Preparing Young Talent for the Future of Data: A partnership between EPAM Bulgaria and the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics (FMI) at Sofia University

EPAM team.jpg

Data science has the power to provide invaluable insight for the competitive advantage of businesses. When analyzed by experts, it can bring actionable information to the organization when it needs it most – enabling companies to measure, track and record performance as well as facilitate enhanced decision-making.

EPAM, a leading digital transformation services and product engineering company, is a data-driven, business outcome-oriented team that helps clients unlock the full value of their data. With data, it drives fact-based decisions about its customers, builds innovative and competitive products and services and supports the automation of cognitive and labor-intensive business processes.

EPAM's experts inspire young talent to grow and create their own projects by sharing knowledge and providing growth opportunities. This drive for continuous development and support led the company to partner with a new data analytics bachelor's program at Sofia University's Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics in 2022.

As part of this collaboration, three students received the opportunity to participate in a unique scholarship program with exposure to the IT world. They'll learn about the latest trends in data science and artificial intelligence (AI), seek innovative solutions to modern business challenges and receive mentoring from top experts in the industry.

EPAM professionals, academic partners and students share more on why such projects are important and vital, in shaping young people's career paths.

Aleg Roman

VP, Data Analytics Consulting at EPAM Systems, Inc.

How does EPAM's data practice team help clients make smart business decisions?

EPAM's data practice provides end-to-end data and AI solutions. We are traditionally strong in three areas:

  1. The team works with clients to define their data and AI strategy, ensuring that it aligns with their business goals and objectives. They identify the most valuable data sources, define data governance policies and outline the AI and machine learning (ML) capabilities needed to achieve business objectives.

  2. Design and develop data platforms that enable clients to collect, store, manage and analyze large volumes of data from various sources. These platforms are scalable, secure, efficient, and customizable.

  3. The team leverages advanced analytics and machine learning techniques to provide insights and recommendations based on data. These products can be customized and integrated with existing systems and workflows.

Why is supporting and establishing various education programs so important for EPAM?

Supporting educational programs helps develop talent, and integrate with local communities and universities, creates an environment to innovate and gives back to the community. By investing in education and training initiatives, EPAM can build a stronger workforce, strengthen relationships with stakeholders and make a positive impact on society.

What are the key factors for young talent in data to succeed in the future?

During the last couple of years we saw the emergence of human-augmenting technologies such as computer vision or large language models (e.g., ChatGPT). To succeed in this new future, young talent in data need a combination of soft and hard skills: technical, analytical and problem-solving skills, business acumen, adaptability, communication and collaboration skills. By developing these, they will be well-equipped to navigate the changing landscape of the data field and make a meaningful impact in their organizations.

Dr. Dean Palejev

Manager, Data Analytics Consulting at EPAM Systems, Inc.

© Dragomir Ushev

Why should businesses and universities establish long-term partnerships in the fields of advanced data analytics and data science?

The interest in these fields increased enormously in the last several years, particularly in AI and ML. Practitioners now use them to solve various practical problems. Yet, the academic and university research and the applications of data science, ML and AI in the industry are somewhat disconnected. The partnerships between the two will allow companies to have fast access to novel research and bespoke methods and algorithms.

Tell us more about EPAM Bulgaria's partnership with FMI?

During the long years I spent in building and growing data science and advanced analytics teams in the industry and academia, I realized that many aspiring experts and practitioners lack the theoretical background. This often makes a difference between good analytical models and great analytical models.

When I saw the curriculum of the new data analytics program at the FMI, I realized that it was aligned with similar programs at leading international universities and would produce capable young specialists.

We equipped four computer labs in the FMI and provided three scholarships. One of our colleagues will mentor the interns on a research project, related to one of our in-house innovation projects that demonstrates our capabilities in designing and building hardware for data acquisition, and in creating and deploying ML algorithms within the device.

We presented this project to a wider audience at the FMI and will continue presenting our work to keep students informed on what we do as an IT consulting company and the skills that they need to be successful in the field.

Dr. Aleksandar Bikov

Data Scientist and Student Mentor at EPAM Systems, Inc.

© Dragomir Ushev

Why did you decide to become a mentor for the students in the data analysis program?

I hoped to give students valuable guidance and insight into the industry and help prepare them for the challenges on their journey toward becoming proficient data scientists. I believe that mentorship is a crucial part of career development, and I'm honored to have the opportunity to share my experience with the next generation of data analysts and scientists.

What is the most important thing you want to teach them?

I am looking forward to teaching them skills such as ML and computer vision that will be useful, even beyond the scope of this project. I also want to instill in them a broader understanding of the data analysis process, including problem formulation, data collection, cleaning and pre-processing, exploratory data analysis, model selection, evaluation and interpretation. These skills are essential in a variety of fields, from business and finance to healthcare and social sciences. Additionally, I hope to teach them critical thinking, problem-solving skills and effective communication and teamwork.

Prof. Parvan Parvanov

Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics at Sofia University

© Dragomir Ushev

Why did you decide to launch the data analysis program in 2022?

Because of the huge demand for highly qualified employees in the field of data analysis, the rapid development of this industry and the prospects for both business and science. We also realize our responsibility as the only university in Bulgaria with the necessary capacity in mathematics, informatics and statistics.

What are the professions of the future in the data analysis field?

We can only guess. However, data analysis graduates can work as analysts, experts, consultants, designers, project or team managers in financial institutions, manufacturing and trading companies, healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry, logistics, transport and telecommunications, energy and environmental monitoring, in research centers, universities and others.

How will the partnership with EPAM Bulgaria upgrade the education of young talent in data analysis?

The FMI has strong traditions in partnering with companies, but our cooperation with EPAM Bulgaria started at the level of curricula development in high-tech disciplines. The company also provided computer equipment to all data analysis students and scholarships for the most prominent of them. We expect further involvement from the company with specialized elective courses and internships. All this is a wonderful opportunity to accumulate serious knowledge and find its practical application: a powerful motivating factor for students.

Prof. Boyan Bontchev

Vice Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics at Sofia University

Why should businesses and universities establish long-term partnerships?

Partnerships enhance the teaching process and academic activities at the university and make them industry relevant. By combining the expertise and resources of both parties, they can develop new products, services and technologies, enhance their reputation, visibility and credibility as well as drive growth and competitiveness.

What distinguishes the partnership between the FMI and EPAM?

EPAM contributes strongly to the technology-oriented learning courses of the data analytics program by organizing guest lectures, providing expertise and access to cutting-edge technology and free equipment, scholarships and networking opportunities such as the Drive-in conference in October 2022.

How did the partnership between the FMI and EPAM Bulgaria enrich the education of the students so far?

We started working with EPAM two years ago while conceiving the curriculum of the data analytics program. EPAM contributed strongly to the technical details and allowed us to make it relevant to the needs of the industry.

Meet the students, participating in the program: Samuil Ganev, Mihaela Paparinova and Darin Krumov

From left: Mihaela Paparinova, Samuil Ganev and Darin Krumov © Dragomir Ushev

Why did you choose the data analysis program?

Samuil Ganev: I have been interested in science and mathematics since I was very young. I graduated from a mathematical high school, where my curiosity for programming was born. I have done various projects on all sorts of topics related to computer science. With time, I realized that data analysis gives me the most pleasure, as it is a perfect combination of the two disciplines.

Mihaela Paparinova: During my junior year in high school, I participated in the 18th National Youth Scientific and Practical Conference 2021. I won second prize with a paper on how computational and statistical methods in bioinformatics can be vital for the development of new types of medicines for various carcinogens, reducing the use of pesticides in agriculture, and contributing to forensic science using DNA databases. This experience allowed me to apply the skills and knowledge I had gained in the classroom to solve a real-world problem.

© Dragomir Ushev

During my research, I became deeply interested in the intersection of informatics and biology and was naturally drawn to data science and its applications in the healthcare sector. I decided to major in data analysis at the FMI. I was captivated by the idea that by analyzing and interpreting vast amounts of biological data, researchers could uncover previously unknown connections between genes and diseases and develop new treatments for illnesses that have long eluded modern medicine.

Darin Krumov: I chose the data analysis program because of my mathematical background and the desire to work on new technological achievements with huge potential for the future of humanity. Data analysis also holds a big promise for the tech sector in Bulgaria – this new program and INSAIT have set the ground for the development of state-of-the-art software that will put the country on the map of innovation and will drive the growth of this field. Experts believe that by 2030 it will globally add 15 trillion dollars of value to the economy.

Why do you want to participate in the program with EPAM?

Samuil Ganev: I'm excited to be a part of EPAM because I want to learn things from practice, see how things happen in a real work environment and be around people who motivate me to keep going. I also think they provide a great opportunity for students to know early on how things in the data science industry happen.

© Dragomir Ushev

Mihaela Paparinova: I was enthusiastic to be a part of the EPAM program because of the company's impressive standing in the bioinformatics industry. By developing many innovative projects that combine data analytics and healthcare, EPAM is at the forefront of revolutionizing this aspect of the industry and impacting countless lives. By joining the team at EPAM, I would learn more about the industry and further my knowledge and experience.

Darin Krumov: EPAM has been at the forefront of applying data science in the real world, in industries like healthcare, finance and agriculture. This is no easy task and working closely with experts in the field will enable me to apply my theoretical knowledge in practice. EPAM will also provide me with the resources needed to bring a new data science project to life this summer.

What are the next steps in your educational and career development?

Samuil Ganev: I have a lot to learn before I can put things into practice. I am looking forward to that moment. However, learning never ends and there is always something new to read and understand, especially in this field, so for the moment I am focused on math and programming at university. I am happy that thanks to EPAM I have the opportunity to look at things from another angle and prepare myself for work.

Mihaela Paparinova: My goal is to continue exploring the many ways that data science and medicine might interact. I am passionate about the potential for data science to unlock discoveries and improve human health, and I believe that I will be able to contribute to this mission in a meaningful way.

Darin Krumov: I have a variety of interests but the one thing that binds them is the ability to analyze data and make informed decisions based on it. I have experience in the financial markets, but I also want to apply my knowledge in biology – in protein synthesis, genome sequencing, and genome sequencing novel drug development. These two fields have so much in common – almost all industries rely on collecting and interpreting data. Data analysis arms you with the toolkit to attack any set of problems in almost any field.

© Dragomir Ushev

On a global scale, overlooking data science will bottleneck economic efficiency significantly, because a popular job today may be in the history books 10 years from now. Adapting to trends is the key to preserving the balance in the labor market. I will continue to closely monitor the current developments in AI and base the decisions for my future on that.

The partnership between EPAM Bulgaria and the FMI is an example of how the business and the education system must work together to prepare future specialists for the challenges and demands of the ever-changing IT field.

Learn more about EPAM Systems:

Facebook: EPAM Bulgaria


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