As an econometrician, Layla Nusrat Banu uses math and statistics to study economics and make projections about the future. And right now, she says, that means understanding zeroes and ones.

"A lot of what's happening today in economics is based on coding," Banu said. "To make meaningful decisions we now have to be able to deal with massive amounts of data."

Banu holds two master's degrees in economics – one from a university in the U.S. and another from her native Bangladesh – but she believes there’s always more to learn, especially given the scale of changes that are already underway in her industry. To prepare herself for what lies ahead, Banu enrolled in UCLA Extension’s data science certificate program in 2021. On June 23, she says, she’ll graduate better acquainted with the latest tools and techniques of her trade.

"My work has always been about analysis, about decision-making big and small," Banu said. "I need to make sure I have the skills to keep doing that work, and this certificate surely supplements my analytical ability with added confidence."

For Banu, the certificate program was a chance to broaden the knowledge base she constructed over the course of her career. She worked in government in Bangladesh and had already earned a master's degree by the time she migrated to the U.S. in 2013. She has long been interested in the intersection between data science and economics, she said, in part because the fields approach problem-solving in similar ways.

"For both data scientists and economists, the ultimate goal is to extract insight from statistics," Banu said. "Both disciplines use data to work on quantitative problems, to create predictive models or to do statistical analysis, so there's a lot of overlap when doing this work."

Banu spent months researching data science programs before finally settling on UCLA Extension. She learned about the program through SLATE-Z, a community organization in south Los Angeles that partners with UCLA Extension’s CareerBridge program. As a single working mother, finding a program that fit her schedule was difficult – and was made even more so when she started a new job as a researcher just a few weeks after the program began.

"It was hectic to have everything happening simultaneously, but in the end it didn't clash," Banu said. "It was a welcome challenge."

Learning online helped her juggle work, family and school, Banu said. And while she knows the economy will continue to evolve, she feels ready to evolve along with it.

"I enrolled in the certificate program to prepare myself for something bigger," she said. "It was the right decision at the right time."