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Meet Mark, an experienced data scientist, software engineer, and MasterStreet tutor. Mark is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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Why did you decide to become a tutor or teacher?
I had been a software developer for many years, and people said that I would make a great teacher. So, I combined my engineering experience with my desire to help people. As a result, I found the perfect role.
What’s the biggest issue facing professionals in your field?
Professionals now have to master many different technologies for any given position. You have to be constantly learning to keep up with the pace of software, as development cycles become increasingly shorter and more “agile”.
What question do your students ask you most?
“Do you miss working at a company?” Sometimes I do because there is nothing like the real satisfaction of releasing a software product and knowing that people are using it. But software development is an intense and often solitary profession, so after many years, I decided that I preferred the great feeling that comes from helping people.
Who is one of the most memorable students you’ve worked with and why?
Paul had a PhD in philosophy from Yale and did not know the first thing about programming. So, we started from the basics in Python, and he a natural affinity for figuring things out. I had never previously had an experience where a student knew where you were headed every step of the way. Everyone should be exposed to programming at some point. You may surprise yourself!
Give us your most interesting fact about one or two of the skills you tutor?
Many people want to become a data scientist, and the skills required are proficiency in programming, machine learning, statistics, databases, and even probability. To achieve technical expertise in predictive analytics is challenging, but very rewarding.
What fascinates you most about your tutoring work?
Every student has a great story about how they got into programming. Everyone has that experience when something “clicks”, and that is what software development is all about. There is a always a new challenge and something new to learn.
Who would you most like to have dinner with in your field?
I would like to have dinner with Professor Andrew Ng of Stanford University. Not only is he a pioneer in the field of deep learning, but he is a co-founder of Coursera. His course in Machine Learning is one of the best, and he is a great teacher.
What is your favorite tip related to the skills you tutor?
My favorite tip for learning programming and data science skills is to tackle a series of interesting projects so that you can incrementally build up your repertoire. Sometimes, the fundamentals can be boring, so you want to find a cool problem to solve.
What is your favorite book, guide, or course materials in your field?
For machine learning, my favorite book is The Elements of Statistical Learning: Data Mining, Inference, and Prediction by Trevor Hastie, Jerome H. Friedman, and Robert Tibshirani. For programming, my favorite book is Python for Data Analysis by Wes McKinney.
What is your favorite app or website that is related to your work?
1. I use scikit-learn for machine learning — http://scikit-learn.org/
2. For data analysis, I like pandas — http://pandas.pydata.org/
3. To participate in data science competitions, go to Kaggle — http://www.kaggle.com/
What is your favorite online video or tutorial related to your work or tutoring?
I highly recommend the Coursera course: Functional Programming Principles in Scala by Martin Odersky. The reason is that you will learn concepts such as currying and tail recursion. To become a great programmer, you need to build this foundation first.
What skills do you think will be most valuable over the next 3 years in your field?
I see four skills as the most valuable: “big data” platforms such as Apache Spark and Hadoop; REST APIs and cloud endpoints; functional programming in languages such as Scala and Clojure; and front-end Web technologies such as AngularJS and D3.js.
If you could give one piece of professional advice to someone in college or just starting their career, what would it be?
Get a solid grounding in the basics of software engineering and algorithm design. Interviews are becoming increasingly difficult, including take-home projects and online coding tests. Take as many courses as you can.
What excites you most about working with MasterStreet?
MasterStreet has the best tutors in the business. It is a well-run organization devoted to matching professionals with tutors who really care. So, when I think about my next tutoring job, I am always excited about who the next client will be.
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