CSUN’s budding data scientists had the opportunity to hear from a master in the field this month. John Peach, a senior data scientist with Amazon Alexa, has made a name for himself as a problem solver and developer of new data techniques for voice technology and much more. On Oct. 4, Peach gave the keynote speech to students, staff and faculty at DataJam, an annual series where CSUN students can get hands-on experience in data science.
Peach is a mechanical engineer, kinesiologist and software engineer, as well as a data scientist. In his keynote, Peach talked to students about various careers related to data and data analysis — such as data engineering and machine-learning engineers.
“We are the ones who are trying to help the decision-makers use data to make a decision,” Peach said.
Finding accurate data in the professional world can often be a challenge, he cautioned.
“Only in school can you find nice, clean data,” he said. “[In] the rest of the world, data is garbage. My job is a ‘data garbageman,'” collecting and sifting through data sets, Peach said.
During the half-day event at the University Student Union, students participated in a series of workshops and a Q&A session. DataJam, sponsored by CSUN’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, offers students of all majors the opportunity to apply their skills to manipulate, analyze and visualize data in a team-based competition. This year’s theme is “Resilient L.A.,” based on the City and County of L.A.’s priority to increase resilience in response to climate change. DataJam launched Sept. 27, and participants presented their teams’ work on competition day, Oct. 18.
Peach has a notable history of taking a problem from idea to production by using a logical, creative, data-driven approach, said Sherrie Hixon, director of Strategic Research Initiatives and Innovation at CSUN.
Peach told students that despite the “messy” nature of data in the worlds of science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and beyond, they shouldn’t let frustration keep them from a career in data.
“Try it,” Peach said. “Do an internship, work in a lab, see if you like it.”
The CSUN DataJam winners were posted after the competition.