Data Scientist

Casey Cahan's Master of Professional Studies thesis gave him a deeper understanding of database systems and experience writing scientific papers – both essential skills in the data science field.

Data scientist Casey Cahan with The Blues rugby team
Casey Cahan with one of his clients, The Blues rugby team. Casey is pictured in the front row, fourth from the right.

Key facts:

Career: Data scientist
Programme: Master of Professional Studies in Data Science

“One of my brothers was heading a quant [quantitative] research team on Wall Street, and he recommended data science as a field in hot demand. I really enjoyed my undergraduate studies in statistics and computer science, so the MProfStuds in Data Science offered a great opportunity to dive deeper into both subjects, while setting myself up well career wise.

“I really enjoyed that the MProfStuds contained a good mixture of practical projects as well as not shying away from theory. I was given flexibility to choose courses and research projects in areas that I was interested in, and in areas which had immediate relevancy to my career. It was a well organised programme, with ready offers of help and guidance from the coordinator and lecturers.

“I started out as a Graduate Analytics Consultant at Mindfull Limited while I finished my MProfStuds. I’m now a Data Scientist at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

“Recently I’ve been applying data science to a large-scale biometric identification system. This has involved the practical application of many techniques I learnt during my MProfStuds: ranging from creating predictive models geared towards reducing risk (catching more fraud) and reducing cost (automation); to producing statistical forecasts to inform resourcing; to writing complex SQL queries to serve as the foundation for a new business intelligence suite; to developing software to enable business owners to simulate and visualise the impact of different scenarios and different system design choices.

“The highlight of my first role [at Mindfull] was getting to watch and meet some of our clients – The Blues rugby team – at an otherwise empty Eden Park during one of their Captain’s Run training sessions.

“A highlight in my current role has been seeing predictive models – which we’d spent substantial time and effort designing, documenting, building, testing, iterating on, and advocating for – finally get deployed into production. It’s very rewarding to see ‘on paper’ benefits finally become tangible and start having a real positive operational impact on the wider organisation.

“Later this year I’ll go to a conference in Sydney to learn from international experts in my field – I anticipate that being a highlight too!

“At the moment I’m really happy doing what I’m doing right now. One day I’d like to do a PhD, or perhaps even take a shot at a start-up!

“I hope that my work pushes the pendulum in a positive bearing, for example, by improving public security, reducing unnecessary public expenditure, or demonstrating to others how data science can help achieve these outcomes – even if it’s only a slight nudge in the scheme of things.

“I’m driven by the ambition to achieve positive change. I’m also lucky to just enjoy programming and tackling challenging problems – which my roles in the data science field have so far been all about.”