November 15, 2022

Meet International Student Glaiza Tan

Glaiza Tan grew up in the Philippines and studied molecular biology at Boston University. After moving to Saskatchewan, Canada, to pursue a Ph.D., she reached a turning point in her career. Now she’s studying computer science in MCIT Online and analyzing data for a large Canadian retailer. Here, Tan talks about her journey to Penn and her experience as an international student.  

What was your career path before joining MCIT Online?

Initially I thought I would go the academic route and become a professor. I did research in molecular biology at Boston University, studying stroke and cancer, and then moved here to Canada to do a Ph.D. in neuroscience. But the principal investigator on my research project passed away suddenly, and I was at a crossroads. I decided to leave the program and went to work in regulatory affairs and quality assurance.

How did you get interested in computer science?

When I was doing molecular biology, I was doing optimization protocols in the lab, and it’s the same thing with regulatory affairs and quality assurance—the goal is to improve processes. I realized how important data-driven decision-making is, and I saw that things could be so much faster if everything was automated. That got me interested in data analytics and data science.

What led you to MCIT Online?

I started taking online certificate programs through Coursera, and that’s where I found MCIT Online. I didn’t have a math background, so I knew I wouldn’t satisfy the background requirements for other computer science programs. But I met the requirements for MCIT Online.

What is it like to be an international student in MCIT Online?

It’s been great, because everyone has been so supportive and accommodating. I wouldn’t have imagined that professors from an Ivy League school would teach online students from all over the world, but they do. They also encourage you to book one-on-ones with them if you can’t access their office hours because of your time zone. And they’re very open to students who don’t speak English as a first language, which is also applicable to me since I came from the Philippines. It makes me feel welcome.

How have you gotten to know other students?

I joined the program’s Slack, which has different channels on any topic that you can think of. People are always willing to share information and knowledge or pictures of their pets. There are also group projects and events for online students, like the virtual career fair and the hackathon. Over time, you get to know people and their stories and build a sense of community.

What are you doing now?

I work at Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), a big retail company in Western Canada, analyzing data related to governance of the company’s IT projects. It’s cool because it allows me to combine computer science and governance and to use what I’m learning through MCIT Online. I’ve been here for less than a year, and there’s still a lot to learn and room for growth.