This is an interview with Sagar Dawda, one of our star learners who successfully transitioned his career from pre-sales to Data Science.
It was a pleasant afternoon, having a sit down with Sagar at his desk, where he had spread out offer letters that he had gotten from a couple of large MNCs to be their Data Scientist. He took us through his journey of recognizing his intent to get into data science, his struggles along the way, where and how he found his footing and how now he is able to see smooth sailing ahead.
You had a viable career in pre-sales, what made you consider Data Science?
“I always wanted to work in a Data Science role via which I could make valuable contributions to the organization and eventually help them grow and succeed. I always thought learning on the job was the only way to achieve this goal. But my assessment was way off. There’s more to it than what meets the eye.
My job all those years involved interacting with clients — understanding their requirements & objectives in Infrastructure, Data, and Analytics space, and design solutions accordingly. Most of these interactions ended up with a POC and very few would actually be accepted for production deployment.
While there were a few elements of Data Analytics that bore upon my day job, I never had to utilize any of the advanced and impactful resources of Data Science. My willingness to learn and excel in Data Science always kept me motivated to learn more about it. And that is where my journey began.
I thoroughly understood what was expected from a Data Scientist. The question from there on was whether I had what it takes to be one. A negative answer to the aforementioned question would segue to whether I had the potential to groom myself to be a data scientist. Some self-study and cursory research helped build self-confidence, and it started to seem like a feasible goal.”
Can you tell us about your initial struggles trying to get into this new field?
“I always knew Google alone cannot help me, so I started searching for tutoring. After speaking with around 45 different institutes and listening to everyone’s sales pitch, I almost gave up on the idea of becoming a data scientist. Most sales representatives would talk extensively about the different tools that would be provided during training. Almost none of them was interested in speaking about the core deliverables (both tangible and intangible) of the course.
Out of a feeling of helplessness coupled with a sense of urgency to begin treading towards a career in data science, I enrolled with a major name brand. The experience was dismal as I saw a huge chasm between the promise and what was delivered. Those were pretty frustrating days."
So how and when did it turn around?
"Fortunately, despite my hapless experience, I kept my spirits up in the hopes of setting my foot in the door. I decided to attend meetups where professionals and aspiring data scientists would gather and discuss the latest happenings in Data Science. There was this one meetup that I found to be the most impactful. ‘DataGiri’ featured some really interesting speakers, most of them industry professionals, who would run discursive talks on the most pressing topics on Data Science landscape.
It was at one of these DataGiri meetups that I was introduced to GreyAtom — their education partner. And this was the turning point in my life. Due to my previous experience, I decided to take matters slow and warily arranged a few meetings with GreyAtom’s team of counsellors. I was surprised to see that the counsellors didn’t make an attempt to sell me any of their product offerings. Instead, they were keen on understanding my circumstance and what I wanted to get out of making a venture into data science. It’s this extremely professional and candidate-centric approach that won my heart and my mind and I enrolled with them after a few meetings."
How was your experience dealing with data science for the first time?
“The first few days post-enrolment were challenging. I remember sitting with one small piece of a puzzle in hand, wondering if I’d ever be able to solve it. However, the mentoring and the emphasis on practical applications slowly got me up to speed and I started getting better with my comprehension. With every module, I discovered a new piece of the puzzle and with every hands-on exercise, I could put them together better and faster. The picture became clearer with each passing day.
What truly boosted my confidence and intent was the first hackathon, where I was expected to work in a team and put all the learning into practice. Industry partners mentored us throughout this project. This gave me a deep insight of what a real-world Data Science project is all about and helped me assess my own standing.”
How did the new found command over Data Science change your perspectives?
“After the hackathon experience, I implemented a few new things in my ongoing projects at work and they turned out to be a very successful case study. I made it a point to use in-class takeaways at work. This leg-up followed by guided projects made the transformation smoother and eventful and I was comfortable taking up Data Science challenges.”
Tell us about how you became an actual Data Scientist.
“All the training, and applications of Data Science at my previous culminated into the litmus test, where one of GreyAtom’s hiring partner assembled a hiring challenge in one of our classroom sessions. This made us test our limits and pressed us to think out-of-the-box to build solutions that are ready to be put into production. This challenge motivated me to go beyond the boundaries of classroom education and explore more advance techniques.
Fast forwarding the hiring season, not only was I shortlisted for the interview, but I was also selected for several other such interviews; I converted one of the offers, and now I am happy to say that I am a Data Scientist. And GreyAtom’s career services team had put in equal amounts of effort in preparing me for the some of the most challenging and sticky interview questions. This coupled with my determination and persistence kept me going through the ups and downs of the hiring phase.”
What would you like to tell people who are yet to start their journey or in the journey to become a Data Scientist?
“To wind up quickly, let me recapitulate what you need to pull off a career transition move.
· Understand the demands of the new role.
· Plan a self-assessment to gauge personal strengths and weakness.
· Learn the basics by yourself to see if you can cope with the intellectual demands of the subject.
· Look up education institutions that offer quality education.
· Don’t be misled by promises of job placements. It’s impossible to guarantee a job. However, inquire about the availability of placement assistance.
· Build a great foundation upon which you will build advanced concepts.
· Never skip any opportunities to interview with hiring managers.
I hope this was helpful and insightful. Good luck!”