My name is Rainier Varilla, and I’m on my road to retooling my skills with Data Science at the iSchool. Oh, and I’m 50 years old. Now you’re probably asking yourself, ‘Why on earth are you heading back to school, old man?’  Before I can answer that, let me just say that I have fought this decision since I graduated with an undergrad 29 years ago.  That’s how much I dread having to hit the books again.

The Awakening

I had worked for IBM for 17 years. I finally realized that technology is changing so fast that my skills can no longer keep up.  As I look around at companies like IBM, they have been laying off employees or forcing them into early retirement. By doing this they can hire talent that has fresh and innovative new ideas and are familiar with the latest technologies. At the same time reduce their overhead costs and increase their pocketbook.  I have seen too many of my talented colleagues get affected by this, and I for one am not immune to it.

Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, OH MY!

So, what is this innovative new idea or new technologies I speak of?  If you have been paying attention to trends in technology lately, then you’re familiar with Internet of Things (IOT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning. These are HOT topics that are playing key roles in today’s tech, but more so in the near future.

IOT are physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other things that have software, electronics, sensors, and network connectivity embedded in them to collect and exchange data between each other in real time.  AI is not a new concept, but with IOT, AI becomes cognitive.  It gives life into inanimate devices to make decisions based on the data it collects.  Machine Learning provides AI the ability to learn from the data collected and makes predictions on what may happen given a specific scenario or pattern.  These three topics all have something in common, and that is data.

The study of this data is called Data Science.  It is an interdisciplinary field about scientific methods, processes and systems to extract knowledge or insights from data in various forms, either structured or unstructured.  The reason I chose Syracuse University iSchool, is because of it’s national ranking in the top 5 data science programs. The program offers the best mix of business and technical experiences that will enhance my skills. This gives me an advantage over my competition and embodies the trends that are happening today.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense    

So here I am, at the proverbial fork in the road of life.  It is like in the movie Matrix, do I take the blue pill or red pill?  If I take the blue pill, my story ends and I wake up in my bed and believe whatever I want to believe. If I take the red pill, I stay in Wonderland, and I learn how deep the rabbit hole goes.  Why should I sit on the sidelines and watch things pass me by, when I can get into the game and compete to my fullest? This is the reason I decided to attend iSchool.