Published: Dec. 9, 2022
Photo of Erik

Starting in high school, Erik, a graduate of the CU Boulder MS-DS on Coursera program, developed his own IT company. After working as a paramedic and studying physics, he later returned to working with computers. Performance-based admissions allowed him to get the degree he wanted without having to worry about academic credits. Below, he shares his experience and advice for prospective students. 

When did you first enroll in the MS-EE program on the Coursera platform?
I enrolled in the program as soon as it was available. In fact, I enrolled in the first course for non-credit already before the program officially started at the end of January 2021.

Can you tell us about your educational and work experience background before you enrolled in this program?
I founded my first IT company during high-school. After the high school diploma, I worked during my civilian service as a paramedic and started studying physics. But before graduating I discontinued study and concentrated on my company. After various positions and companies in IT, I’ve worked since 2008 as a freelance IT and business consultant.

What initially drew you to this program?
In my opinion machine learning and data science in general is impacting IT and also our way of living heavily. I am also influenced by Rifkin and Bostrom and this drew me to massive open online courses and ai. After some great courses from Andrew Ng and others I want to dive a little deeper in this area and searched for relevant online master degrees which are challenging and possible to combine with full-time work and family. I found this great program from CU Boulder and was waiting for 2 years or so to finally get started. Beside the flexibility of the program a major reason to choose this program was the performance-based admission. Because I discontinued my study in physics before my diploma and this was before we switched in Europe to the bachelor and master system, I have no valid academic credits and had otherwise to start again from bachelor or need to go through a bureaucratic nightmare.

Can you tell me how the MS-DS on Coursera program fits into your life?
For me it was a perfect fit. The flexibility is awesome. I always start a course non-credit on Coursera and can proceed as fast or slow as I want and when it fits into my life – no matter what.

What are your favorite parts of the program?
Before I started, it was the flexibility and performance-based admission. Now after finishing the program, I definitely have to add the faculty as my favorite.

Is there a specific project you have worked on that stands out to you?
There are a lot of challenging projects and topics I worked on. To name just a few, some small but great projects during the basic computer science courses which helped to get a deep understanding of fundamentals. Also, I really enjoyed the ethics course and I realized some sometimes too big projects during the machine learning courses 

What do you hope to do with your MS-DS degree?
Because I already work, the formal diploma will not have a direct impact on my career. But it will help me to do a hopefully better job and probably also change the focus of my work more towards data science topics.

Would you recommend this program to others?
Definitely. But it depends of course on your situation and way of learning if it’s a fit for you. If you are an autodidact and you are aware that this is a professional master degree without a thesis and that you have to pay for its great.

What’s one tip you have for students who are starting this program?
Take courses first non-credit and switch to for-credit if you are sure to pass the final shortly and do it sequentially one after the other. So, you have maximum flexibility without deadline pressure.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would thank all professors, faculty and people behind the scenes who make this program possible. Students should do the peer reviews and feedback thoughtful to be helpful and fair to others.