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DCE Magazine

Alumni Spotlight: Roberta Bortolotti, An Education of a Lifetime

Winter 2018

A DCE alumna combines her love of travel with lifelong learning

Roberta Bortolotti loves to travel, so choosing a university in northeastern France seemed a perfect fit. The former DCE student, a lifelong learner pursuing a master's in big data analytics at IESEG School of Management in Lille, feels that exploring countries and cultures is an important part of her education.

Lille indeed has its perks, and the university actively encourages its students to travel. Aside from a world-class education at the prestigious Catholic institution, Bortolotti finds time to visit Paris and nearby Bruges in Belgium. Later in the year, she's planning to target Italy, Germany, and several other European countries.

“Travel is something I'm passionate about and transportation is very convenient in Europe, with the fast trains and cheaper airlines,” she said. “The school wants students to consider the program as a holistic life experience, and travel is an important component.”

It's an education of a lifetime, and the DCE Predictive Analytics certificate program was the launchpad, a cutting-edge program that addresses an increasingly essential field, teaching the science of data analysis to better translate consumer and corporate data into actionable policy.

Bortolotti's DCE credentials helped pave the way to her master's program, as well as a scholarship that covers half of her tuition. “It's a merit-based scholarship that awards up to 50% tuition, based on overall portfolio,” she said. “So I was given the maximum amount.”

Even before finishing her Predictive Analytics certificate, Bortolotti was getting high-profile job offers — and she turned them all down. Education was her priority. She was already a senior business analyst consultant, and her employer granted a one-year sabbatical so she could pursue her dream in France.

It's the latest step forward in her lifelong adventure. And who knows where it will lead next? Bortolotti managed to take a break from her studies to reflect on her journey and how she made the leap from Irvine to Lille.

You already had a master's degree in Information Systems from Strayer University. Why did you enroll in the Predictive Analytics program?

Earlier, I had earned a business analyst certificate from UCI. Those classes were invaluable and led to me becoming a certified business analyst. So when the time came to add to my skillset, I looked at the Division of Continuing Education again — the only problem was deciding which program would be more valuable. I realized that big data was becoming a requirement for analyst positions, and that's how I decided on Predictive Analytics. At the time, I didn't have a lot of experience in the data field and, even though the classes were quite challenging, I really enjoyed the hands-on curriculum.

How did the program prepare you to succeed and move forward in your career?

What I enjoyed the most about Predictive Analytics was the perspective it provides. It links the business view with the data analytics skillset, which is very important in order to succeed in business analytics. The program has real-life, hands-on assignments and lectures that opened my eyes to new, creative ways to make better inferences from data. In the real world, we need to make sense of big data — to structure it, mine it, make relevant assumptions, build models, and identify trends to deliver impactful business decisions. That's exactly what the PA program teaches.

High-profile companies were trying to recruit you before you finished the program. Why did you turn them down?

Some of the offers were very tempting, especially an interview request from Amazon, but I had been working on a very interesting project with a great team for the past three years. I really enjoyed that. But for future reference, I did connect with the recruiters for the jobs that interested me the most. Some of them were mainly attracted by my background in business analysis.

Tell me about your experience as teaching assistant at UCI.

I have Dr. Robert Nisbet to thank for that — he was my instructor in the Data Preparation for Predictive Analytics class. Afterward, I discovered there was an opportunity for UCI professors to have teaching assistants, so it seemed like a great opportunity to strengthen my background and knowledge. I contacted Dr. Nisbet and he agreed it would be a win-win situation. Since then, he has guided me and advised me on key skills that I should pursue and improve in order to move forward in data analytics. He also advised me when I was searching for the right graduate school.

I understand you have quite an international background.

Yes, I was born and raised in Brazil, then moved to the U.S. 17 years ago for higher education. I also inherited Italian citizenship from my family. After completing my education in the U.S. — I also have a bachelor's in translation — I got a job as an analyst and ended up staying. Even though my family is in Brazil, I've embraced an American family who became my dearest friends. I'm very thankful for the opportunity. Living in America has brought me new perspectives on life. I've met so many great people that helped shape my career and positive view of the American way of life.

Northeastern France must have been an attractive location for you. What's it like living there?

Lille is close to Brussels, London, and only an hour from Paris, which makes it easy to explore different countries and cultures. So many interesting shops, restaurants and cafes in the old part of town. Lille is known for its signature dish, mussels and fries! Actually, ‘moules and frites.’ It's also well-known for having the friendliest people in the whole of France. They say they have to make up for the mostly cloudy and rainy days. Weather permitting, people go to the farmers market on Sundays, then hang out in cafes afterward to watch the people pass by. You'll often see world-class chefs looking for fresh ingredients.

Lille sounds like a perfect location for sight-seeing and exploring Europe.

It is. Over the next year I'm planning to visit Luxembourg, Holland, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, and more of France. I really love to travel. Before coming to France, I traveled extensively throughout South America, Europe, Ethiopia and Angola. I'm lucky to attend a school that encourages travel, considers it an important part of a multicultural education. It embraces a holistic approach with multiple cultures and different perspectives. So in that regard, it's fair to say it's similar to UCI.