Where the data scientists roam: How ProCom alumna Alexa Pavliuc used her exchange to forge a new career path

Alexa Pavliuc with her program best friends in Ghent

Who: Alexa Pavliuc, Class of ‘17 
Bachelor of Professional Communication, Physics Minor

Canadian, European, Turkish and American passportsWhen ProCom alumna Alexa Pavliuc began her degree, she never dreamed she’d become the first Arts student to complete a physics minor and forge a career in data science. In her role as FCAD London’s Project Lead, Alexa remains passionate about her alumni community. We caught up with Alexa to find out what makes a ProCom degree so versatile, why Belgium is the best place to make industry connections, and how ‘setting no path is the best way to never lose your way.’  

How did you land your current position? 

I currently live in the UK studying data science, and working for the FCAD Dean’s Office as their London project development lead. Previously, I worked as a research assistant (RA) to Dr. Frauke Zeller for four years and often found myself coordinating events and research dissemination plans with FCAD staff. When I made the choice to move to London, the Dean’s office hired me to head the FCAD alumni community in London, develop industry partnerships, and ensure that our exchange students have the best experience possible.

My shift into the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and data science from Professional Communication was a long time coming, but I firmly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t studied ProCom. The flexibility of the degree allowed me to use my open electives to complete a minor in physics and become the first humanities student to do so.

Working as an RA opened my eyes to the world of research and the value of having a strong team, with a strong leader. As my degree progressed, I shifted into data science and by fourth year was taking data analytics courses in my spare time.

What inspired you to go on an exchange? 

Ghent Belgium

I wanted to go on exchange ever since high school, and ProCom was already advertising their partners in Europe by the time I accepted my entrance offer. I chose Ghent, Belgium because I wanted to be immersed in a different language, but also because the crow-stepped gable rooftops made my heart race the first time I saw them on Google Maps.

While there, my friends and I were keen on exploring any country that had a cheap RyanAir ticket and a friendly CouchSurfing host. While I don't think I'll be lucky enough to live such a whirlwind life again, I remember those experiences more fondly than any other in my life thus far. 

During my time as a vagabond, thoughts about my future career path stayed close. Dr. Zeller introduced me to two communication researchers in Ghent, and I ended up attending an Internet of things conference with them in Brussels. 

There, I met many movers and shakers in the tech. world and they all needed one thing — more data analysts to make sense of their information. Ironically, it was in Belgium where a Google search led me to The Chang School's Certificate in Data Analytics, Big Data, and Predictive Analytics and right back home. I enrolled in my first course the following semester. 

What did the exchange teach you about yourself?

My exchange taught me independence and the flexibility of what a 'sense of home' is in one's mind. Since returning from the exchange, I knew I wanted to pursue a master's degree abroad. Funnily enough, no data science degree in Canada would accept someone without a computer science undergraduate degree, so when I found my program at City, University of London, I was elated to find they wanted a diverse range of students who could bring their best to the table, whatever that was.

What advice would you give a student who is thinking about going on an exchange, but it not sure where to start?

Ask yourself if you're ready to enter a small time capsule in another part of the world where the past doesn't matter, and the future is up for grabs. You're going reassess every career and life goal you thought you had. Some will stick, but others will come out of the woodwork in ways you never could have imagined. I think anyone who is interested in experiencing a different lifestyle, with a ‘safe’ time-box around it, should apply. The costs do add up, but it's cheaper to do something like this while you're young and okay with red-eye flights and 24-bed hostel dorms.

If there is one thing you want students to know about having a ProCom degree, what would it be?

Alexa with Italian bakers

Please know that you can literally do anything and you will be really good at it. Your ProCom degree has not only taught you ‘in demand’ technical skills, but also the soft skills which will show in the way you carry yourself, and in the way you approach everyday people problems. 

All of the opportunities I've gotten as an analyst were given to me because of how I presented myself and my skills to other people. In my niche, what sets me apart is how I can analyze a data set and present my findings effectively to any stakeholder. The best parts of me are all ProCom.

What’s next?

I'm not quite sure! I'm hoping to stay in the UK for a year or two after graduation, then maybe move back to Belgium and work for an international company in Brussels for a while. After all this international experience, I still dream of living in a little house at Ossington and Bloor, but I'm taking full advantage of the international life I've found myself in now and seeing where else it takes me! To quote a patch sewn on my travel backpack, “set no path, never lose your way.”

Learn more

Connect with Alexa

Alexa Instagram @wheresalexa
Alexa Twitter @wheresalexa
Alexa LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/alexandra-pavliuc


Compiled by Susannah Maxcy.
Photos: courtesy of Alexa Pavliuc