Alumni Spotlight

Bilal Shaw ’02
Data Scientist at ID Analytics
San Diego, California

Major: 3-2 Engineering Program, with an emphasis in mathematics

Activities: William Penn Society, Mathematics Club, Physics Club, Whittier College Choir

What first attracted you to Whittier College? I was attracted to Whittier’s small size, emphasis on teaching, excellent teachers, and safe environment for learning and growing.

Why did you choose to pursue Whittier’s 3-2 engineering program? I realized early on that instead of pursuing mathematics full-time, I wanted to study computer science. Seeing that Whittier didn’t have a computer science major, I opted for the 3-2 Engineering Program. It was a good compromise.           

Describe your experience at Whittier College. My years at Whittier College were a combination of deep academic learning, while at the same time learning a lot about myself.  The most important lesson that I took from the College was how to teach myself new things because, ultimately, you will arrive at a point in your life where you won’t have professors to teach you new ideas.

Who was your favorite professor(s)? I had so many excellent teachers that it’s hard to pick a favorite. I believe it was Professor Jeff Lutgen with whom I took the most courses in mathematics and computer science. He taught me "Calculus III," "Real Analysis I," and two programming courses. 

What was your most memorable moment at Whittier College? There were so many memorable moments at Whittier. Pledging for the William Penn Society had its moments. I once took a paired course during the winter interim in theater and art. I was double casted in a play for young audiences, and I can still recall the look on the children’s faces as I entered the stage wearing the mask of an evil wizard and my cape sweeping across the stage. 

What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally? After graduating from Whittier, I went straight to graduate school at USC to work on my doctoral degree. My Whittier education helped and guided me during my doctoral work. During my Whittier years, I learned how to listen to lectures critically, to question ideas, and to be able to think and apply myself analytically. I currently work as a data scientist at ID Analytics in San Diego. I’ve been working there for more than a year now. ID Analytics is the leader in identity and credit risk assessment. I analyze data from big banks and from ID Analytics’ wireless partners to develop fraud models based on machine learning algorithms. These models give accurate predictions about the validity of new applications. It’s an exciting place to work.

What advice would you give to future 3-2 engineering alumni when they graduate? In the words of Joseph Campbell, “follow your bliss.” Your Whittier College education is a stepping stone to the real world, to bigger things. You will probably change several professions by the time you hit fifty. Try to find something that you enjoy and love doing every day so that work isn’t a chore but rather play. Bring passion to whatever you do in life, but learn to be disciplined and dedicated. Learn to interact and communicate well with people because you will rarely work by yourself in the real world. I think the greatest advice I would have for engineering students would be to try not to take yourself or life too seriously.  

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because... of Whittier College’s fabulous teachers!       

-Are you a graduate of the 3-2 Engineering program and want to share your story? Contact the Office of Communications at therock@whittier.edu.

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