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Getting A Head Start in the Era of Floppy Disks
Bringing Big Data to Life

In a time where technological advancements were sparse and ceased to exist, Dr. Izzatdin A. Aziz saw an opportunity and grasped it. Now, a Senior Lecturer at the Computer & Information Sciences department at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, he opens up about how he became involved in IT and computer science along with his journey thus far. He begins by explaining,

DrIzzatdin.jpeg“I believed that IT was the way forward at the time. I was exposed to a word editor called Word Star for the first time in 1995. I explored my way through the capabilities of what this software was able to do and discovered new heights."


He adds: “At the time, my brother was already a computer science degree holder. So naturally, I became intrigued when he showed me a few tips and tricks useful in manoeuvring through a basic business. It was then that I thought, this was an interesting field to explore, especially in driving businesses forward.


Upon graduating, Dr. Izzatdin joined Perodua where he had to code and improve the codes for the robotic arms at the assembly belt – in which Visual Basic (VB) was what they were using. He recalls this as the realization moment that there were actual needs for IT in the industry.


Technology and the world of IT have progressed effortlessly from a time where everything was limited, to now being a limitless myriad of possibilities. Today, we are even given the possibility of classifying potentially alarming behaviour through one's social media presence. Dr. Izzatdin elaborates by saying, “There's this thing called User Behaviour Analysis, where we're able to identify if someone is a terrorist or even a psychopath through their tweets and texts. It's done through a series of coding with scoring points, which will then add up into a final placing."


He also talks about how, as long as there is big data – things can indeed progress. Data will never subside, but instead it will keep getting bigger. He states that there will always be value as long as there is big data. Dr. Izzatdin then mentions how at the moment, there is a lot of work done in the area of descriptive type of analytics. He suggests that this is a thing of the past – predictive type of analytics is what we ought to focus on.


“Descriptive is when you have the data, you'll be able to summarize everything accordingly. Predictive on the other hand means that you'll be able to forecast on upcoming future trends. There is also another, prescriptive analytics, and this is to identify what solutions there is to take. As of now, there are not that many who are able to carry this through. This is the direction that I intend on taking."


When asked if the implementation of big data could start with young children at school, Dr. Izzatdin laughingly responded by saying, “I'm totally against that – schools should be a fun place for children! If they really wanted to impose the topic as part of the module, it ought to be done through a fun and interactive medium, like games."


He then adds: “It shouldn't be something challenging, as not everyone is equipped with the same kind of drive and interest in these kind of subject areas." He mentions: “I overcome these obstacles through dedicated teamwork. I only work with people I can trust. Team work and having the right people on board the team- even before you speak, they know what will be said. These are the people with the same brain wave."


He then continues: “I think being able to work with real world problems is advantageous. Often times, it is more centred towards literature problems, instead of the industry. We are privileged to be a subsidiary under PETRONAS where we're able to get a head start to do this. So, the biggest accomplishment is to be able to work with the industry – especially covering niche topics within the oil and gas spectrum."


In bridging the gap between the research users, he talks about the frequency and speed in which new ideas are being implemented within the industry. One way of coping with this as described by Dr. Izzatdin, is to allow the industry to take the lead. He clarifies by stating,

“The industry always wants things 'yesterday'. We give them (the industry) the cane. They drive us – with the fast paced and ever changing trends. We are forced by the market and the competitors."


Dr. Izzatdin was then asked about what it means to see his former students succeed post studies. Evidently, he describes that it is always of great pleasure to see a person succeed, let alone when you were part of it. He has had many instances where his students have gone on to join notable names such as Intel and PETRONAS' Chief Digital Office (CDO).


“Ultimately, as long as they implement and practice the knowledge, that's good enough for me. Most importantly, when they walk – they are carrying a brand, and that brand is me. That on its own carries weightage to myself."


He adds: “My passion is meeting new people. One of the reasons why I became an academic from being a system engineer at Perodua, was to meet new people. Becoming a lecturer has allowed me to meet new students each semester. It's wonderful to see different kinds of characters with each one bringing something new to the table. I also believe that good interpersonal skills really pays off, as is the importance of networking."


In moving forward, Dr. Izzatdin was asked about any future predictions he may have following the near future. His response, “A data centre that is close to us. The capability of a data centre, but in an attached, miniature form. For instance, something that would be able to decipher things before it is carried out."

He also adds: “I think the future is about small chips, a fast network connection, and the ability to predict something before it happens. Also in avoiding obstacles beforehand, and implementing the right kind of solutions. It's not far from now.


One of the main things that Dr. Izzatdin focuses on, is the notion to look at everyone as equals. No less, no more. He emphasizes how the new generation especially lacks in this, particularly respect – making it almost a given to view people through judgment and assumptions. He says how we should all view each other as unbiased, as we are all impartial to one another.

“The most important thing is integrity. We need to put ourselves in someone else's shoes – because most of the time we come across people from different walks of life. Often times, we don't see people as humans, and this has to change."

Published on 9 October 2020