In Their Own Words: Andrew Aroutynov ’24 on Being a ‘Data Science Pioneer’ and Doing Classwork with a Fortune 500 Company

He’s one of the first graduates of the new Data Science program. He’s worked on projects with NASA and Chevron. And he recently won the inaugural Ada Lovelace Award. What has he appreciated most about SMC? “The opportunities,” he says.

by Hayden Royster , Staff Writer | May 14, 2024

In Their Own Words is a series in which we introduce you to the Gaels you need to meet—students, alums, faculty, and staff—and let them tell their stories, in their own words.

Meet Andrew Aroutynov ’24: a lifelong San Franciscan and one of the first graduates of Saint Mary’s newly developed Data Science program. Aroutynov is also president of the Data Science Club, a double major in Business Analytics, and winner of the inaugural Ada Lovelace Award. Named after the world’s first computer programmer, the award will be presented annually to a graduating senior with an outstanding scholastic record in Data Science.


Growing up: Pirozhkis and Python

I was born and raised in San Francisco. For the first few years of school, I went to a bilingual Russian-English academy. My first language is Russian, actually. My mom is from Ukraine, and my dad is from Uzbekistan. They moved here around 1990, partly to escape the fall of the Soviet Union. But also, there were so many more opportunities here for them. 

My parents both work in tech, so I was exposed to that environment my entire life. Around the age of 12, my mom tried getting me to do these Python coding boot camps for kids. I’d give them a shot, but after 20 minutes, I’d be like, “No, not for me.” Which is funny to think about, given that now data and coding take up most of my time.

First job? There’s an app for that.

Andrew Aroutynov '24 Profile
Small campus, stellar opportunities: Through Saint Mary's Technology, Engineering, and Business (TEB) Initiative, Aroutynov partnered with NASA, pursuing a solo project on drone obstacle avoidance and automation. / Photo by Francis Tatem

There were always signs leading me toward data—data work, data science, data analytics—and I never really listened until I came to Saint Mary’s. For instance, in high school, I got my first job working at a start-up. It was a soccer-based fitness app that tracked your measurements, stats, heart rate, and so on. I wasn’t on the backend like I am now; I was more on the front end, talking to customers and testing the product. But given that it was only a team of five, I still got to experience a lot.

I remember one night, after my own soccer practice, I found a bug within the app. This was actually the day before we launched the product; obviously, we were on a huge time crunch. So I messaged our one and only engineer at 10 p.m. Then I drove to downtown San Francisco and met him outside his apartment. He came downstairs in his pajamas, and we sat in a cafe, trying to fix this thing before it went live!

That was my first exposure to the nitty-gritty of backend development and how everything really works. I think that’s what captured my attention the most.

A Data Science trailblazer 

Coming to Saint Mary’s, I was hoping to pursue something in the realm of analytics but mix it with entrepreneurship or marketing. That is, until the College introduced the Data Science major during my sophomore year. The second it was introduced, I immediately switched to it. I just knew it was what I wanted to do. 

Those of us in the first graduating class of Data Science see ourselves as pioneers, and not just at SMC. We are one of the few institutions to offer such an extensive undergraduate Data Science degree. What I’ve loved about the program, personally, is how we are able to explore so many different industries and use data to make them more efficient. 

There’s the Technology, Engineering, and Business (TEB) Initiative, for instance, a yearlong program where students get to solve real-world tech problems. In the summer of 2023, the TEB program allowed me to pursue a solo project with NASA on a drone obstacle avoidance project, automating that whole process. Then in fall 2023 I took a class in cloud computing and got to partner with Chevron on a project. I can’t speak too much on it—we had to sign a nondisclosure agreement—but basically, we helped optimize their chemical drumming processes. It was just such a surreal experience, getting to partner with a Fortune 500 company like that for a college course.

"At Saint Mary’s, you grow close to faculty and close with peers. You’re gaining connections, but you’re also forming this team—a sort of unstoppable force of community and support."

The Saint Mary’s experience

Because SMC is a small school, we Data Science students get opportunities we might not get at other schools. Would I have gotten to work with Chevron or NASA projects elsewhere? Maybe not. But here, everyone can get involved. You can do whatever you want to do, really, and pursue whatever you’re interested in. 

At Saint Mary’s, you grow close to faculty and close with peers. You’re gaining connections, but you’re also forming this team—a sort of unstoppable force of community and support. 

Andrew Aroutynov '24 and other students at the Data Science Club
A few members of the Data Science Club, from left: Owen Houghtelling ’24, Renata Krivenko ’25, Andrew Aroutynov ’24. and Michael Cano ’24. Aroutynov and the club have hosted a regular Excel Workshop, walking students, staff, and faculty through the fundamentals of the spreadsheet program. / Photo by Francis Tatem

On winning the inaugural Ada Lovelace Award for Data Science 

Funnily enough, I was notified on my birthday; a wonderful gift from SMC.

It’s an honor to be part of Saint Mary’s first class of Data Scientists, and even more so to be recognized as the first winner of this award. As I’ve said, the path here was not necessarily simple. But I was fortified by my loved ones, my classmates, my professors—my circle of support. For me, the award is a great checkpoint in my journey.

Optimizing his future

As I look toward graduation, I really do see my career being driven by innovation. I’m passionate about many things, but if there’s a role that would allow me to apply my skills to advance the sports medicine or automotive industries, that would be a dream come true. That probably means sticking around the Bay Area. It’s definitely a hotspot, especially given how AI has transformed my industry in recent years. But also, these days, with remote work, I can work anywhere. Why not move to the mountains of Montana?

In essence, I envision a career steered by innovation. There’s an infinite number of problems to solve. I want to seek them out and find ways to solve them.

(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

Hayden Royster is Staff Writer at the Office of Marketing and Communications for Saint Mary's College. Write him.