Data Sciences Institute hosts networking event with newly upskilled talent and top employers

May 17, 2024 by Andrea Smitko – A&S News

The Data Sciences Institute (DSI) — a central hub and incubator for data science research, training and partnerships at U of T — hummed with excitement as participants from the first two cohorts of its new Data Science and Machine Learning Software Foundations Certificates met representatives from several organizations during an engaging employer networking event.

Nearly 50 participants seized the opportunity to meet and mingle with their peers, as well as make connections with prospective employers.

Lisa Strug presenting a PowerPoint in front of a group of people.
Lisa Strug, academic director of the DSI, welcomes attendees.

With the financial support of Upskill Canada, powered by Palette Skills and the Government of Canada, the DSI Certificates are 16-week part-time intensive offerings. The Certificates are designed to provide training and upskill working professionals with three or more years of experience for careers in data analytics and applied machine learning.

“We just launched our Certificates a few months ago and we have had over 400 applications and over 200 participants and it is just growing — there is such a need in the community for this work,” said Lisa Strug, academic director of the DSI and professor in the Departments of Statistical Sciences and Computer Science and the Division of Biostatistics, in her opening remarks.

Dominik Perykasza (left) and Chander Dhar Sharma speaking with a group of people.
Accenture representatives Dominik Perykasza (left), Analytics Principal Director, and Chander Dhar Sharma (middle), Data Scientist, speak with a group of participants at the event.

“These Certificates are very unique because we've developed them in concert with industry, so we're making sure that the tools everybody receives are the tools that are actually needed to solve the problems that we're seeing out there in the real world.”

Designed to be accessible Certificates with the intention of building a more inclusive workforce, these offerings aim to support and diversify the industry. From the first cohort, 90 per cent of participants belong to at least one underrepresented group.

The Certificates include job readiness training dedicated to career advancement and offer valuable coaching in job-seeking skills such as resume writing, interview preparation and networking.

“I really enjoyed the program. Everything included in it was great. There was time to learn and to put that learning into practice,” said program participant, Niyaz Nazari. “All of the associates were very professional, and I really enjoyed the job search courses. I needed to learn those soft skills. The theory is not enough, so that helped a lot.”

As part of its commitment to employment training, the DSI’s goal is for 75 per cent of participants to obtain new employment or be promoted within six months of completing the Certificate.

Altaf Kassam speaking with one other person.
Altaf Kassam (right), BSc, PhD, MBA Director, Child Welfare Institute and Director of Information Management and Privacy, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, in conversation with a Certificate participant.

“That’s why events like these are so important. To achieve this goal, we need to facilitate connections between organizations looking for talent with the in-demand skills we are teaching through these certificates,” said Strug.

The event welcomed nine organizations looking to hire new talent in the data sciences, including Accenture, Ontario Digital Services, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, MPAC, Ontario Health, SOCAN, MunichRe, Norton Rose Fulbright, and Yorkville University. Employers were positioned in the DSI’s event space and attendees moved throughout asking questions, pitching their skills, and inquiring about the company and potential employment opportunities.

“Of all the talks I’ve given and events I’ve been a part of, I enjoy this audience the most,” said Tristan Walsh of MunichRe. “It’s all really positive. There’s such a strong level of engagement and great insight. It’s good to see people learning and growing, and it’s so great to meet people in person.”

Launching to great success in the fall of 2023, the Certificates will run a total of five sessions with the mandate of upskilling 300 professionals.

Munaza Chaudhry speaking with one other person.
Munaza Chaudhry (right) Group Manager, Quality Measurement and Evaluation (Clinical Institutes and Quality Health Programs), Ontario Health, speaks with a Certificate participant.

“The Certificate was a great experience. I want to go back and do another course,” said program participant, Ahmed Alhuraibi Alamoudi. “It was very valuable, and now I can develop a roadmap so I can improve and transition into data science and hopefully do a co-op or an internship so I can practice what I’ve learned.”

To join the DSI’s next event and meet accomplished professionals with data science and machine learning skills to grow your team, please contact