Sikana Tanupabrungsun has taken her research in behavioral studies and social media data directly into one of today’s hottest careers and a coveted place at one of the world’s most highly regarded global tech firms.
The 2018 iSchool doctoral program graduate is a data scientist at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. She is part of a data engineering team whose primary focus is developing platforms for collecting, analyzing, and preparing data for further processing. She and her team are developing learning models to improve data quality and provide further insights from raw data.
Tanupabrungsun’s path from the School of Information Studies to Microsoft came through a university recruiter, who was drawn to her unique experience. The doctoral graduate had interned as a product specialist intern for Microsoft in her native Thailand. She had enthusiasm for her course of study, plus a 4.0 GPA. Microsoft flew Tanupabrungsun across the country to its headquarters for a speed round of back-to-back interviews. She talked with data scientists from various teams and was evaluated on a wide range of skills, from data science projects design and execution, to areas like machine learning algorithms, NLP, and performance metrics. Tanupabrungsun clearly made an impression; she was soon offered a job. Now, her typical work day revolves around all things data, she says, from gathering and wrangling, analyzing, and modeling to interpreting the results using different programming languages like Scale, Python, and .NET.
“Data analytics is something that is going to remain at the forefront for quite some time, as it is one of the most valuable assets for business,” she explains. “With business moving away from offline to online platforms, massive amounts of data is being generated every second, and that’s definitely a gold mine of information.”
With both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in computer engineering from King Monkut’s University of Technology Thonburi in Thailand, Tanupabrungsun had long held a keen interest in data analytics and used the doctoral program to further her knowledge.
She says she understands that some data analytics skills are not easily learned from a textbook. She credits the iSchool for providing extensive practical experience in data analytics design, machine learning algorithms, and, most importantly, teaching about interpreting the results. She recalls that one of the most useful courses was Information Visualization, taught by Assistant Professor Jeff Hemsley. “I learned how important the visualizations were, especially when presenting the results, as well as how to create effective ones,” she says.
The iSchool’s diverse environment was also valuable, she says. “The iSchool was a great mix of people with different backgrounds and expertise. I was trained to work in a multicultural environment, which has become especially useful when working with different stakeholders at Microsoft.”
While Tanupabrungsun has only been at Microsoft for a short time, she knows her team’s work is making a big impact within the company as well as how businesses perform around the world.
“Data Science is a big team here, and it continues to grow as it serves different parts of the organization and plays a crucial role in what we do,” she says. “I’m excited to see what we discover next and how that information can be used to move businesses forward. It’s an exciting place to be.”
By Caroline Reff