in this transition?

The M.S. in Data Science program gave me the knowledge and confidence to take the leap and change jobs. The classes gave me the breadth and depth to be proficient not just with my former company’s tools and processes but any in the industry.

How has the M.S. in Data Science program shaped your future goals?

The M.S. in Data Science program accelerated my goals. I was already where I had planned to be post-graduation. For the immediate future, I plan to contribute, grow, lead and make an impact at Zillow. (Note: Charles has since moved on to a Data Science Manager role at Shopify.)

Outside of work, you are the founder and CEO of a nonprofit called LittleDrops Orphanage Fund, and you have a young family. Can you talk about balancing grad school, a full-time job, non-profit work and your personal life as a part-time student?

Balancing my various responsibilities, without dropping too many balls, was one of my toughest challenges. I don’t claim to have done it perfectly, but I think I did it well. It took a village and I am grateful to them. For LittleDrops, I was lucky to find an amazing part-time staff member who always went above and beyond. At home, my wife was very supportive, and my kids were more forgiving and patient than they had to be. I tried to make it up and play catch-up whenever I could. Overall, it took a lot from me and them. It was a challenging journey, but it was definitely worth it.