Though only halfway finished with his UW Master of Science in Data Science, Nicholas Sondelski already knows his future lies in data-driven manufacturing.
Nick is the IT manager at Pointe Precision, a Plover, Wis. manufacturing company, where he’s witnessed the dawn of Industry 4.0—or, the evolution of “smart factories.” Today, these facilities produce a tremendous amount of data that can be used to automate and improve manufacturing technologies.
“Data is exploding right now,” he says, “but manufacturing needs more professionals who can study and interpret this data.” And Nick sees opportunities here—for manufacturing and for his career.
A Start in IT
Nick earned bachelor’s degrees in computer information systems and business administration from UW-Stevens Point, the same university he’s attending online to earn his master’s degree in data science.
For the last 15 years, he’s been at Pointe Precision, moving up from intern to IT manager. Nick loves his work. The company manufactures mission-critical components for surgical instruments, fuel delivery systems on jet engines, and firearms—all of which need to withstand high heat and are vital to the end-use application.
Pointe Precision’s leaders recognized the potential for data to provide insight into processes and, ultimately, better business decisions. Thus, they supported Nick’s decision to pursue a master’s degree in data science.
“Every day, I see opportunities for improvements in a variety of business processes from the shop floor to the front office. Using data analysis techniques gives us additional insight that we may not have seen in the past. That’s what drove me to the UW Data Science master’s program. I hope to become a data analyst so I can help the business make even more strategic decisions.”
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A Data Pioneer
Nick is carving a path for data science in manufacturing. And he was one of the first students to sign up for the 12-course, 36-credit UW Data Science program, which is offered online through six University of Wisconsin campuses.
UW Data Science students are a diverse group—they come from backgrounds in business, science, and many other disciplines. (“This makes class discussions very interesting,” Nick adds.) That’s because data science applies to just about every industry.
“I had been leaning toward an MBA program until the data science opportunity came along. Once I started taking classes, everything clicked. I knew this is exactly what I wanted to do.”
Plus, the career outlook alone was a major draw. “Pointe Precision is a growing, successful company, and I love working there. But it’s also comforting to know that analytics professionals are in demand everywhere.”
A Challenging, Useful Education
“Before I started the UW Data Science program, I was unsure of the online format. But the courses are more challenging, fun, and useful than I expected.”
In his current position, Nick has used his education to look at data, cleanse and manipulate it, and extract insights. And he now has hands-on experience with programming languages Python, R, AWS on Amazon’s cloud, along with Hive and Pig on the Hadoop file system used for big data.
The UW Data Science curriculum includes a balance of technical subjects—such as databases and statistics—and courses focused on building management and communications skills. At a recent conference, Nick gave a presentation and used some of the persuasive presentation skills he learned in his data science communication course.
In class, he created a data visualization demonstrating how fast new parts make it through Pointe Precision’s engineering department. “I was able to share a unique perspective with the executive team at Pointe Precision, and they wanted to see more. The VP of engineering was impressed to see data presented in such a different way.”
Industry 4.0 and Beyond
Nick expects to graduate with his Master of Science in Data Science from UW-Stevens Point in 2018. He wants to be more involved in a data science role, leading his own team of Industry 4.0 data professionals. Nick is committed and passionate about Pointe Precision’s mission—but he’s also interested in changing the business and the manufacturing industry as a whole.
“As a data scientist, I have the opportunity to make an impact every day. So far, I’ve only had a taste of what it would be like to apply my data science knowledge. Whether I get to help modify a process, save costs, or make better business decisions, I know it will be a rewarding career.”
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