Hari Narayan, Class of 2019: "The MPCS has made me a better analyst, engineer, and thinker."

The University of Chicago Masters Program in Computer Science students push boundaries and innovate across many facets of industry. Whether it’s developing seamless UX interfaces, engineering software at Fortune 500 companies, working in big data or keeping networks secure, our students use their applied-skills education from the MPCS to problem-solve, create, and elevate the computer science field. Learn from their stories and discover how a CS background can prepare you for cutting-edge careers and leadership roles.

Hari Narayan University of Chicago MPCS

Hari Narayan, class of 2019, is a Decision Scientist at Grubhub. Describing data science as a “combination of art and science,” he tells us the programming languages he uses most often at work, how the Algorithms course helped him rediscover a long lost love for mathematics, and what excites him most about the future of data science.

What does a great day at work look like for you? 

I start off the day with a quick standup with my remote team, after which I’m either designing and analyzing experiments in select regions of the United States before rolling out nationally, or building and productionalizing models to automate decision making in the complex systems that make up our delivery ecosystem.

What do you enjoy most about data science? 

It requires a combination of art and science that I find appealing.

Which programming language/technical skills do you use most often at work? 

I work primarily in Python, but I wouldn’t get much done if I wasn’t fluent in SQL. When I have to work with larger datasets than my machine can handle, I translate my logic to Pyspark to facilitate working within a distributed framework.

Describe a data science problem at work that your MPCS knowledge helped you solve. 

I recently helped design an experiment to test how couriers respond to different incentive schemes offered by Grubhub using Bayesian statistics, the idea for which came to me from an example in a textbook I had to labour through for the Foundations of Computational Data Analysis class.

Did you come to the MPCS with a computer science background? What motivated you to apply and enroll? 

I had a STEM background but very little direct exposure to computer science. I applied to the program the day after a disastrous interview for a job I coveted then, so I knew what I wanted to get out of the program, which made my experience more rewarding.

What about the future of the data science/tech industry most excites you? 

The problem space that can be tackled responsibly by this industry is massive and expanding. I’m most excited to explore this frontier of new techniques in new domains.

Please tell us about attending MPCS as a part-time student. 

I chose to go part-time because I did not want to rush through my classes, allowing myself plenty of time to digest the dense material and practise what I learned at work and on side projects. 

Would you recommend the MPCS to others? 

Absolutely. I walked away from this program with a solid foundation in a wide range of topics, and more importantly, the experience of having learned many new languages, modeling techniques, and algorithms in a short period of time. While the languages, techniques, algorithms might become outdated, the knowledge that I’ve learned new things quickly and the confidence that I can do it again is the best skill I can have hoped to pick up in this program.

What is your favorite memory from your time as an MPCS student? 

Listening to my classmates’ presentations in the Advanced Data Analytics class was a humbling and inspiring experience. We were given the freedom to apply any of the new techniques we’d learned to any domain we wished and the result was quite something, with topics ranging from image recognition in automobile sensors to identifying constellations in the night sky.

What was your favorite MPCS course? 

I really enjoyed Algorithms with Gerry Brady. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t miserable at times solving those problem sets but I rediscovered a long lost love for mathematics during that class. It set the tone for the rest of my program as well.

I also liked Advanced Data Analytics with Amitabh Chaudhary. It was a great mix of theory and application, and I had great fun working on the final project for this class.

How has your MPCS education helped you achieve your professional goals? 

There were at least 3-4 classes in the program that taught me skills I use directly every day. The program has made me a better analyst, engineer, and thinker.

What is a piece of advice you’d give someone considering applying to MPCS? 

Do it. The program has a lot of flexibility and can cater to people with different degrees of exposure to computer science. It is by no means an easy program but I've found it a thoroughly rewarding experience.