School of Mathematics, Statistics & Computer Science

Summa cum laude data scientist, Mr Sikwethembile Cira.

Top Marks for Data Science Graduate

Mr Sikwethembile Cira has graduated with a BSc degree summa cum laude in Data Science.

‘Initially I wanted to pursue a career in Actuarial Sciences,’ said Cira, ‘however, I was also interested in the Computer Science side of things. Data Science seemed like the perfect combination that would give me some level of exposure to both these fields so I decided to give it a shot.’

He says it turned out to be one of the best decisions he has ever made.

Cira tackled many interesting projects during his studies, but one he particularly enjoyed was building a board game in his third-year of Computer Science studies. ‘It was quite interesting to work through the ambiguity of the project and to have a chance to see the power of collaboration to get a task done,’ he said.

Cira had several tips for fellow students: ‘Leverage the power of a good work system.  For us most of the work we did was online and I found that my most productive days were the ones where I started off by writing down all the tasks I wanted to do that day and the corresponding time effort I would give to each task. This improved my productivity levels hugely. I found that on the days I did not plan well I would spend way too much time on tasks without making any progress because of distractions.

‘Another important thing is not to be shy to reach out for help – having support on hand saved me a lot of unnecessary suffering and time wastage.’

With such outstanding results, it is no surprise that Cira is now employed as a software engineer at Amazon.  He intends to stay in the field, gain more industry experience and acquire the necessary skills to make a name for himself.

He paid tribute to his mother Ms Thobeka Cira for the important role she played in ensuring his success.  ‘All the hard work I put in was to make her proud in the end,’ he said. ‘Throughout all the challenges in my life she has always been there supporting me and helping me pick myself up when I felt defeated, without making me feel under any unnecessary pressure.’

Cira’s university career was not all about work, however. As a member of UKZN’s rugby club he was also active in the gym and on the sports field.

Cira chose to study at UKZN because he believes it to be one of the best universities – and it was conveniently close to home for him!

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan