Grad school and problem-solving at MassMutual

By Christine Pfeil
Christine Pfeil is director of MassMutual's data science development program.
Posted on Sep 8, 2017

Which is better for a budding data scientist: Rigorous academic training and preparation…or real world problem-solving and experience?

Our answer is…both. And that’s why we launched our Data Science Development Program in 2014.

The DSDP is a three-year program that recruits recent college graduates and sponsors their graduate level coursework while also putting them to work on some of MassMutual’s toughest data challenges and projects. Those who successfully complete the program achieve a Master’s degree (typically in Computer Science or Statistics) and build an impressive resume of practical work experience and accomplishments.

“As a student, I grow my skills in statistical theory and coding,” said Grace Yoo, DSDP Class of 2018. “As a junior data scientist at MassMutual, I work on real-world projects where our models must be not only theoretically sound but also technically reliable. This dual focus pushes me to become a versatile and well-rounded data scientist. Another major benefit of my work at MassMutual is that in addition to expert faculty, I have access to skilled data engineers, data scientists, visualization professionals, and web developers who help round out my knowledge base and exposure.”

Of course, it’s a win for MassMutual as well. Between all the start-ups, established tech players, and academic research programs out there, the competition for seasoned data scientists can be intense. This program gives MassMutual a pipeline of potential talent. And, frankly, it’s a way for us to make sure our data science team is made up of individuals with the right training and skill set; not all data scientists bring the skills and background expertise best suited for our work.

 We’re currently recruiting our Development Class of 2021, which will be the program’s fifth cohort. Most of our talented participants since the program’s inception have come from schools around our base in Amherst, Massachusetts, but the program is actively looking to connect with graduates from all corners of the United States.

What do we look for? Obviously, we are looking for college grads with quantitative or computational training and, within limits, some data science experience. But we’re also looking for candidates with the right attitude and communication traits that will make them successful in a business environment.

Those accepted into the program will be taking 1-2 courses a semester as part of a graduate curriculum at UMass Amherst, with opportunities to take classes at any institution within the Five College Consortium (quick…can you name the five colleges without looking at the footnote?).1 The coursework is supplemented with workshops led by local faculty and in-house training from industry experts.

At the same time, program members will be contributing to multiple MassMutual data projects a year under the direction of one of our senior data scientists. Toward the end of the program participants have the opportunity to direct independent data science efforts in order to develop key leadership skills. And communication skill-building and professional development is built throughout the program with various stakeholder presentations and external meetings.

It’s a classroom and workplace in one. Interested? Click here for more information about the program and to apply.

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1Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, UMass Amherst.

The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own, and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.