Masters of Analytics - Stefan Faulkner, Intelligence Agent
Completing his advanced degree propelled his career—and life—in a whole new direction
For some, pursuing education brings surprises, leading them to new ideas and unexpected interests they’d never thought about before. For others, advancing their education enriches an existing affinity, broadening its scope and lighting the way to new ways to use an inherent talent.
For Stefan Faulkner, it’s a little of both. Growing up in Jamaica, Faulkner discovered he had a natural ability for mathematics as a young boy. After high school, he pursued a double major in mathematics and computer science as an undergraduate in college, graduating in three years. During that time, a dream was born: to someday obtain a Ph.D.
But Faulkner also wanted to develop skills and gain experience in the workforce. He took an entry-level position as a software developer analyst with National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited and simultaneously started pursuing his master's degree through the Online Master of Science in Analytics (OMS Analytics) program at Georgia Tech. Six months into the program, the skills and knowledge he was gaining in the OMS Analytics program so impressed his employer, he was promoted.
And then came the unexpected. While studying analytics, Faulkner found a whole new area that intrigued him: AI and machine learning. Below, he shares how his experience with the OMS Analytics program and Georgia Tech propelled him toward his long-held dream, via a whole new path.
How did the OMS Analytics program affect your original career path?
The impact of what I learned and could immediately apply to my job while still a student in the program was phenomenal. The courses quickly advanced my knowledge and skill set, which my employer recognized almost immediately. They were very impressed with my growth and promoted me from data analyst to data scientist while I was still a student in the program.
As an OMS Analytics student, I became fascinated with AI and machine learning and developed a profound desire to deepen my understanding through advanced studies. In the end, earning my OMS Analytics degree shifted my career path in a different direction and I am now living in the United States, pursuing my Ph.D. at Georgia Tech, and conducting research.
You were living outside of the U.S. and could have selected any university in the world. Why did you choose Georgia Tech?
There were three main reasons I chose Georgia Tech and the OMS Analytics program.
First, it is an interdisciplinary program, which meant I would take courses from Georgia Tech’s nationally-ranked engineering, computing, and business colleges. This was important to me because I wanted to be able to see the whole data science landscape and how it worked across multiple industries.
Second, Georgia Tech’s reputation is global, so I knew that no matter where I wanted to go after I earned my master’s, everyone would recognize the strength of Georgia Tech’s name. I was also impressed by Georgia Tech’s extensive industry and academic partnerships and I saw the OMS Analytics program as a stepping stone towards either further graduate studies or a senior role in data science in countries such as the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. And to be able to complete my master’s online from Georgia Tech while living in another country, it could not get any better than that.
Lastly, the cost was also a major consideration. The budget-friendly price tag was very important to me since I was living in Jamaica at the time, which is a country with a weaker currency.
After you earned your master’s from the OMS Analytics program, you moved to the U.S. and are now pursuing your Ph.D. in machine learning at Georgia Tech. You’re also a graduate research assistant at AI4OPT (AI for Advances in Optimization). What are you currently working on?
My current research involves machine learning and operations, with a focus on applications in supply chain, logistics, and energy systems.
I am currently working on establishing the theoretical and computational foundations of end-to-end learning and optimization. Our aim is to demonstrate the societal benefits of this approach through practical use cases in areas such as energy systems, supply chains, and circuit design in collaboration with our industry partners. End-to-end learning also addresses prediction and optimization challenges simultaneously, as opposed to the traditional predict-then-optimize paradigm.
One of our key objectives is to create "optimization proxies" that utilize trained machine learning models to imitate the optimization process, resulting in significant time savings compared to traditional methods. Additionally, we are exploring innovative methodologies such as "learning to optimize," which involves replacing components of an optimization algorithm with trained ML models.
What are your plans after you earn your Ph.D.?
I hope to secure a position as an applied or research scientist in the corporate sector. I am eager to continue my work at the intersection of machine learning, optimization, and data science, using these powerful tools to tackle real-world problems in the supply chain and energy systems industries.
Additionally, I am interested in exploring the potential applications of these techniques in the healthcare, finance, and gaming sectors as well.
I am also deeply passionate about teaching and sharing my knowledge and experiences, so I hope to find opportunities to serve as an adjunct lecturer or professor at a university, where I can inspire and guide the next generation of aspiring researchers and data scientists.
Writer: Laurel-Ann Dooley
Editor: Teresa Daniel
The AI Institute for Advances in Optimization (AI4OPT) is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and aims at delivering a paradigm shift in automated decision-making at massive scales by fusing AI and Mathematical Optimization to achieve breakthroughs that neither field can achieve independently. The Institute is driven by societal challenges in energy, logistics and supply chains, resilience and sustainability, and circuit design and control.
The Institute delivers an innovative longitudinal education and workforce development program with an initial focus on historically black high schools and colleges in Georgia, as well as Hispanic-serving high schools and colleges in California. The Institute is also developing internship programs with national laboratories and industrial partners, and is building a strong, welcoming, and inclusive community where social mobility opportunities and the societal impact of AI technologies will be highlighted.
Georgia Tech is the lead organization for the AI4OPT initiative, in partnership with other higher ed institutions including UC Berkley, UC California San Diego, Clark Atlanta, University of Southern California, and the University of Texas Arlington.
Industrial partners include Best Buy, Google, Intel, ISO New England, Keysight, Kinaxis, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Ryder, Sandia National Laboratories, Southern Company, and educational partner, HerWILL.
For more information, please visit:
Georgia Tech AI4OPT.
Georgia Tech Online Master of Science program.