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Grad profile: Finding community in the sandbox

Posted by Andrea Hart on May 31, 2024 in Graduate
Almasfiza (Almas) Shaikh. (Nick Pearce)
Almasfiza (Almas) Shaikh. (Nick Pearce)

When Almasfiza (Almas) Shaikh chose Dalhousie’s Master of Applied Computer Science (MACS) program for the opportunities, she was pleasantly surprised by the supportive tech community the city of Halifax also had to offer.

Having completed her undergraduate studies in Engineering and Information Technology in Mumbai, India, Almas wanted to further educate herself on computer science's core fundamentals. The MACS program stood out, not just for its academic expertise, but also for the invaluable term of co-op, a rare gem in graduate programs.

“I chose Dal because it had a combination of industry and internship opportunities,” says Alams. “I felt like Halifax would be a good city to be in because I wanted to live somewhere that had balance and wasn’t too crowded.”

A gateway

Transitioning to life in Halifax wasn't without its hurdles. As an introvert, building connections wasn't always easy, but her involvement with ShiftKey Labs provided a gateway to a supportive network within the Faculty of Computer Science.

“As a new international student at Dal, I put myself out there and attended some of ShiftKey Lab’s events, but I never imagined that I’d soon be working with them,” says Almas.

Shiftkey, one of Nova Scotia’s sandbox tech initiatives, became the launchpad for Almas's career journey in computer science. By the summer of 2023, Almas officially become part of the team, marking the beginning of an exciting chapter in her professional life.

Working a part-time job while completing a master’s degree is not an easy feat, but Almas felt the community and professional growth that ShiftKey provided was irreplaceable.

“I really enjoyed my time with ShiftKey Labs, joining the team opened my eyes to a world of graduate opportunities they offered. And with each day, I found myself gradually stepping outside of my comfort zone.”

Deeper into data

In addition to her involvement with ShiftKey Labs and the Faculty, Almas earned one of the MACS scholarship awards and secured an internship placement with Nova Scotia Health where her role as a student analyst allowed her to work with health-care data.

“It was a wonderful experience because it was more than just analyzing data, it also combined the health-care aspect as well,” says Almas. “I worked with doctors and nurses but also worked on data collection and validation.”

With data experience under her belt, she recently stepped into a graduate role as a data quality analyst with RBC in their Halifax office.

"As much as I like the development side of computer science, I feel like data is more tailored to me," she says. “I’ll be working with customer data and I’m looking forward to continuing my work in the data analyst stream.”

As Almas graduates, she realizes that choosing Dal was one of the best decisions she ever made.

“I’ve really grown during my time here and look forward to growing even more.”