Being an exemplary HR professional and leader with over two decades of experience, Averyl Dsa Saldahna, knew just how much data is necessary for businesses. So, during this interim period of the pandemic, she decided to upskill herself in data science. After scuttling through some of the best data science course syllabus, she enrolled for the Certificate in Data Science Foundation (CDF) program at INSAID.
In this interview, lets see what draws her to data science and how she developed as a data enthusiast.
Question 1: Which program & batch are you part of at INSAID & tell us more about your current work profile?
Averyl: I am part of the Certificate in Data Science Foundation (CDF) program, August 2020 batch. I have over 20 years of experience and an in-depth domain expertise in human resources. I’ve worked both in domestic and multinational companies in stockbroking, pharmaceutical, auto, and sales finance industries in Mumbai and Chennai. Before I took a break in my career, I was the Head COE (Center of Expertise) HR Transformation and Alliance India HR Business Partner at Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi in India.
Question 2: Walk us through your career journey & what got you interested in Data Science & Machine Learning?
Averyl: I’ve had an exciting career journey. I transitioned from an executive assistant to an HR career early on in my life and equipped myself with a distance learning PGDBA program in HR while I was working.
Since then I have been on a continuous learning path.
From HR transactional roles like payroll, compensation and benefits, strategic workforce planning, HR operations, digital HR, etc. to HR transformational roles of HR business partnering, talent management, organizational development and more, I’ve done almost everything in human resources that anyone can think of.
And, I think, what motivated my extensive contributions in human resources is my love for connecting and working with people. It is this passion that got me to choose this domain. My professional goal is to transform lives and make a difference in society, helping employees to reach their career goals and aspirations in life.
Since I have handled a lot of data in my career, I always felt that if the data is not used or presented correctly, it will be challenging to get business attention. My role as a business partner will get redundant if I’m unable to deliver what is asked.
So during this interim period of the pandemic, when opportunities are scarce, I thought to take the opportunity to upskill myself in Data Science. That is when I got the opportunity to experience the inaugural class with INSAID.
At first, I was hesitant to enroll since I’m not from a statistics or programming background. But INSAID’s data science course syllabus made me realize that I could use this knowledge to prepare effective strategies with the right data to support them.
And I could also collaborate with data scientists or IT teams to deliver quality digital tools that can help the HR team make the right decisions. My career can also get a boost if my HR analytics is strong.
Question 3: What all tools and packages in Data Science & Machine Learning have you mastered in your Data Science & AI program at INSAID so far?
Averyl: I‘ll be fooling myself if I say that I have mastered something in this data science course syllabus. I heard a lot of new names, though, like Python, Pandas, NumPy, Tableau, Matplotlib, etc. I have to admit that this journey has not been an easy one for me. I struggled a lot with statistics and Python since I’m not from this background. So I can comfortably conclude that I have not mastered anything. Instead, I’m in a work-in-progress situation at the moment.
Question 4: What were some of the initial challenges when you got started on your Data Science journey and how did you overcome it?
Averyl: I always believe that whatever you do in life has to have challenges, then only you are motivated and pushed to achieve your desired goal.
The modules of the data science course syllabus at INSAID in term one and two sounded like Greek and Latin at the initial stage. The starter kit for statistics was explained well. And for a non-programmer like me, it was difficult to take things in quickly.
I had almost decided to give up the course, looking at how difficult it was. However, my determination to never quit midway helped me sustain. I decided to do this particular course on data science. I invested additional time in going through essential YouTube videos on statistics, Python, Numpy & Pandas. And, now I’m better positioned to relate to the topics.
Question 5: Who is your favorite faculty at INSAID and what did you learn from him the Most?
Averyl: As a person, I tend not to have favorites in faculties as that would bring in the element of bias, and that might not get me connected to the course. However, I have found that all those who have taken sessions to complete the data science course syllabus at INSAID have their own strengths and have used them well.
For example, Nikhil is very good at connecting with the audience. Sai, who was with us for two terms, was fantastic as a faculty. Today was my first machine learning class with Darshan. He has the patience and the ability to come to our level and explain the concepts in a way we can understand. He has a lot of patience to answer all our questions.
Question 6: What is the goal of Data Science?
Averyl: In my view, the goal of data science is to present business-focused insights from the available data in a manner that is easy to understand, to relate to, and make cost-effective and timely decisions for the organization.
For this, one has to understand how the information of data flows in a business and the ability to use that understanding to identify business opportunities.
Data is available everywhere and if it is not used appropriately to make the right decisions, it will only remain as a repository in the software. Hence, it is very important that every organization gives a lot of importance to data science and to make use of it appropriately.
Question 7: In your view, how has Data Science evolved in the last few years?
Averyl: To be very honest, I have not heard about data science as a career until I attended the master class with INSAID in August 2020. I have been working with data throughout my career. I worked closely with IT teams to help give shape and visibility to the output of data through various HR solutions.
But with this course, I’ve realized that data science has been in the industry for a long time.
Since the companies that I have worked with have not explicitly talked about data science as a distinct role that needs a dedicated team to support the business, I never had that exposure. However, now I see many companies having a reliable function for data science and are using them exclusively to make a significant impact.
Question 8: What are the current trends in Data Science that you are most excited about?
Averyl: Being a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, I was amazed to see the use of data science in all the movies that came out of them. And I always wondered, what could the future look like if those things are implemented.
Out of the current trends that I know of, one that caught my attention are bots, especially HR bots. And that got me really excited because, as HR professionals, we spend most of our productive hours answering irrelevant, repetitive questions. If we have HR bots doing that for us, we can focus our primary responsibility to partner with business-critical areas.
Another area that caught my attention is the artificial intelligence that uses predictive analytics. I can already see its application in medical research, food, astronomy, weather forecasting, etc.
Question 9: What is your advice to anyone wanting to start a career in Data Science?
Averyl: My advice to anyone wanting to start a career in data science will go like this: Do whatever your heart tells you to do, you will never go wrong. Choose the right data science course syllabus. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty no matter your qualification or position. If you have a self-driven attitude, you will always find yourself in the right direction. You must choose the career that you love. And only when you love your role and the path that you have chosen to reach your desired goal in life, you will grow as an individual and you will contribute to society.
This was the conversation with one of our CDF students – Averyl Dsa Saldanha.
If you want to catch up on more such interesting student interviews, check out INSAID Spotlight.