By Kelly Davis
Name: Ion Nemteanu
Course: Text Mining
People might assume that folks working in the field of data mining are cold, detached types — typical scientists. The reality is, it’s a profession that requires a creative mind and, quite often, a desire to make the world a better place. That’s what drew Extension instructor Ion Nemteanu to his field. While earning his master’s degree in predictive analytics at Northwestern, Nemteanu says he realized he wanted to pursue a career that made people’s lives better — “where I could participate in the proliferation of data for the greater good,” he explains. And, of course, there’s the fact that analyzing large amounts of data can be pretty darn fun: “Some days are like playing detective,” he says, “while others are like being the mad scientist.” Nemteanu’s text mining course is part of Extension’s growing offerings in data analysis.
How did you get started in your career field?
I originally started out providing help-desk support and fixing computers for about 2,000 users. I also managed all the corporate mobile devices and services for the employees. That assignment led to my next role as a telecom analyst. I spent most of my time analyzing spreadsheets and working with databases that housed terabytes of call-detail data. I spent the next five years working in telecom and was promoted first to a manager and ultimately to the director and owned the entire optimization and audit operation. It was a small company, but it was a great experience. However, I felt that soon it would become a career-limiting factor. I decided to start learning about some of the new analytic technologies and build up my skill set.
I started by attending Northwestern University’s master’s program in predictive analytics. I wanted to learn how to leverage algorithms to discover deeper insights and also improve my ability to manage the business side of analytics and drive adoption and innovation. While in the program, I started searching for roles that were interesting, scientific and where I would be able to lead teams into new analytical areas. I also had a desire to use my work to have a lasting impact on our community and quality of life on some scale, so I searched for roles where I could participate in the proliferation of data for the greater good. I chose to work for a technology group within a large medical device company. This position was ripe with opportunities to leverage real data science to improve clinical decisions and patient safety and was a splendid fit with my desired career goals.
What do enjoy most about your profession?
Aside from the calming nature of data, I truly enjoy the first-degree impact I can have on the world. It’s rewarding work and drives a fervent desire to be as accurate as possible. It’s also a wealth of interesting information and it’s constantly evolving. No two days are ever the same.
It’s also extremely challenging. There has never been a model that has worked as I originally envisioned it, especially with text mining. Some days are like playing detective while others are like being the mad scientist. Discovery has always been interesting to me and it’s exciting to uncover insights about our world that weren’t easily discernible before. Data only exists because of some connection to the real world and I love taking information that can be hard to understand and simplifying it for others to enjoy.
Also, I work with great people. It’s amazing how compassionate people are in this industry. Everyone is genuinely interested in a patients’ wellbeing.
What advice would you give to someone looking to enter this field?
This field moves so fast that you don’t want to become obsolete. Build or be part of some community or network. Meet with other professionals that have different levels of experience where you can both participate and learn from others in the field.
Stay open-minded and accept new ideas. It’s amazing how much inspiration comes from places you wouldn’t expect. Learn how to leverage these ideas and encourage engagement from others. A big part of data science is creativity and sometimes the simplest idea can be the best one.
How is the field of data mining changing? What skills do people need to stay current?
Analytic software is constantly improving, computers are getting faster and the math is getting smarter. The newer software is making it easier to manage and prepare data, and the models are becoming “self-aware” and extremely accurate. The power needed to run some of these algorithms is astounding and they are appearing in our everyday life. For example, autonomous cars interpret streaming image/video and use that information to detect roads and obstacles in near real time.
At this point everything is evolving, the software, the code, the models and even the math! With all the focus and interest in this area, there is a ton of innovation coming along with it and it is changing the way we live. The challenge is really to keep up with it.
To stay current, you really must be scholarly and open-minded. You must be eager to learn, enjoy being challenged by complex problems and, sometimes, people. Keep taking courses that build your skills, and you should remind yourself to be open to using new technology.
I can’t stress enough the importance of studying. Every project should start with a literature review. Read how others have done similar things. Every project should be a learning exercise. Also, don’t forget to document your findings!
What do you like most about working for Extension?
Working for Extension has given me the opportunity to give back to the community and interact with a diverse group of students. I enjoy seeing everyone’s unique approaches to solve the problems in their assignments. Each time I interact with a student, I can see new ways of approaching problems that I would not have come up with on my own. I am learning from them as much as they are learning from me.
Learn more about UC San Diego Extension's data analysis classes and programs on our website, or you can contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org.