Dr. Abhijit Dasgupta is the Director – BDS at SP Jain School of Global Management. He has a Ph.D. in Customer Experience Management, Dr. RML Awadh University, India and has completed his Executive Management Program from Stanford University, USA. He teaches various subjects like Discrete Mathematics, Business Analytics, Retail Analytics, and Media Analytics. Mr. Dasgupta has over 28 years of experience in the IT industry, with the last ten years focused solely on analytics: He was the CEO of a Bengaluru-based media analytics business before co-founding and leading an analytics start-up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which he left in 2018 before joining SP Jain. In a conversation with Higher Education Digest, Dr. Dasgupta talks about the dynamics and importance of data science, career opportunities, and much more.
Enterprises from almost all major industry verticals are hiring data science experts to help them garner actionable insights from big data. But, do we have a dearth of talent in this sector? How can we bridge this gap?
It does appear from the hiring statistics both in India and in the USA there is a genuine upswing of requirements of professionals/graduates who have the necessary skills in the subject of data science. I would like to point out, that this requirement is for the skills and not necessarily a degree in data science. Well, one may argue that going through a course work is the best way to gain the skills while you are on the way to acquire a degree in data science (which of course serves as great evidence for the skills) it is not always necessary. Once can self-learn it through appropriate projects and work experience as well.
Bridging the Gap: Different companies have different requirements of skills and academic evidence, and most of the time those are structured around the projects the company wishes to engage in. For instance, a BFSI company that might have already made significant investments in a commercial product, say SAS, would require certification as evidence for the skill. Another company that has invested in Amazon or Microsoft would require skills in say Sagemaker and Azure: these are not always covered in an academic program – the company will have to mentor such projects and groom the talent.
Therefore, there would be essentially 3 ways this gap can be filled by (a) joining an academic program – appropriate for a candidate looking at a career as a fresher, (b) by acquiring skills and certifications which are available online and also as part-time programs and (c) companies sponsoring projects and training its own staff to execute the project. All three are viable options.
Why should someone choose Date Science as a career option now? Where can they start?
Data Science skills and qualifications provide a quicker entry to a reasonably high-paying job (based on the current and projected market conditions) and probably with lesser challenges. Candidates looking for an entry into such roles as a fresher, are best served by a full-time contact course which would provide both skills and a degree (as evidence for qualifications). There is also a general trend where candidates with 4-5 years of experience, even 10+ years of experience, have signed up with degree programs (often at a Master’s level) offering data science qualifications.
Do we have enough institutes in India that offer quality programs in Data Science? Where should Indian students look for data since programs, India or abroad?
There are many institutes in India that have started offering academic degree programs in data science and well completed by Edu-tech startups who also offer the non-degree options; for universities, there is sometimes a pre-qualification filter used such as past academic background, scores in aptitude tests, etc., but those barriers are not there for online edu-tech startups – here everyone is welcome. Unfortunately, one requires a certain level of interest or passion to become a professional in a specialized area such as data science and if that is missing, one would know the catchphrases, but won’t gain the knowledge.
One can do the program anywhere they like, all are very similar in the content with some variations in the structure. Indian-based technology programs are well valued across the globe and maybe that could be an advantage and another advantage is that only Indian institutions offer placement services. But whatever one might do, the benefit of doing a degree program (undergraduate or master’s) far outweighs the costs and time associated with such programs.
What should be the focus of Indian institutions planning to offer data science programs? How can they produce data professionals who can start working from day one?
Indian institutions often do not focus on skills, and that has always been a bane for students who did not have an opportunity to study in tier 1 institutions. The world is fast evolving to a skills-based economy (globally) and hence focus on skills development has to be razor-sharp. One can start with coding skills for instance – it’s a good place to start a journey.
The industry benchmark is 7 days to deploy production level code; with requisite skills and quick adaptation to a company environment, data science engineers can be productive right after their induction.
Why will Data Science continue to be a rising career in years to come?
Yes. What was electrical engineering 60-70 years ago, Computer Science engineering 30-40 years ago is what the position being occupied by Data Science today across all markets. We can safely predict, this trend is going to stay for another 30-40 years, and hence is a great career to get into.