Data Science Diaries – Rachit Kumar

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Senior Data Scientist at LinkedIn

5+ years of experience in the field of data science and machine learning

Previous experience: Affine Analytics

Educational qualifications: B.Tech (Electronics & Communication Engineering)

Specialization areas: Business analytics and Predictive analytics

Rachit recently spoke to Manipal ProLearn about his journey so far as a data scientist. The following are some excerpts from the interview:

Manipal ProLearn: Data science is a relatively new career field. How did you learn about it?

Rachit: Data Science is a relatively new term. Back when I started, it was popularly known as Business (or Data) Analytics. In 2011, right after graduation, I started my job hunt in this space. After a couple of months of rigorous job hunt, I felt that Bangalore is the best place to start in this field as it had a lot of opportunities. Soon after, I landed a job at Affine Analytics.

Manipal ProLearn: Tell us more about your journey so far.

Rachit: Affine Analytics was a start-up. There I got opportunities to work on varying complexities of projects, initially focusing on data preparation for analysis, Business Intelligence reporting etc. As I got exposure to business domains and clients who were industry experts, I naturally developed a business angle to analytics problem solving, which has been of great help.

In the meanwhile, Machine Learning was picking up and I started exploring what it really meant. I started taking multiple online courses. Soon, I developed a keen interest in predictive analytics algorithms and the immense, unbounded applications they had. So I started looking for opportunities where I could sharpen my ML axe. Kaggle competitions were my destination in those times, which helped me learn the ML algorithms, optimizing output and their correct execution in great detail.

After a successful and thrilling tenure of over 3.8 years at my first company, I planned to make the next move. I joined LinkedIn as a Data Scientist and started working on some of the key initiatives within the team and the organization. I have been the lead inventor of two patented (filed) innovations in 1.5 years at LinkedIn and this is just the beginning. Although I have been in this space for 5.3 years, there is always a learning curve. You can never take your eyes off the ball as it can swing away from you anytime and you would never know how and when it happened.

Manipal ProLearn: How will you explain your job role to a non-industry person in one line?

Rachit: I make sure that the quality of LinkedIn’s product metrics is reliable and of the highest standards.

Manipal ProLearn: One book or movie that you think every data scientist should watch/read or could draw some inspiration from.

Rachit: Moneyball (2011).

Manipal ProLearn: What are the three qualities or traits that are a must-have for data science professionals?

Rachit: Keen curiosity to learn about the business domain, statistical knowledge and familiarity with coding.

Manipal ProLearn: What do you enjoy the most about being a data scientist?

Rachit: Understanding the business first hand and gaining insights, which are capable of answering some of the most difficult questions.

Manipal ProLearn: Name any industry leader who has been an inspiration to you, and why?

Rachit: I am a big fan of the Product sense and Innovation, which Steve Jobs had.

Manipal ProLearn: If not a data scientist, what would be your alternative career path and why?

Rachit: I would be an innovator and leader to create products, which would help everyone achieve their potential. This is also tied to my core belief of empowering everyone to do what they could and would do the best and be proud of their journey.

Manipal ProLearn: What do you like to do in your spare time, when you are not deep diving into the data world?

Rachit: Spending time with family, exploring new mobile phone apps, playing cricket or other sports, watching movies, exploring the internet to learn the incredibly vast number of concepts and things out there.

Manipal ProLearn: Can you share a few activities that can help data science professionals hone their skills? Or something that you like to do to sharpen your analytical skills?

Rachit: Ask yourself periodically:

  1. Why do you want to stay in this field?
  2. What’s something you definitely want to achieve here?
  3. Are you on track to achieve it?

Your answers will help you measure your progress and efforts.

There will be times when you won’t have answers to some or all of these questions. That is mostly a good sign as it means that you have more opportunities than you know. So keep hunting.

Manipal ProLearn: Share the biggest challenge you have faced so far in the field of data science.

Rachit: Most of the big challenges I have faced have revolved around data unavailability and unclean data.

Manipal ProLearn: What do you enjoy the most about being a data science professional?

Rachit: Everyone is interested in knowing what we (data scientists) do and we get a chance to know what they do. I also think it opens up great possibilities of collaboration and innovation, which is the way forward.

Manipal ProLearn: Which was the last book you read/last movie you watched and why did you like/dislike it?

Rachit: I recently watched ‘Dangal’. I liked the incredible zeal displayed by the family in the middle of adverse circumstances. I also liked the script and cinematography.

Manipal ProLearn: If you had the choice to be one fictional character for a day, which one would it be and why?

Rachit: It would be “Shaktimaan”. Even though he is powerful, he is humble and follows his mission every day.

Manipal ProLearn: If you ever have a movie made on your life, whom would you want to play your role and why?

Rachit: I would like to play it myself because I love acting.

Manipal ProLearn: Once superpower you wish you had…

Rachit: Mind-reading.

Manipal ProLearn: Describe yourself in three words.

Rachit: Learner, compassionate and interesting.

Manipal ProLearn: What changes do you expect to see in the ever-evolving data science world in the next few years?

Rachit: With the advancements in machine learning, artificial intelligence and machines’ computing power, I can envision a world that would innovate much faster than ever and machines would be increasingly powerful and impactful. It will result in a majority of day-to-day activities becoming completely automated and significantly less error-prone. Like every innovation, it also has the potential of being misused, which could have huge implications on our lives. So the bigger challenge would be to safeguard the world from these severe consequences.

Manipal ProLearn: What is your message to budding data scientists?

Rachit: Whenever you are given a problem, think about all aspects of it. However, never zoom in so much that you miss the bigger picture, which needs to be kept in mind while designing any solution. This could be about the company’s business model, vision/mission or philosophy or even the idea behind a product or its features.

Don’t spend too much time on recurring tasks, take some time to automate them and then monitor them effectively. Use this time to learn more. You will feel better than doing the same task over and over again.Don’t settle until you find what you enjoy working on.

Manipal ProLearn is thankful to Rachit Kumar for taking out his time to talk to us. We wish him all the very best in his future endeavours!

Keep checking this space for more interesting and informative conversations with data science professionals.