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Big Data Wrangler Certificate in Big Data Technologies Grad Learns to Harness Troves of Data — and takes a career leap
Big Data Wrangler Certificate in Big Data Technologies Grad Learns to Harness Troves of Data — and takes a career leap

The amount of data passing between devices and floating in the cloud is so staggering that it can be hard to fathom: 2.5 quintillion bytes (2.3 trillion gigabytes) of data are created each day — and that pace is only accelerating.

This tsunami of data — and the possibilities it inspired — attracted Spencer McGhin to the field of big data in 2017.

“I saw acquiring the big data skill set as jumping on the wave,” Spencer said. “I knew I wanted to pursue some of the more cutting-edge technologies that were coming out in the big data space.”

Spencer had recently completed a UW Certificate in Python Programming, which was a valuable foundation for him to continue his education in the field of big data.

“It was a natural progression,” Spencer said of continuing on to the UW Certificate in Big Data Technologies, which he completed in May of 2018.

Before he’d even finished the big data certificate, Spencer had a new job as a customer success engineer with Databricks, a unified analytics company founded by a group of students and professors at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Certificate in Big Data Technologies was a key reason he felt prepared for his new challenge at Databricks, Spencer said.

“Having the certificate gave me the confidence I needed to actually apply for the job and put my resume together,” he said. “Without the certificate, I wouldn’t have been in the optimum position I was in.” 

In His Own Words

Spencer McGhin discusses how the Certificate in Big Data Technologies helped him jump-start his career in the tech industry.


an ever-expanding field 

All the quintillion bytes of data mean nothing if you can’t harness them, and that’s what big data companies do: take impossibly big things and make them manageable.

“Counting M&M’s is a good analogy,” Spencer said. “If you want to sort and count a ton of M&M’s by color and distribute that work across a bunch of machines, it’s more performant and proficient than doing that work on a single machine.” 

Having the certificate gave me the confidence I needed. Without the certificate, I wouldn't have been in the optimum position I was in. 

Spencer McGhin

Spencer’s interest in big data was also spurred by a desire to harness the vast droves of data at our disposal and deploy them for good.

“What excites me about big data is that we can now ask and answer questions that we couldn’t have answered or even asked 10 years ago,” Spencer said. “So with big data we can make better decisions, better economic decisions and even better ethical decisions, in some cases. Now the hard part is coming up with the right questions to ask.”

Asking questions was a large part of what Spencer valued from the Certificate in Big Data Technologies.

“Whether it be in-person or an online session, it was great because you get to engage with the person actually communicating the material, to be able to ask questions,” Spencer said. “To me, 99 percent of the actual learning in technology — or any other subject, for that matter — comes from being able to engage with the material and ask really detailed, complicated questions.”

the right choice

During his time taking the Python and big data certificates, Spencer found a vibrant network of like-minded programmers and tech professionals.

“For the most part, they were all working professionals in my Python and big data classes,” he said. “Everybody’s really willing to help. You do the group projects, and that’s a good way to build bonds. There were a lot of folks I met who were like, ‘I work here; we’re interviewing.’”

All the connections he made — and, ultimately, the job he landed at Databricks — cemented that Spencer had made the right choice when he decided to enroll in the Certificate in Big Data Technologies at the UW.

“For me, UW is a trusted name, especially in computer science,” Spencer said. “I had been looking at some other options, but, frankly, when quality’s the only question, it’s UW for me.”

For more success stories from UW Professional & Continuing Education, visit the News & Features section of our website. To learn more about our certificates, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

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